"This is the clear and irrevocable proof that he is the best player in the world." That was the message from Portugal head coach Fernando Santos after Cristiano Ronaldo's four-goal display.

Ronaldo became the all-time leading scorer in European Championship qualifiers with 25 goals after leading Portugal past Lithuania 5-1 on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old superstar was unstoppable in the Euro 2020 Group B qualifying clash in Vilnius, where he celebrated his eighth Portugal hat-trick while improving his international tally to 93 goals.

A five-time Ballon d'Or winner among numerous other honours in a remarkable career, Ronaldo's standing in the game is often debated alongside Barcelona captain Lionel Messi.

But Portugal boss Santos has no doubt as to who the best player in the world is following another memorable Ronaldo display.

"This is the clear and irrevocable proof that he is the best player in the world," Santos said following the Euro 2020 qualifying rout away from home.

"There is no stadium in the world where Ronaldo is not applauded," Santos added. "He is the best in the world.

"We went to Paris in my first game, and the hotel in France was just across the street. There were a thousand people at our door."

Santos continued: "I think it's strange when he doesn't score. They say it is ending ... Nothing is ending. You have to be careful because it never ends."

The Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premiership is set to kick off on Wednesday, September 11, with record sponsorship of approximately TT$3 million in what is probably the fastest-rising high school football competition in the Caribbean.

For the first time in its history, Trinidad's SSFL will have five sponsors in major sponsor Digicel, Premiership title sponsors First Citizens Bank and Shell Trinidad & Tobago, Intercol title sponsor Coca-Cola, Malta Carib and sponsor/broadcaster SportsMax.

Outside of the major sponsors, the league is also benefitting from a number of other firsts.

President William Wallace stated that "this is the first time that the SSFL is benefitting from the addition of a gear sponsor, with Joma coming on board."

The increased level of sponsorship investment and increased coverage of the SSFL through broadcast on CNC-3 and SportsMax over the last two years has made it more attractive to different organisations around the Caribbean and worldwide.

President Wallace continued: "Of course, the presence of Joma has brought together ALL the the stakeholders, in the schools, the SSFL and the sponsors, which have agreed unanimously, for the first time, on uniformity across all jerseys for all participating schools in the Premiership.

Earlier this year, during the SSFL’s awards ceremony, one of the most famous footballing names out of Trinidad and Tobago, former national and English Premier League goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, was named the SSFL's ambassador sponsored by Digicel and SportsMax

The role means Hislop has been going around conducting clinics ahead of the competition’s start this year, as well as visiting schools to give inspirational addresses and serving as a mentor to the student athletes.

“I’m a product of the Secondary School’s Football League (SSFL).  I’ve always been a huge admirer of what it brings and what it offers to young men and women in the Trinidad and Tobago school system,” Hislop had said of his appointment earlier this year.

“I know how big a role it played in my own football development, so I’m more than happy to lend a hand in hopes that it can do the same for some of the others.”

Hislop will be watching keenly on Wednesday as a full slate of games kicks off the season, the big one for him, his alma mater St Mary's College up against last year's champion Naparima.

Shaka, like many in the Caribbean and around the world, will be able to take advantage of the innovative SportsMax App, which will be televising matches. If you are on personal computer, you may also watch your favourite teams at watch.sportsmax.tv.

Watching on the SportsMax app and on its website are additions to the broadcasts that will come from SportsMax, shown on its channel as well as on CNC3 and Ceen.

Olly McIntosh, President & CEO stated "The SSFL Premiership and Intercol now has 5 sponsors investing over TTD3M and a first time ever kit sponsor with uniformed jerseys. Matches are now broadcast on CNC-3 in Trinidad & Tobago and regionally and internationally on SportsMax. This is an incredible achievement by the SSFL over the last 4 seasons when Digicel and SportsMax became sponsors and the sponsorship for the competitions and exposure was much less. Glad all schools are on baord"

Defending champions Naparima College begin their campaign at their Lewis Street home against St Mary’s College, while runners up, Presentation College are away to Trinity College Moka.

In other games, San Juan North Secondary are at home to Pleasantville Secondary, St Benedict’s College take on Trinity East at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, while newcomers Malick Secondary go to Speyside Secondary, East Mucurapo play against Queens Royal College at Fatima and St Augustine Secondary are at home to St Anthony’s College. Carapichaima East Secondary are the team on a bye this week. All games begin at 3:30pm ECT.

