“It’s difficult to imagine a starker contrast between performance and outcome than England’s 1-0 victory over Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday night. The narrow win, sealed by Harry Kane’s last-gasp goal, didn’t really mask an uninspiring performance from manager Gareth Southgate’s side. But ultimately it means England have qualified for next summer’s World Cup. Preparation starts now: The FA immediately announced home friendlies against Germany and Brazil next month, knowing those dates wouldn’t be needed for playoff matches, while Sunday’s trip to Lithuania effectively has become another friendly, a chance for experimentation. And experimentation is crucial if England have any chance of reaching the latter stages in Russia next year. …” ESPN
“The easiest route to the World Cup, any national team will tell you, is through the front door. Win your qualifying games and you can’t be left out. No worries. No math. No if-we-do-this-and-they-do-that calculations. Win, and you’re in. This, then, is the most appealing route for the United States national team over the next six days. If Coach Bruce Arena and his players win their final two qualifying games, at home against Panama on Friday and at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night, they can pack their bags for Russia 2018. …” NY Times
“For more than a quarter of the Twentieth Century, English football was dominated by a new way of thinking. A Socialist revolution that inspired dedication, simplicity and some of the most breathtakingly brilliant, instinctive and organic football that Europe had ever seen. This side were not halted by changes in playing staff, nor managerial switches. On four occasions the reins would change hands without so much as a blip or interruption to their accumulation of titles, accolades and awards. It was a system so holistic, so deceptively simple and enduring, that every rival club studiously ignored it with flying colours. Eventually, the club that had incubated this philosophy also disavowed it. They haven’t won a league title since. …” twohundredpercent
“The letter was out of the blue and did not mince its words. From the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, there was something sinister about the instructions, albeit offset by the reassuringly bureaucratic tone. …” The Set Pieces
Football fans await outside the stadium before the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs UD Las Palmas at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 1, 2017.
“At every Camp Nou game for almost six years now, chants for Catalan independence have gone up when the clock reaches 17 minutes and 14 seconds, commemorating the year the city fell to Felipe V, but not this time – not on the day they were perhaps closer to independence than ever before. This time, Europe’s largest stadium was silent. No fans could be heard, only footballers. Occasionally, the referee’s whistle rang out or somebody clapped yet there were no chants, no songs and no one to sing them. At the side of the pitch where Barcelona played Las Palmas, stewards in orange bibs lined up to keep an eye on stands that had no one in them. Ninety-eight thousand seats sat empty; barely a couple of hundred people were there, and many of those wished they weren’t. …” Guardian
“Monarcas and Xolos both entered the match in decent form, although the home side were slight favourites to win. In the end, they did the job and won 3-0 to put them back in a playoff spot. Tijuana had a nightmare of a match tactically, with many issues particularly in the defence. The attack wasn’t clicking for them at any point in the match, while Monarcas who are usually a structured and defensively solid side enjoyed the game. …” Outside of the Boot
“Being English and receiving one-to-one tuition from Mauricio Pochettino is virtually a guarantee of a senior international call-up these days with Harry Winks the latest player to benefit from the Argentine’s expertise. Should Winks debut for England against either Slovenia or Lithuania, it will mean that 14 of England’s last 29 debutants have been coached by Pochettino before their first call-up. Winks’ teammate Kieran Trippier became the latest to do so against France in June. …” Squawka