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England stand firm in Euro Qualifier against Bulgaria

Last night’s game will stand as a particularly significant one in the timeline of racism within football. England put up a crushing performance against floundering Bulgaria, securing a 6-0 Euro qualifying victory in Sofia. This should have been a joyous occasion but instead, the moment was marred by the sound of shameful racist chants from Bulgarian supporters.

The shocking abuse continued throughout the match with threats even made about abandoning the game. Sadly, the warnings did not eliminate the toxic atmosphere created by Bulgarian fans. The game carries significance not simply because of the disgraceful behaviour displayed by the home fans but ultimately the inspiring way that England handled the tense situation.

England were well within their rights to walk off the pitch. They could have chosen not to be subjected to such injustice but instead did something even more powerful. They persevered and stood strong in the face of adversity.

Rather than giving any power to the abusers, they instead made a statement that they would not let racism defeat them. The fact that they persisted and went on to secure a thrashing victory, professed a more profound message.

England Manager, Gareth Southgate, stated that ‘in the second instance, we could have walked off but the players were very keen to finish the first half and talk it through. Not one player wanted to stop, they were absolutely firm on that.’

Bulgaria captain, Ivelin Popov, even addressed fans at half time in an attempt to curtail the abuse. However, the reaction that ensued following the warning over the tannoy, suggested that Bulgarian fans did not see any issue in their actions.

What was even more shocking was Bulgaria coach, Krasimir Balakov, claimed that he did not hear any racist chanting but was quick to point out that British fans whistled during the Bulgarian national anthem.

England soldiered on with a strong first half which saw effortless goals from Marcus Rashford, two from Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, who went on to win Man of the Match. Sterling then went on to score his second goal in the second half and it was none other than Harry Kane who scored the sixth.

Tyrone Mings made his England debut, also putting up an impressive first performance. Speaking to ITV he said ‘It was a great occasion, I made my debut, slightly overshadowed by a few disappointing chants. It was quite clear to hear on the pitch but I think we showed a great response and showed a great togetherness and hopefully let football do the talking.’

There was no denying that Bulgaria simply put up a poor performance yesterday. All efforts were futile as their flimsy attempts to take control allowed England to move the ball from side to side at will. England football fans have taken to Twitter to argue that the monumental loss was payback for the actions of Bulgaria fans.

Football fans are hoping that England will continue this fighting spirit in their next game against Montenegro in November at Wembley Stadium.

Racism has noticeably become more prominent within football this year. This game has not only highlighted the severity of this issue but also what can happen when a team unites and perseveres through the chants and the taunts. In the words of Marcus Pickford, the game was ‘not an easy situation to play in and not one which should be happening in 2019’. Despite the jeers, England have come out victorious and have proved that their spirit will not be broken by bigotry.

 

 

England’s World Cup Dream Ends in Heartbreak

So, football isn’t coming home – defeat to Croatia 2-1 in extra time. You can argue the England performance in this World Cup on two contrasting levels.

First, we did far better than anyone expected – which we did. Some terrific performances along the way. Lots to build on with all the young players coming through.

Second, we beat nobody any good – Tunisia, Panama, lost to Belgium’s reserves, Colombia and Sweden. We had a huge slice of luck, with Spain and Germany, not getting through our side of the draw. But you can argue we deserved that down the years in the wake of previous World Cup outrages such as cheat Diego Maradona’s Hand of God and Frank Lampard’s disallowed ‘goal’ in South Africa when it was miles over the line.

Ironic that Gareth Southgate goes out as a player at the semi-final stage of Euro 96 and goes out at as a manager at the semi-final stage of World Cup 2018. His performance in Russia was over-hyped and now, one suspects, he will be over-criticised. All too often in this tournament we have sat back and sought to defend a lead when attack is always the best form of defence. And so it proved against Croatia.

Ahead from the 5th minute via a great free kick by Kieran Trippier, we missed the opportunity to kill it off with Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard fluffing wonderful chances. We were all over them in the first half, totally dominant.

Then second half we gradually went deeper and deeper, allowed them to play, tried to defend our advantage ridiculously far out, and payed the price. Goals by Perisic in the 68th minute and Mandzukic in the second period of extra time. Southgate’s use of substitutes, not for the first time, was appalling. Not getting them on soon enough and ending up with ten men – how do you do that? And was the composition of the team ever right?

Dele Alli never really imposed himself, Lingard was mostly unconvincing and Kyle Walker was always uncomfortable playing centre back – responsible for the Perisic goal. Raheem Sterling stretches defences with his blinding pace but can’t score at international level and constantly runs up blind alleys. It left Kane isolated. No creative midfielder in the role of Luka Modric. The big positives were John Stones, Harry Maguire, Trippier and Jordan Pickford, a base to work off.