 

SSFL Opening round schedule

 

San Juan North Secondary - Pleasantville Secondary @San Juan

St. Benedict’s College - Trinity East @Mannie Ramjohn

Speyside Secondary - Malick Secondary @Speyside

Trinity College Moka - Presentation College @Trinity Moka

East Mucurapo Secondary - Queens Royal College @Fatima

St. Augustine Secondary - St. Anthony’s College @St Augustine

Naparima College - St. Mary’s College @ Lewis Street

Carapichaima East Secondary – BYE

Jordan Morris' second-half goal helped the United States to a 1-1 friendly draw against Uruguay in St Louis on Tuesday.

Coming off two straight losses, USA managed to avoid defeat as Morris cancelled out Brian Rodriguez's 50th-minute opener at Busch Stadium.

It was a fortunate equaliser for USA, who had squandered their best opportunities during the first half before falling behind.

Brian Rodriguez's first international goal had Uruguay – without the likes of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin – on track, but Morris levelled for Gregg Berhalter's men.

A beautiful team move led to Uruguay's first chance in the sixth minute, but Jonathan Rodriguez was just unable to get a shot off with only USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan to beat.

After Cristian Roldan headed straight at Fernando Muslera for USA, the hosts created a great chance midway through the first half.

Morris beat his marker down the left before crossing to Tyler Boyd, who put his shot into the ground and over the crossbar from close range.

A Tim Ream block denied Uruguay an opener moments later before Muslera pushed away a 25-yard effort from Sergino Dest six minutes prior to the break.

USA should have been awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time for a handball by Jose Gimenez, but they went into the interval locked at 0-0.

Brian Rodriguez broke the deadlock five minutes into the second half thanks to his first international goal.

A counter-attack saw Federico Valverde play a pass to Brian Rodriguez, who beat his marker before firing a power left-footed effort past Guzan from inside the area.

USA were fortunate to equalise with 11 minutes remaining, a clearance by Uruguay coming off Nick Lima and falling to Morris to chest in at the back post.

 

What does it mean? USA avoid three-game losing streak

Runners-up at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, USA were well beaten by Mexico last week and the draw with Uruguay at least meant they avoided being handed three straight losses for the first time since 2015.

Goalscoring woes go on for USA

USA must find a way to score goals and quickly. It took a huge piece of luck to get their equaliser against Uruguay and they have struggled to find the back of the net since thrashing Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago to begin the Gold Cup. Since those wins, USA have scored six goals in six games, netting more than once in a match just once in that run.

Uruguay show off depth

Without their two star forwards in Suarez and Cavani, Uruguay showed off some depth in the attacking third. Brian Rodriguez, 19, opened his international account and Jonathan Rodriguez was also dangerous.

What's next?

USA begin their CONCACAF Nations League campaign with matches against Cuba and Canada next month, while Uruguay will face Peru in two friendlies.

Cristiano Ronaldo said he does not live thinking about individual prizes after being asked about the Ballon d'Or following his stunning four-goal haul for Portugal in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Ronaldo made history as his four goals led European champions Portugal to a 5-1 rout of Lithuania in Tuesday's Group B clash in Vilnius.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner became the all-time leading scorer in European Championship qualifiers after improving his tally to 25 goals, surpassing Robbie Keane.

Juventus superstar Ronaldo also took his international record to 93 goals after scoring his eighth hat-trick for Fernando Santos' Portugal.

Ronaldo – who is on the final shortlist for FIFA's The Best award – was asked about his chances of winning a sixth Ballon d'Or and the 34-year-old said: "As I always say, I don't live thinking about individual prizes.

"This is a consequence of what we collectively won. But it's good, I won't lie. The important thing was to help the team.

"I scored a goal against Serbia and four here and I'm very happy We have to dismiss this moment and what I want most is to continue like this."

Ronaldo scored 21 Serie A goals last season – and 28 in all competitions – as Juventus won an eighth consecutive Scudetto.

This season, Ronaldo has already scored once for Juventus, who are level on points with Inter and Torino atop the Serie A table.

Graham Arnold praised Australia's mentality after the Socceroos made a winning start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Mathew Leckie scored twice to lead Australia to a 3-0 win away against Kuwait on the road to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Australia – who have qualified for the past four World Cups having reached the group stage in 2018 – opened the scoring in the seventh minute and did not look back thanks to Leckie and Aaron Mooy.

Also drawn in Group B alongside Jordan, Nepal and Chinese Taipei in the second round of AFC qualifying, Socceroos head coach Arnold was pleased with the result in tough conditions.

