English midfielder Jack Grealish has defended himself after insinuations surfaced that he chose not take a penalty in the dramatic shootout loss to Italy in the final of Euro 2020 on Sunday.
Pundit Roy Keane had said he was unhappy that Grealish and Raheem Sterling had chosen not to take the fifth decisive penalty, instead of 19-year-old Bukayo Saka.
Saka’s penalty was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma as England suffered heartbreak at Wembley.
“If you’re (Raheem) Sterling or (Jack) Grealish, you cannot sit there and have a young kid [Saka] go up for a penalty ahead of you, you can’t,” former Manchester United star Keane told ITV.
“You cannot let a shy 19-year-old go up in front of you. They have a lot more experience, Sterling has won trophies, they had to get in front of the young kid and stand up.”
But, responding via Twitter, Grealish said the decision was not his.
He said: “I said I wanted to take one!!!! The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament and he did tonight! But I won’t have people say that I didn’t want to take a peno when I said I will…”
‘I chose the takers’
Meanwhile, England manager Gareth Southgate has taken responsibility for the penalty decisions.
England, playing in their first major final since 1966, lost 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley.
Southgate also brought on Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford deep into extra time specifically to take spot-kicks, and they also both missed as England blew an early advantage in the shoot-out.
“I chose the takers,” Southgate told ITV. “I’m unbelievably disappointed not to go one step further.
“We decided to make the changes at the end of the game, but we win or lose together as a team.”
Arsenal winger Saka, who had only made five international appearances before the tournament, saw England’s final penalty saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, after Jorginho had wasted the chance to secure the title for Italy when his effort was kept out by Jordan Pickford.
“That was my decision to give him (Saka) that penalty,” said Southgate, who missed the crucial penalty when England lost in the Euro 96 semi-finals to Germany on home soil.
“We worked with them in training. It was a gamble.”
Nigeria Edge Cape Verde in Qatar World Cup Qualifier
The Super Eagles continued their 100 per cent record against Cape Verde in their second match of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.
The Nigerian team won the game 2-1 after staging a comeback.
A 75th-minute own goal by Cape Verde earned Nigeria a 2-1 win in their qualifying clash in Mindelo on Tuesday, a result that stabilized the Super Eagles’ leadership of the pool as they await a home-and-away fixture against Central African Republic next month.
Dylan dos Santos steered the home team in front after 19 minutes of an intense back-and-forth by both sides, when he slipped behind the Eagles’ rearguard and slammed a rocket of a shot past goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.
The three-time African champions refused to be brow-beaten, and launched series of attacks, with Chidera Ejuke forcing the opposing goalkeeper to an acrobatic save in the 27th minute. Two minutes later, an alert Victor Osimhen would pull Nigeria level, stabbing home from close range after the goalkeeper punched following a defensive blunder.
In the 41st minute, the lively Ejuke again rattled the Cape Verde number one, before Osimhen came close to adding another one from a corner with a minute to recess.
Kelechi Iheanacho and six other UK-based players were absent when the Super Eagles played the Blue Sharks in Mindelo.
The players were forced out from the tie after the UK government insisted individuals who travel to “red zones” — which Cape Verde falls into — must quarantine for 10 days upon return.
Aside from the seven UK-based players, Serie A defender, Ola Aina, also did not travel with the squad to Mindelo, and returned to Italy instead.
In the second half, Ahmed Musa latched onto a centre by Osimhen as the Eagles pushed forward, but his tame shot was easily collected. Substitute Onyekuru was also guilty of putting too low a purchase on his shot in the 73rd minute as Nigeria streamed to the opposition area.
Two minutes later, in a spectacular backpass to his goalkeeper, Kenny Santos scored an own goal as the ball floated above the goaltender and landed in the net. The goal put Nigeria in front and eventually gave the Super Eagles the three points on the night.
Victory took the Eagles to maximum six points from two matches, three points ahead of second –placed Liberia, ahead of the Day 3 and 4 games scheduled for October.
WC Qualifier: Nigeria to face Cape Verde without UK-based Stars
The Super Eagles will tackle the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde this afternoon in Match Day 2 of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier without the services of UK-based players.
The Super Eagles contingent landed on the island of Mindelo yesterday morning, after a four-hour flight from Lagos aboard a special Air Peace jet.
There were 21 players on board, following the departure of UK-based players, who returned to their base as a result of UK authorities COVID-19 protocols and guidelines that must be observed by anyone returning to Britain after visiting a country with COVID-19 red label, of which Cape Verde is one.
Today’s encounter, scheduled for the 5,000 –capacity Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, affords a number of ambitious fresh legs not deployed in Friday’s 2-0 win over Liberia in Lagos to stake claims for permanent shirts in the Nigerian squad.
The absence of Olaoluwa Aina, William Ekong, and Leon Balogun probably means that Italy –based Tyronne Ebuehi, Chidozie Awaziem of FC Boavista in Portugal, and Spain–based Kenneth Omeruo will start against the Blue Sharks this evening.
The departures of two-goal hero Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi also open the door for perhaps Terem Moffi and Henry Onyekuru. But it is in the midfield that Coach Gernot Rohr would have to enlist entirely unaccustomed partners and charge them to deliver.
Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi, and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo have all returned to the UK.
Coach Rohr may opt to deploy the versatile Abdullahi Shehu to the midfield as he has done a couple of times, most recently in Sierra Leone against the Leone Stars in a 2021 AFCON qualifier. Russia–based Chidera Ejuke, Italy–based former junior international Kingsley Michael, and new face Innocent Bonke from Sweden are available.
Captain Ahmed Musa will earn his 100th cap for Nigeria, 11 years after he won his first against Madagascar in Calabar if he takes any part in today’s encounter.
Three points will consolidate Nigeria’s leadership of Group C, confirmed after the victory over Liberia that followed the draw between Cape Verde and the Central African Republic in Douala. A win will guarantee Nigeria a minimum of three points ahead of any other team in the pool, even if Liberia’s Lone Star is victorious against Central African Republic in Monrovia.
A win will also brighten the path of the three–time African champions to the knockout final round, given that home-and-away fixture against the Central African Republic is what is on the plate in October.
Conte breaks silence, says pre-deal with Arsenal not true
Antonio Conte’s agent, Federico Pastorello has revealed that the coach has not agreed to a pre-deal with Arsenal FC.
There have been speculations that Conte is in line to replace Mikel Arteta at the Emirates after the later failed to win a single game this season in the Premier League.
The Gunners have also not recorded any goal in their defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Although Conte is out of work since leaving Inter Milan, he is not close to returning to the dugout.
Transfer specialist, Fabrizio Romano, tweeted: “There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre-agreement with any club and he’s free.
“Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.
There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre agreement with any club and he’s free.
Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 5, 2021
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