England now play Belgium again in the third and fourth placed play-off on Saturday, and will probably lose because the Belgians are far more skilful and our boys will be out on their feet. The “final” was France v Belgium.

Prediction for Sunday’s France v Croatia showdown, 4-1 to France. Sadly, we will not be seeing the expression on Novichok Putin’s face had he been handing the trophy to England!

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England leave it late against Tunisia in World Cup opener

Harry Kane pulled it out of the fire as England beat Tunisia 2-1 with a late injury-time strike.

The victory, plus three more points against Panama on Sunday, should see England through to the next stage of the World Cup.
Hopefully, all set fair for a showdown with Belgium a week on Thursday to decide who tops the group.

It took two old-fashioned England-style goals – corners headed on by first John Stones and then Harry Maguire saw Kane free and converting the opportunities.

His first with the boot, the second a clever header.

England made hard work of it – started magnificently and could arguably have been three or four up in the first 30 minutes.
But they spurned the chances, Jesse Lingard being the main culprit, and one feared the Three Lions might suffer for it.

And they did when Kyle Walker, a wing back playing centre back, was adjudged to have fouled his man in the penalty area with a wandering elbow. Sassi scored from the spot.

England were then aggrieved that two rugby tackles on Kane in the box went unpunished by an ineffective referee – disappointing because the men in the middle have been generally good so far. Where was the VAR system when England needed it?
For long periods of the second half a stuffy but toothless Tunisia looked like they would scrape an undeserved draw.
Cue Captain Kane to the rescue.

Kane, Henderson, Trippier and Stones were top quality for England. But Sterling lacked effectiveness and the laboured Dele Alli, seemingly injured, should have been pulled off long before he eventually was – a poser why Gareth Southgate failed to act earlier.

The manager will also be baffled how England could be so fluent in the first half and so ineffective in the second.
Plenty to work on but we are off to a flyer.

The Belgium game now looks like being a cracker. Especially as the Belgians easily beat Panama 3-0 with a beauty from Dries Mertens and two from Romelu Lukaku. Panama look as if they will be the whipping boys of the group. England must make sure they put them away, then bring on the Belgians.

Are you looking to watch England v Belgium in style next Thursday? Join Darren Farley and Peter Shilton at the Holiday Inn Birmingham with Eventmasters World Cup Live Screening.

Enjoy the occasion in style with our superb corporate hospitality package. With a delicious four-course luncheon to savour, cash bar and entertainment from the beloved Gary Newbon, Football Legends, including Peter Shilton OBE, and leading football impressionist Darren Farley, this package certainly promises to create a memorable experience for all.

 

2018 World Cup Warm-up – England V Nigeria Review

For the first half at Wembley it felt like a new England, a vindication of nearly two years of work from Gareth Southgate trying to lift the burden of history from these players.

England walked away with the win, even after a second half resurgence from a seemingly inspired Nigeria. In a week of headlines dominated by Raheem Sterling and Nigeria’s eye catching new kit, it was refreshing to see the game itself in the spotlight.

England started very brightly, coming close with a few early crosses, before Chelsea defender Gary Cahill celebrated his return to England’s squad by opening the scoring with a powerful header after only seven minutes. It was a triumphant return for Cahill, back in the squad in place of Harry Maguire. While the Leicester man may hold the edge in terms of passing ability (A key attribute for Southgate), Cahill showed he can be a big threat on set pieces, an area that England could possibly exploit during the World Cup.

England’s total first-half domination was emphasized when captain Harry Kane scored his eighth goal in his last seven appearances. Kane struck from outside the area just six minutes before the interval when Nigeria keeper Francis Uzoho allowed his 18-yard shot to slip in. The 19 year old really should have saved the effort, but for Kane its yet another reminder of his value to the side. Alongside Kyle Walker he stands out as the world class talent in the England squad, and thus, if England are to have a successful campaign in Russia, you would think Kane has to play a leading role.

Southgate, however, will be pleased by the pace and movement shown by his attacking players in a thoroughly convincing opening 45 minutes.

Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi gave Nigeria’s thousands of fans inside Wembley hope two minutes after the break with a crisp finish but England – who had Raheem Sterling booked for diving – closed out the victory in relatively untroubled fashion. Nigeria had a few more chances to level, but unlike against Italy two months ago, England held out for a morale boosting win.