"I thought the first half was excellent. We came out with all intention to be on the front foot. We pressed them very well, we worked them really well, we didn't let them really have any chances, and obviously second half it was a bit less," said Arnold.

"The mentality of the boys was fantastic, but in these conditions you could see the fatigue kick in and I thought the three subs that came on made a big difference.

"The energy that the young boys have brought into camp has been great. We had a number of inexperienced players out there that are gaining great experience here in the Middle East and it is a great start to the campaign."

Hertha Berlin's Leckie captained Australia in the absence of injured skipper Mark Milligan in Kuwait City.

Leckie scored a first-half brace before Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Mooy sealed three points seven minutes prior to the break.

"It is always tough qualification in Asia, especially away games," Leckie said. "We had a good training camp [and] we were fortunate that we only had one game this camp, so we had a good week to prepare.

"The boys showed a good mentality today, a lot of concentration, those are the things you need playing in these conditions. It is very warm, so I think it comes down to the mental game, 3-0 away, it is never easy, but we got the job done."

Gareth Southgate believes Raheem Sterling has been close to "unstoppable" after his dazzling display in England's entertaining 5-3 win over Kosovo in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Sterling scored and set up three others as England came from a goal down at St Mary's Stadium to preserve their 100 per cent record in Group A on Tuesday.

England conceded inside 34 seconds but Sterling restored parity before the Manchester City star teed up Harry Kane and providing the assists for Jadon Sancho's brace.

Sterling's performance came after he scored and supplied two assists for Kane in England's 4-0 rout of Bulgaria last week, and manager Southgate heaped praise on the in-form 24-year-old.

"Our attacking play from Raheem, Jadon and Harry was outstanding," Southgate said. "Raheem's two performances have been of the highest level. 

"I think he's been almost unstoppable, his awareness of where defenders were, his ability to ride challenges, his vision and desire to get in on goal, and unselfish play as well, so I couldn't speak highly enough of the way he played."

It was a memorable outing for Sancho in Southampton, where the Borussia Dortmund sensation scored his first England goals.

"Jadon – you know we were talking about the three on Saturday – Jadon's performance was at that level as well. He worked really hard for the team without the ball and showed the ability he has to go past people, to be calm in tight areas," Southgate said.

"So, that part of our game was absolutely outstanding. We continued that threat for most of the game."

While England made it four wins from four games to be three points clear atop Group A, the Three Lions were far from convincing defensively against Kosovo.

Errors saw England concede three goals to the visiting minnows and Southgate added: "It was bizarre. The outstanding features and the poor features are apparent to everybody, so we don't need to get the video out and go back through it.

"Poor individual mistakes, a poor start to the game. I like the way we showed the composure to recover from that initial mistake and our use of the ball throughout the first half was excellent, right the way through the team.

"The small period after half-time: ridiculous mistakes, poor decisions, lack of covering back. So, we made the game really uncomfortable for ourselves. There were obviously mistakes that were concerning. Whether it was the intensity of the game, whether it was the pressure, I don't know. We've got to reflect on that but they were such basic errors, really, that you have to learn from. We just made some crazy errors."

Cristiano Ronaldo added another record to his collection after becoming the all-time leading goalscorer in European Championship qualifiers.

Ronaldo, 34, scored four goals as Portugal routed Lithuania 5-1 in Euro 2020 qualifying to take his tally to 25 goals.

It moved the Juventus superstar ahead of Robbie Keane, who netted 23 goals in European qualifying during his international career for the Republic of Ireland.

Keane had even jokingly begged the Portugal star to leave this record with him, writing on Instagram: "I think you have enough records @cristiano."

But within seven minutes Ronaldo had his first of the night from the penalty spot before adding three further goals to take his overall international tally to 93.

Ronaldo further strengthened his position as Europe's all-time leading international scorer, with footballing great Ferenc Puskas nine behind.

It was also Ronaldo's eighth international hat-trick for the reigning European champions and Nations League winners.

Republic of Ireland coach Mick McCarthy has ruled out staying on beyond Euro 2020 despite an impressive run of results since being reappointed.

McCarthy replaced Martin O'Neill in charge of Ireland in November 2018 for his second spell, having managed the country between 1996 and 2002.

Ireland clinched a 3-1 friendly win over Bulgaria in Dublin on Tuesday which ensured McCarthy is unbeaten in eight matches, with the country also top of Group D in Euro 2020 qualifying.

