Toni Kroos' comeback from international retirement started with two impressive results but Carsten Ramelow remains "sceptical" over Germany's Euro 2024 hopes.

Real Madrid midfielder Kroos reversed his decision to retire from Julian Nagelsmann's national team, returning in March before back-to-back victories over France and Netherlands.

In doing so, the 34-year-old – who had not played on the international stage for three years prior – equalled Jurgen Klinsmann's 108-match tally, with only seven players now having more appearances for Germany.

Kroos was an integral figure in Nagelsmann's midfield as the Euro 2024 hosts swept aside France 2-0 in a Lyon friendly before overcoming Netherlands 2-1 in a Frankfurt meeting.

Yet former Germany midfielder Ramelow remains unsure whether Nagelsmann's side will hit similar heights when it comes to hosting the European Championships in June.

"I don't know what happened with the team in the March games but the results were good," former Bayer Leverkusen player Ramelow told Stats Perform.

"In Germany, you now tend to say we will win the Euros… We also play at home, so we are European Champions already – that's always interesting how the media sees this.

"The positive things were the recent results and the performances of the national team. They have improved drastically, also the overall mentality.

"Whether it was the impact of Toni Kroos, we will see. He is a player that has held a very high level over the years with Real Madrid, no doubt.

"He can definitely help the team, but whether that is something for the future remains to be seen. I am still sceptical because we had many years where nothing worked and two games where they played well."

Ramelow was at least pleased to see Germany find basics such as "passion, heart and commitment" in the friendly victories, though insists time will tell on their success and Kroos' performances.

"[The results] also created euphoria, which is good," the versatile 46-cap Germany defender added. "But in the end, we have to wait for the tournament to start.

"Then we will see if all of that still works between Toni Kroos and the rest of the team. I think it's too early to claim we are back on track and will play a successful tournament.

"Regarding Toni Kroos, I also have to say I was a bit surprised about his comeback, because they attempted to start all over again."

Germany start their Euro 2024 campaign against Scotland on June 14, though Kroos and his team will face Ukraine and Greece in friendlies before that tournament opener at the Allianz Arena.

Manchester United’s absentee-hit defence will be without Raphael Varane for the next few weeks due to a muscle injury.

A disappointing second season for the Red Devils under Erik ten Hag has been punctuated by a variety of fitness issues, with the backline hit particularly hard.

United have been without an out-and-out left-back for much of the season due to injuries to Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia, while their problems at centre-back are now stacking up.

Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof are laid low, with Varane and Jonny Evans absent from the squad for Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool after injuries sustained at Chelsea last Thursday.

The pair will be absent again at Bournemouth on Saturday, with Varane unlikely to return until next month.

United said in a statement: “Raphael Varane will be out for the next few weeks with a muscle injury sustained during our game against Chelsea last week.

“The French World Cup winner is aiming to be back in action before the end of the season in May.

“Fellow centre-back Jonny Evans will also miss Saturday’s game against Bournemouth with a shorter-term muscle issue.”

Varane, 30, has made 30 appearances for United this season and is out of contract this summer.

Evans, who made a surprise return to the club last year, has appeared 29 times and the 36-year-old’s deal also expires at the end of the season.

United enter the weekend sixth in the Premier League, 11 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham in the last spot guaranteed of Champions League qualification.

Harry Maguire and teenager Willy Kambwala look set to start as the centre-back pairing again at Bournemouth.

Erik ten Hag deserves to be given more time by Manchester United, where off-pitch disruption has hampered the Dutchman's attempts to instil his preferred style.  

That is the view of former Netherlands international Urby Emanuelson, who worked with Ten Hag at Utrecht and believes he can achieve long-term success under the Jim Ratcliffe regime. 

Ten Hag is under pressure amid an underwhelming second campaign at Old Trafford, with United suffering an early Champions League exit and languishing 11 points adrift of the Premier League's top four.

United's total of 12 Premier League defeats this season is their joint-most in a single campaign (with 2013-14 and 2021-22), while Ten Hag's side have also been criticised for a perceived lack of off-the-ball organisation.