“The most important thing I do in the next six weeks is to protect the players” – Southgate

England’s preparations continue with another friendly against Costa Rica at Elland Road on Thursday, where it is anticipated that Southgate will look to rotate his side to allow the likes of Vardy, Loftus-Cheek and Alexander-Arnold to get some minutes under their belt. The national team has played at Elland Road twice before, a 3-3 draw with Sweden in June 1995 was preceded by defeat against Italy in 2002.

They will look to better that record this week, and no doubt Gareth Southgate will be hopeful of a performance to get the fans dreaming again, ahead of a big summer in Russia.

Eventmasters are delighted to be hosting a screening of the much anticipated England vs Belgium match in this months World Cup. Taking place on 28th June, this is your chance to enjoy a brilliant match in first class hospitality. Ex-Sky Sports Presenter Gary Newbon will be master of ceremonies, with England’s most Capped player, and Italia 90 hero Peter Shilton also in attendance.

England hold Germany and see off Argentina

England v Germany at football and England v Argentina at rugby – never has it been more fitting ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

Yet performances never quite rose to the levels we might have expected.

As 0-0 draws go, the England/Germany one was reasonably exciting.

England had the best of the chances but couldn’t make any count.

Jesse Lingard had a glorious opportunity in added time but ballooned it over the bar. And that sort of summed up the match.

Both sides were missing loads of first choice players and it showed.

But there were successes – Ruben Loftus-Cheek looked completely at home and a real talent. Has a presence about him. Looks a big game player.

As for their rugby equivalent … they beat Argentina comfortably enough 21-8 but it was far from convincing.

England coach Eddie Jones was tearing his hair out at some of the sloppiness.

Argentina were a stuffy side who came with a limited game plan but a sound defence. They offered little in attack.

But for much of the match the home side seemed devoid of ideas.

Not even Nathan Hughes’ first-half try got them going and they were lucky to get even this breakthrough given the visitors were down to 14 men after a harsh yellow card for Joaquin Tucalet.

Semesa Rokoduguni’s third international try with 14 minutes left finally eased the nerves.

Yet Nicolas Sanchez kept the score presentable with a late score. And along the way Argentina contrived to miss four kickable penalties and a conversion.

Considerable improvement is required when England come up against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.

That should be a cracker given the extra significance of an Ashes cricket series about to start Down Under.

Will Scotland manage a home win?

Games between England and Scotland are always tasty affairs and Saturday’s World Cup qualifying clash at Hampden Park will be no different.

The Scots will relish taking on the Auld Enemy especially after their 3-0 hiding at Wembley. A packed crowd will be baying for a victory hoping to inspire the team to great deeds. On paper, there should only be one winner, England.

The Scottish squad is made up of largely Championship players, while England has a side from the upper reaches of the Premier League.
But Hampden can be a bear pit and England will have to adjust. They must avoid getting spooked, try and take the sting out of the Scots, and deflate them with an early goal. Gordon Strachan’s side is fourth in Group F at the midway point of the qualifiers. With five games played and with a record of two wins, a draw and two defeats, Scotland, on seven points, trail group leaders England by six, Slovakia by two and Slovenia by a single point. The group winners go through to the finals while the best eight runners-up play in two-legged play-off matches.
Scotland is vulnerable in defence and less than prolific in attack. The days when they had great players like Denis Law, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness are long gone. Former Scotland star Richard Gough admitted:

“It’s going to be a difficult game against England. They are better than us. We just have to hope we catch them on a bad day. “Eight out of ten times, I would imagine they would win the game. That’s just being realistic.

“In the days I was involved in these games, there was no inferiority. For these boys (in the current squad), if you are playing in the Championship and they are playing for Manchester United, there is a wee bit of something because you are not that used to playing against them. It was club team-mates of mine I was facing when I played against England.

“I’ve got a great picture at my home of the Scotland team from around that time. Steve Archibald is there, who was playing for Barcelona. Souness had just won the European Cup — for the third time. We had good players.”

No longer.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who won the Premier League golden boot with 29 goals after a superb end to the domestic campaign, is set to lead the line for England. He commented:

“It is a massive game, everyone knows how big England versus Scotland is with the rivalry that we have. “We just want to go out there and do it again – we know it will be a bit tougher doing it away from home but with the team, we have got and the confidence we have got we know we just have to go out there and not get too caught up in the moment. “You have to be professional. Of course, it is going to be a passionate game but it’s about being calm and composed and sticking to the game plan. I feel we can do that.”

Should be a cracking occasion.

Six Nations – Smith could offer breakdown expertise

Eddie Jones could call upon one of his former Australian stars, with George Smith in line to help England during the 2016 RBS Six Nations.