The Football Association of Ireland's plan is for McCarthy, 60, to hand over the reins to Under-21 coach Stephen Kenny when his tenure comes to an end after Euro 2020.

And when asked if there was a chance his contract would be extended if Ireland were to qualify for the tournament, McCarthy responded with an emphatic "no" and then refused to be drawn much further on the subject.

"You know the situation. I've just said no," McCarthy said.

"Hopefully we qualify for the Euros and it [the succession plan] will be seen as a really good decision."

McCarthy gave five players their international debuts against Bulgaria.

Goalkeeper Mark Travers and midfielder Josh Cullen started, while Jack Byrne, striker James Collins and shot-stopper Kieran O'Hara all came on during the second half.

 

Ireland secured victory thanks to first international goals from Alan Browne, Kevin Long and Collins, which left McCarthy satisfied.

"Ultimately the result pleased me the most," McCarthy said. "Josh Cullen deserved man of the match – he was excellent. 

"Alan Browne was also excellent. I loved James Collins' performance when he came on. Jack Byrne lit the place up with his forward passing and created two goals."

McCarthy also revealed he will ask left-back Stephen Ward to come out of international retirement for their crunch Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia next month.

Ward, 34, retired from Ireland duty in March after he won 50 caps and represented his country at both Euro 2012 and 2016.

However, with first-choice left-back Enda Stevens suspended for Ireland's trip to Georgia, McCarthy will ask the Stoke City defender to step in.

"Stephen might tell me to get lost and he is retired," added McCarthy, who used midfielder Conor Hourihane at left-back against Bulgaria.

"But if I want him, he might just put his boots on one more time.

"James McClean is probably one of the best options if I don't have a recognised left-back.

"Hourihane had no chance at left-back ever. I played him to give him 65 minutes."

Cristiano Ronaldo is "enjoying this moment" after scoring four times to lead Portugal to a 5-1 thrashing of Lithuania in Euro 2020 qualifying on Tuesday.

Ronaldo starred for the reigning European champions in the Group B clash in Vilnius, taking his tally to 93 international goals.

The 34-year-old was happy for his team after the huge win lifted second-placed Portugal onto eight points.

"I'm having a good time, but the team was doing very well too," Ronaldo told reporters.

"I am happy and enjoying this moment, not because I scored the goals, but because of the level we have been able to demonstrate in recent years.

"It is up to me to continue helping the national team."

After back-to-back draws to start their campaign, Portugal recorded much-needed wins over Serbia and Lithuania.

Ronaldo feels Portugal – in second spot and holding a game in hand – are closing in on a place at next year's showpiece tournament.

"The hardest thing was winning in Serbia, and it was important to continue with a triumph here," he said.

"We are closer, we have two games – one at home and one away – and I think if we win one of those matches it's enough."

Portugal host Luxembourg and visit group leaders Ukraine next month.

Didier Deschamps has praised Kingsley Coman's "efficiency" after his strike in France's 3-0 win over Andorra in Euro 2020 qualifying on Tuesday.

The Bayern Munich winger scored his first goals for Les Bleus since March 2016 in Saturday's 4-1 win over Albania.

He followed that with the opener against Andorra, firmly staking his claim to start France's Group H double header against Iceland and leaders Turkey next month.

"I already told you that he's added efficiency since last season," Deschamps told a media conference.

"Dribbling, creating danger, he knows how to do it. To see him play this well is good for me. 

"In a month, I will make choices but I'm happy for him; he needed that. What he has done in these two games is the same level as what he has done with his club lately."

France were guilty of squandering a host of chances against a side ranked 133 places below them in the world – most notably through Antoine Griezmann's second missed penalty – but Deschamps refused to be too hard on his players after the game.

"It's good, even if the score should have been heavier because of the chances we created," he told TF1.

"We did what we had to do in these September games. We had to take the six points. The six points is good, but the next six will be important too."

Emmanuel Macron called for the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) and fans to work together after a spate of domestic matches were marred by homophobia.

Ligue 1 games in Nice and Metz were paused in the space of a week last month after discriminatory banners were seen in the crowd.

A second-tier encounter between Nancy and Le Mans was the first to be stopped earlier in August as match officials acted on new instructions to intervene in the event of homophobic chanting or displays.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet believes referees have been wrong to halt matches, while sports minister Roxana Maracineanu backed the LFP's attempts to stamp out discrimination.

Macron, the president of France, wants to see authorities and fans work together.

"It's a question of discernment," he said on Tuesday.

