UEFA Nations League: Gareth Southgate backs John Stones after error that cost England finals berth

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Gareth Southgate

John Stones retained the backing of England manager Gareth Southgate after his error started England’s downfall as they slipped to Nations League semi-final defeat to Holland.

Fan disorder made way for a gripping clash at the sold-out Estadio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes, where far fewer supporters are likely to be in attendance for Sunday’s third-place play-off against Switzerland.

England had been hoping to face Portugal in the finale and looked on course for a shot at their first trophy in 53 years as Southgate’s side reacted well to Matthijs De Ligt cancelling out Marcus Rashford’s first-half penalty.

Jesse Lingard thought he had filled the role of super-sub as he coolly turned home in the 83rd minute but joy quickly turned to despair as the Video Assistant Referee ruled out the strike for a narrow offside.

Matters would get even worse in extra-time as a shocking mistake by Stones led Kyle Walker to turn into his own net, with England then conceding a third as a Ross Barkley error allowed Quincy Promes to seal Holland a 3-1 win.

But Stones’ error was the decisive moment and former Three Lions defender Southgate refused to criticise the Manchester City defender.

“`I think we’ve had some players who, at the end of the season, have found it difficult in terms of amount of minutes on the pitch – and others having the complete opposite,” Southgate said.

“I think fatigue has played a part tonight, a lack of match sharpness. I’m asking them to play in a way that puts them under huge pressure at the back.

“If we didn’t play that way, we wouldn’t have got to the semi-finals we’ve got to, and we would never progress to being a top team because you saw the way Holland played that way as well.

“They also made a really poor error at the back. But I have got to be there to support John because he’s going to get criticism after tonight.

“But himself and Harry (Maguire), the way we ask them to play, they take huge strain of the game on their shoulders and they’re incredibly courageous to do that.

“So, that’s the way I believe they can play and we should play, and we didn’t lose because of how we wanted to play. The errors were uncharacteristic, really, and not errors that we would make.

John Stones

John Stones

“I’ve got to not overreact to those things and I have got to be there to support them in what is a difficult moment for everybody.”

Southgate also explained the reasoning behind his decision to leave all seven players involved in Saturday’s Champions League final on the bench.

Liverpool trio Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold were joined in the dugout by Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Danny Rose of Tottenham.

“In terms of the individual players, they weren’t ready to start the game,” he said.

“We wanted some young players to have the experience of a night like tonight, and they deserve that experience because they’ve been playing well.

“You can look in hindsight at some of those decisions, but we started and finished with the right people on the pitch.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Argentina ace Sergio Aguero desperate to win Copa America for Lionel Messi's sake

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Aguero wants Copa America 2019 title for Messi.

Sergio Aguero insists he is desperate to end Lionel Messi’s international heartbreak.

Argentina star Messi is yet to win a trophy with his country after losing the 2016 Copa America final to Chile on penalties.

The forward missed in the shoot-out and initially retired from international football after the last tournament.

He lasted less than two months before returning to the squad and is out to end his drought in this month’s Copa America.

The Barcelona forward has been a runner-up in the competition three times and was also part of the squad who lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany.

Argentina face Nicaragua in San Juan on Saturday in their final friendly before the competition and Manchester City’s Aguero wants to win this month for Messi.

“I’m more anxious to be a champion for Messi than for me. Hopefully one day it happens,” he told Fox Sport Argentina.

Messi is yet to win the Copa America despite making three finals.

Messi is yet to win the Copa America despite making three finals.

“It’s his dream and everyone’s dream. I put myself in his place and I want to try to do my best for him to lift the Copa America.

“It’s been a long time that he comes here and he suffers. I also suffer. We know what he can bring and the rest have to be mentally prepared not to fail.”

Argentina open their Copa America campaign against Colombia on June 15 in Salvador.

They also face Paraguay and Qatar in Group B but Aguero still felt he may miss the competition despite scoring 32 goals and helping Manchester City to the treble this term.

“When I wasn’t being called up I had doubts if I would be there or not. Leo called me in April to tell me I would be called,” said the 31-year-old.

“I was very happy, I don’t know if it will be the last tournament. We want to win something with the national team.

“We know there’s a lot of pressure on Argentina. The smallest mistake and you are eliminated because it’s a short tournament. You cannot afford to have a bad match, I’ll try to do the same as I do with City.”

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Watch: Barcelona's Arturo Vidal says Chile are ready for Japan and new Real Madrid man Takefusa Kubo

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Arturo Vidal praised Japanese teenager Takefusa Kubo ahead of Chile’s Copa America opener against Japan on Tuesday after the player dubbed the “Japanese Messi” signed for Real Madrid.

The Spanish club described him as “one of the most promising youngsters in world football” and the world will get to see him in action when Japan take on Vidal’s Chile at Sao Paolo’s Estadio Cicero Pompeu de Toledo in the early hours of Tuesday (03:00 KO UAE time).

Chile have won the last two editions of the Copa America and will face Ecuador, Japan and Uruguay in Group C. And Barcelona midfielder Vidal says he has been keeping a close eye on the 18-year-old, who was with Barca as a youngster from 2011-15.

“He’s a very skilled player. There’s a reason why Real Madrid hired him,” said Vidal, 32, of a player who has won one cap for the Samurai Blue.


“And we know him. We have seen him, analysed him very well and we know how to stop him.”









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