Wasps are willing to let the Wallaby legend assist the national side providing it doesn’t interfere with his playing duties. Over the weekend Jones revealed that he has offered Jonny Wilkinson a chance to join his staff and this latest potential move will excite fans.

England have endured well documented problems at the breakdown over the past four years, due to a combination of selection and technical issues. It is hoped that Smith’s expertise in this area can transform England’s fortunes.

England face two crucial games at Twickenham during the 2016 RBS Six Nations. England face defending champions Ireland (Saturday 27th February) in what promises to be another classic encounter. Jones’s side then face Wales (Saturday 12th March) as England look to avenge their infamous World Cup loss.

After his first press conference last week Jones indicated his desire to get Smith involved saying, “Whether we can get him to come and work… I don’t know whether Wasps will let him come with us.”

The 35-year-old won 111 caps for Australia and has been one of Wasps best performers this season, particularly at the ruck where he continues to win crucial turnovers.

Smith has told the Daily Mail that he would be open to the idea of once again working alongside Jones, saying “If he (Jones) does come calling, I would definitely listen to him because he’s a person who I do regard highly.”

Who will be openside in the Six Nations?

Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young has said he wouldn’t stand in Smith’s way if England come calling, “I wouldn’t stand in his way. I know that Eddie has a relationship with George going back a long way.

“We are here to support England and their management and if we can help, we will. If George could be of assistance – rather than being an assistant – helping the national team do well, and it doesn’t affect what we are doing, then I’ve got no problem with it.”

England have two potential candidates for the number seven jersey for the RBS Six Nations 2016. Matt Kvesic has been one of the Premierships form opensides in the last 18 months and is probably the most skilled at the breakdown.

Jack Clifford is an exciting young talent with bags of potential. He is a powerful and dynamic ball carrier and while his is still learning his craft at the ruck he could become an England regular if his rate of improvement continues.

It is exciting to think how well either one of these players could perform under the tutelage of one of the game’s greatest ever flankers.

Please click here for more information on our fantastic Twickenham Six Nations hospitality packages.

Six Nations 2016 – Potential England XV v Scotland

With just one month to go until the start of the 2016 RBS Six Nations, we take a look at the potential starting XV that could take the field when England travel to Murrayfield to face Scotland on Saturday 6th February.

1 – Mako Vunipola

The Saracens prop has been in superb form this season. His scrummaging has dramatically improved and we know how destructive he can be with ball in hand. Has the ability to be one of the world’s premier leading looseheads.

2 – Dylan Hartley (c)

If the rumours are to be believed then Dylan Hartley will be the man leading England out at Murrayfield in the Six Nations. Although he has only recently returned from injury he is a proven international performer and could be a fantastic leader.

3 – Henry Thomas

Eddie Jones has a slight issue on the tighthead side of the scrum. Kieran Brookes is injured and Dan Cole is badly out of form. Henry Thomas has enjoyed a good season down at Bath and is very similar to Vunipola in terms of carrying ability and improved scrummaging.

4 – Joe Launchbury

An automatic selection, Launchbury is a world class performer in the second-row. Superb at the line-out and like an extra-flanker in the loose. He will be a key man under Jones and a big Six Nations is in store for the 24-year-old

5 – George Kruis

It would have seemed crazy to leave Courtney Lawes out of the side 12 months ago, but such is the form of Kruis that he could leapfrog the experienced Northampton lock. Kruis was impressive during last season’s Six Nations, England will look for him to bring his club form to the international stage.

6 – Maro Itoje

An uncapped man who was being touted as a potential captain, that’s how highly he is rated. Just as happy at flanker or second-row. His athleticism, power and rugby intelligence will allow him to slot in at blindside before eventually moving into the engine room.

7 – Matt Kvesic

The Gloucester openside is a real fetcher which England have had (or refused to pick) in the last three years. Kvesic has been in imperious form this season and has been masterful at the breakdown, deserves a chance to prove himself at international level.

8 – Billy Vunipola

One of the most destructive ball carriers in the northern hemisphere. Like most of the Saracens squad he is in top form domestically. His ability to get England over the gain line and create chaos for defences will be crucial.

9 – Danny Care

England are blessed with a number of high quality scrum-halves. Danny Care has rediscovered his form this season and has probably edged slightly ahead of Ben Youngs and Joe Simpson in the pecking order. An electric player at his best.

10 – Owen Farrell

Again this is an area where Jones has plenty of choice and variety, with George Ford and Danny Cipriani also in contention. But Farrell has been in terrific form and has started to free up his game this season. A lethal goal-kicker and a man who knows how to get the job done at Murrayfield in the Six Nations.