Only bottom club Sheffield United (560) have faced more shots than the Red Devils' 554 in the Premier League this season, while their expected goals against (xGA) figure of 58.2 is also the third-highest in the competition.

While Ten Hag recently said he has "no doubts" over his future, Gareth Southgate, Graham Potter and Gary O'Neil have been touted as possible successors if Ratcliffe – who recently acquired a minority stake in the club from the Glazer family – makes a change.

Emanuelson, though, thinks Ten Hag deserves more time.

"I worked with him at FC Utrecht in the last few seasons of my career, and I have to say he's an amazing coach in the way he can prepare a team. It's amazing," he told Stats Perform.

"I think he's doing well at Manchester United. It's difficult to be a coach of Manchester United, especially in the period they are in with that club.

"You know there are a lot of things going on in Manchester, so it's not easy not to be a coach there and I think he's doing well.

"Of course, you cannot win everything because the Premier League is a tough league, but he's trying to get his team ready. He's trying to let the club, or at least the team, grow to a different level than where they were at."

United are major outsiders in the race for Champions League qualification after being pegged back in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Liverpool last Sunday.

   With seven games to play, they sit 11 points adrift of Tottenham in fourth and Aston Villa in fifth, with England potentially receiving an additional spot through UEFA's coefficient rankings.

Emanuelson has not given up hope of the Red Devils making it, saying: "I just hope he finishes the season in a good way and they end up in the top four. I wish him all the best. 

"I have a good relationship with him, and I just hope he gets the time he needs to turn things around, and I hope he will get the results he wants."

Jamaica’s young Reggae Boyz will have powerhouse teams United States and Costa Rica, along with Caribbean neighbours Cuba to contend with in the group stages of this summer’s Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championships in Mexico.

Those teams will contest Group A of the tournament scheduled for July 19 to August 4. Honduras, Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Canada will contest Group B, while host Mexico, Panama, Guatemala and Haiti will lock horns in Group C.

The groups were revealed during a live draw on Thursday.

Jamaica's young Reggae Boyz, who topped Group F on their way to the Championships, will now be guided by Jerome Waite, who is looking forward to the challenge of possibly qualifying the country to its first Under-20 Men's World Cup since the Argentina feat in 2001.

To achieve the feat, Waite, who took the reins from John Wall after the Caribbean qualifiers, will have to first secure a top two spot from the Group, as only the top two finishers from each group, along with the two best-third-place teams, will advance to the quarterfinals.

From there, the four semi-finalists will secure qualification as Concacaf’s representatives at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup next year.

Waite, who is no stranger to high pressure situations, was at the helm when the young Reggae Boyz went into the 2018 tournament without much preparation or expectation, but surprised the entire nation when they finished level on 13 points from five games with Concacaf kingpins, Mexico, at the top of the group.

However, Mexico qualified for the second round by virtue of a better goal difference than the Jamaicans, as only the group winner advanced.

Since then, Jamaica's closest run to FIFA Under-20 World Cup qualification was when they made the quarterfinals of the 2022 tournament in Honduras.

"Qualification will not be easy, but it is something that can be accomplished," Waite said.

Newcastle midfielder Joelinton has signed a new long-term deal with the club.

The Brazilian arrived on Tyneside from Hoffenheim in 2019 and has made 179 appearances for Newcastle, scoring 25 goals.

Joelinton was part of the Newcastle side who reached the Carabao Cup final last season and earned qualification for the Champions League for the first time in two decades.

He has not featured for the Magpies since their FA Cup victory against rivals Sunderland earlier this year in January due to injury and has subsequently undergone thigh surgery.

Speaking about his new contract, Joelinton told the club website: “I feel great. I feel very happy and my family is happy.

“A lot of things have happened in my years here. I’ve learnt a lot and grown a lot, and for me to come here to Newcastle was the best decision of my career.

“I love playing for the club. I love the club, I love the fans.