"It's the role of the referee, it's the role of the league with the clubs. The LFP and the clubs have to take their responsibilities, talk to the fans, not edit a fixed rule."

It comes after Le Graet criticised referees for stopping matches, saying homophobia was a society-wide issue.

"I would not stop the matches," he told France Info.

"It's a mistake, totally, because I don't want to be held hostage to homophobia. I would stop a match for racist abuse, that's clear, or for security reasons.

"We're going to make sure the banners disappear, there is security to make sure that happens, but stopping matches is something else.

"It's not football but society in general that has to think about the problem, at school and in companies, everywhere."

Addressing the fans responsible, Le Graet said: "Do not come to the stadium with banners, it's as simple as that.

"You can support your team, but [homophobia is] absolutely wrong morally."

Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona may yet seal a deal for Neymar as negotiations are not over, according to the forward's father and agent.

Neymar was strongly linked with a return to Camp Nou before the European transfer window closed this month.

The Brazil superstar was said to be keen to go back to Barca two years after controversially leaving for a world-record €222million.

PSG sporting director Leonardo confirmed Neymar wanted to leave the club and was available for transfer if the right offer was made.

But Barca and PSG were unable to come to an agreement, with LaLiga giants Real Madrid also reportedly seeing offers rejected.

Neymar, who has three years remaining on his PSG contract, has yet to play for the Ligue 1 champions this term.

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said he would not select the 27-year-old until his future was resolved.

Neymar Sr, though, has cast fresh doubt on his son's long-term future in the French capital.

"The negotiations between clubs are not over," he said in an appearance at Edinburgh Sports Conference. 

"A Brazilian just wants to be where he is happy and he was very happy at Barcelona. When his friends asked him if he want to go back, it upset him."

Barca reportedly made cash-plus-players bids to PSG in a bid to force a move through, with Ousmane Dembele and Ivan Rakitic among those said to have been offered.

"As an agent, you feel weak when there is no structure that allows you to come and go," added Neymar's father.

"There was no release clause in his contract and this makes things very difficult.

"We fought to find an agreement. We gave the best of ourselves for him."

Gareth Southgate accepted England made poor defensive mistakes in Tuesday's thrilling 5-3 defeat of Kosovo and demanded his side improve.

Raheem Sterling shone with a goal and three assists as England came from behind in an entertaining clash in Southampton.

Jadon Sancho struck his first international goals, with Harry Kane also on target, although the usually impeccable Three Lions captain failed to convert a second-half penalty.

Kosovo, though, forced regular mistakes from the Nations League semi-finalists, including in the first minute when a Michael Keane lapse led to Valon Berisha's opener.

Berisha would later profit again after Declan Rice gave the ball away too easily, while a Harry Maguire challenge resulted in Vedat Muriqi scoring a spot-kick.

England ultimately had too much firepower thanks to Sterling and Sancho but Southgate was under no illusions about the work to do in defence.

"It had its moments! A bizarre game really," Southgate told ITV after England extended their 100 per cent record in Group A.

"There were obvious poor errors for goals but I'm really pleased with the composure we showed.

"We had devastating attacking play throughout and we used the ball well.

"The mistakes were obvious, the errors, we have to be better. The players don't need me to tell them that.

"The outstanding parts of our play were obvious, the errors were obvious."

England return to action next month with away trips to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

Jadon Sancho dedicated his first England goals to his late grandmother after starring in a 5-3 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Kosovo.

England trailed in the first minute at St Mary's Stadium on Tuesday, but Raheem Sterling shone as they hit back to lead 5-1 at the break.

Sterling provided two assists for Borussia Dortmund winger Sancho in quick succession, the teenager becoming the youngest player to score more than once in a game for England since Wayne Rooney in 2004.

"It was a good run from Raheem, he found me and I slotted it home," Sancho, 19, told ITV.

"It means a lot to me personally and for my family it is a special day.

"I dedicate the goals to my nan, who was a big fan of me but has sadly passed away."

 

 

Gareth Southgate's side responded well after a Michael Keane error allowed Valon Berisha to score the first of his two goals with just 34 seconds on the clock.

"It was a crazy game. I'm delighted to score my first goal for England," said Sancho.

"The opener was a bad mistake from us but it was a great comeback."

After the restart England conceded twice more and Sancho acknowledged there are defensive improvements needed despite a fourth Group A win out of four games.

"I think we started a bit slow [after half-time]," he added. "Next time we have to pick up on that and learn from it."

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