11 – Jack Nowell

The Exeter flyer has never let England down and brings energy and work rate to the back three. Whether it’s chasing kicks, taking the high ball, beating a defender or scoring tries Nowell has proved he is the man for this position.

12 – Luther Burrell

Inside centre is a bit of a problem area for Jones. Henry Slade is injured and Kyle Eastmond isn’t playing his best rugby. Burrell was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup, but will bring some much needed power to the midfield and he has proven he can handle the intensity of the Six Nations.

13 – Elliot Daly

This is a real tough call between Daly and Jonathan Joseph. On this seasons form Daly just edges out the Bath star. He possesses electric pace and a monster boot, has been knocking on the door and deserves a chance. But Joseph may come back in if his form picks up.

14 – Antony Watson

Another automatic choice, his development in the past year has been spectacular. Has all the attributes you want in a winger and has become a go-to man when England have needed tries in recent times.

15 – Alex Goode

It is hard to leave out Mike Brown, one of the most consistent and popular players in the country, but Goode is in the form of his life. One of the most intelligent backs in Europe he creates space for others and could be a key man for England.

Bench

16 – Alex Waller

17 – Jamie George

18 – Dan Cole

19 – Courtney Lawes

20 – Jack Clifford

21 – Ben Youngs

22 – Danny Cipriani

23 – Jonathan Joseph

Please click here if you are interested in our Six Nations Twickenham hospitality packages.

Twickenham Hospitality Packages – England players to watch: Maro Itoje

As England Rugby continue their search for a new head coach, we look at some players who could make an impact in their Six Nations campaign where they face Ireland (Saturday 27th February) and  Wales (Saturday 12th March) at Twickenham, Eventmasters are delighted to provide official Twickenham hospitality packages for both of these matches.

Our Twickenham hospitality packages offer businesses the perfect opportunity to entertain their important clients and guests. Enjoy first-class Twickenham hospitality with superb West Stand seats for the perfect view of the action.

In our first blog we look at a player who many believe could be a future England and British Lions captain, Saracens lock Maro Itoje.

The athletic second-row has represented England at U18 and U19 level, before stepping up to captain the U20 side in the 2013/14 season. It turned out be a memorable season for the young star as he led the side to a Triple Crown in the Six Nations before they headed to New Zealand for Junior World Championships.

England entered the tournament as defending champions and the side that won the tournament in 2013 featured future stars Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson. After playing some scintillating rugby all the way through the competition, England met South Africa in the final and came out on top 21-20 in a superb contest. Pundits and fans all understood the leadership skills of Itoje were crucial to the success of the team.

Since then Itoje has gone from strength to strength for his club side. In last season European Champions Cup, the 21-year-old made a huge impact from the bench as the English side beat Racing Metro in Paris.

For the semi-final against Clermont he was selected at blindside flanker and produced one of the best performances of the whole competition. Creating havoc in defence and at the set-piece with intelligent and powerful play. It announced Itoje’s arrival as future superstar.

He was named in England’s 50 man training squad for the World Cup and despite earning glowing reports from the coaching staff, he was cut from the squad early. To his credit Itoje has returned to Saracens and produced some outstanding displays to start the season and perhaps more tellingly he has led the side as captain at the same time. Handling this responsibility seems to have enhanced his game rather than hinder him.

As questions continue to be asked about the leadership within the England squad, Itoje seems to be the perfect man to come in and lead this squad. He has proven himself as a player and leader at youth and club level and is now ready to step up.

Twickenham hospitality guests will be hoping to see the impressive Itoje in action when England kick-off their home Six Nations campaign against Ireland.

For more information and to book your Twickenham hospitality packages please follow the links.

Wayne Rooney – 50 Not Out

Last night Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney made history at Wembley Stadium by scoring his 50th International goal against Switzerland becoming England’s all-time top goal scorer. The record was set by Sir Bobby Charlton in 1970 who scored 49 goals in 106 appearances. There were emotional scenes of celebration by everyone from the Stewards to the guests in corporate hospitality facilities.

Wayne Rooney re-wrote the record books, not only did he become the top England goal scorer he also set 3 more records. The first being that last night’s goal was his 300th for Club and Country (233 for Man United, 17 for Everton & 50 for England). The second being that he scored in 7 consecutive competitive games for England – a post war record. Finally he become the joint 5th all-time capped player for England with Ashley Cole (107).

How long do you think this record will last & who can you see scoring more? Harry Kane? Raheem Sterling?

Wayne will return to Premier League football on Saturday in a massive fixture against Liverpool FC, we can offer Manchester United hospitality packages for every game at Old Trafford this season.