Switzerland 0-0 England (5-6 PENS); Pickford penalty heroics secure the Three Lions the effectively meaningless Nations League third place

Switzerland 0-0 England (5-6 PENS); Pickford penalty heroics secure the Three Lions the effectively meaningless Nations League third place

It took some penalty shootout heroics from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, scoring one spot kick before then saving another, to earn the Three Lions victory in the UEFA Nations League third-place playoff.

In truth, it was an accomplishment – and a match in general – that few cared about, myself included in that crowd.

It’s something I’ve never understood the desire for in international football – the meaningless third-place playoff. Teams are already spent, they’ve already endured the ignominy of being knocked out of the respective tournament, any yet are somehow expected to rally back around to care for a match that means so incredibly little to anyone.

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Netherlands 3-1 England AET; Defensive calamities cost the Three Lions & surely spell the end for Stones

Netherlands 3-1 England AET; Defensive calamities cost the Three Lions & surely spell the end for Stones

From minute one in Guimaraes, in front of a crowd predominantly sporting the St George’s cross, England were outplayed by their Dutch counterparts. Those donned in orange shirts dominated the ball and bossed the midfield, but it was ultimately costly mistakes that became England’s own undoing in Portugal.

England have become allergic to appearing in finals of international competitions, and once again it looked like it could be against Gareth Southgate’s side.

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John Barnes is right in saying that to tackle racism in football, you must fix it in wider society

John Barnes is right in saying that to tackle racism in football, you must fix it in wider society

Racism shouldn’t exist in football. No discrimination should. That much goes without saying, and yet as seen when England faced Montenegro in Podgorica on Monday, it still very much does even at the highest levels of the game, and is the result of a much wider societal issue.

I took genuine time in debating whether or not to write this article. In truth, I actually didn’t want to at first.

However, racism has once again reared it’s ugly head and become such a major issue this week in football that it feels wrong to ignore. And ignoring it would be part of the problem, too.

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Montenegro 1-5 England; Three Lions survive early scare to mount an impressive attacking display

Montenegro 1-5 England; Three Lions survive early scare to mount an impressive attacking display

England looked to have been struck by a sucker punch in Podgorica when Marko Vesovic fired Montenegro ahead with their first shot, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions recovered to roar back to an impressive 5-1 win.

It had looked like a routine qualifying game for England in the opening ten minutes, as they knocked the ball around confidently, relatively unchallenged by Montenegro.

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Why international friendlies should prevent players switching allegiances

Why international friendlies should prevent players switching allegiances

Declan Rice made his international debut for England in a 5-0 win over Czech Republic last night. Normally, seeing an exciting young talent turn out for England for the first time would be exciting, except Rice has already had an international debut… for the Republic of Ireland.

The 20-year-old has in fact represented the Boys in Green on three occasions in 2018, having qualified for their national team through his Irish grandparents.

Yet, in accordance with the FIFA rule book, Rice decided to switch allegiances earlier this year and pledge himself to the country of his birth, leading to him pulling on a Three Lions jersey at Wembley last night.

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England 5-0 Czech Republic; Sterling stars as Three Lions carve open Czech defence

England 5-0 Czech Republic; Sterling stars as Three Lions carve open Czech defence

England ran out confident 5-0 winners in their opening EURO 2020 qualifying match against Czech Republic, with Raheem Sterling stealing the show with a sublime hat-trick.

The Manchester City winger opened the scoring for England with a poacher’s finish, before adding two more clinical finishes to silence any potential critics. For a player previously criticised for lacking goals in a national team shirt, he made no mistake with his chances in this one.

He fully deserved his plaudits as he walked off the Wembley pitch shortly after to be rested for the next match against Montenegro.

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