“We had a lot of discussions and I always wanted to be here. I’m glad to continue and I hope to have success in the years to come.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe said: “This has been a big priority for us off the pitch and I’m absolutely delighted Joelinton has committed his future to the club.

“Joey is an exceptional player and person, and the love he has for the club is reciprocated by all of us here. He brings unique qualities to the group and undoubtedly makes us stronger.”

Philippe Clement insists Rangers are prepared to play their twice-postponed game against Dundee behind closed doors – and even on Mars – after a proposal to fulfil the fixture on Thursday was rejected.

The Govan club accused Dundee of “negligence and unprofessionalism” after their cinch Premiership match at Dens Park was called off again on Wednesday night.

The game has been rescheduled for next Wednesday night after referee Don Robertson deemed the waterlogged pitch unplayable following a second inspection of the day at 3.30pm.

It is the second time the game has been postponed – the first came last month, 90 minutes before the scheduled kick-off – but the Gers boss revealed there will be a decision made at 12pm next Tuesday and his side will be ready to play without any supporters at an alternative venue.

“I was ready for everything and we were ready to play,” said Clement, who revealed midfielder Mohamed Diomande will miss the game at Ross County on Sunday after having an operation on his thumb having sustained the injury against Celtic last weekend.

“It is a long-time problem and a second time for us that it has been postponed,” Clement added.

“It could have been avoided by playing at another venue somewhere else because everyone knew what the situation was.

“That could have been avoided last week by taking a decision earlier or we play at another venue.

“We were even prepared to play today, so soon before the Ross County game.

“We offered that option but it was not accepted apparently, so it will be next week. It was not possible to play today at another venue.

“I don’t think the option was there (to play before Celtic game). Dundee needed time to fix their pitch to play Motherwell.

“The last thing I heard was that we will know on Tuesday at 12 o’clock at the latest where we will play on Wednesday.

“If not Dundee it will need to be somewhere else, but we must know before we travel on Tuesday.

“It is a disadvantage (behind closed doors) but it is what it is, we have to adapt, like when it was Covid and we didn’t like that.

“But our mindset is whatever decisions are made, we go to win games. So no excuses around that.

“If that is the decision, we will play behind closed doors. If they ask us to play on Mars, we go to Mars, we take a flight to win the three points. That is the mindset of me and all my players.”

Sporting Lisbon head coach Ruben Amorim has denied reaching a verbal agreement with Liverpool to succeed Jurgen Klopp as manager at Anfield.

Reports suggested the 39-year-old is in talks with the Premier League club with a view to taking over in the summer.

Amorim emphatically dismissed the speculation as he prepares for his side’s Primeira Liga match at Gil Vicente on Friday evening.

“This is the last time I am going to talk about my future,” he told a press conference.

“There was no interview and certainly no agreement.

“The only thing we all want here is to be champions with Sporting, nothing will change.

“I’m the Sporting coach and there was no interview or agreement with any club. I’m just focused, as always, on representing my club.”

Liverpool manager Klopp announced in January that he will leave Merseyside at the end of the season after almost nine years in the role.

Former Reds midfielder Xabi Alonso was linked with the job before committing his future to Bayer Leverkusen, while Amorim and Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi also emerged as contenders.

Ex-Portugal midfielder Amorim is on course to lead Sporting to the second domestic title of his tenure after joining from divisional rivals Braga in 2020.

Dundee United have trolled their next-door neighbours after Dundee blamed climate change for a raft of postponements.

Dundee club secretary Eric Drysdale pointed to the impact of global weather issues after their cinch Premiership encounter with Rangers was postponed on Wednesday night for a second time.

United used their official X account to take a light-hearted dig at their city rivals as they posted photographs of Jim Goodwin and his squad training on their pitch ahead of their cinch Championship encounter with Morton at a sunny Tannadice.

The caption read: “The perfect climate for #MORUTD fine-tuning”, and was followed by a sunshine emoji.

The two clubs’ grounds are about 200 yards apart.

United recently advertised for a new head groundsperson with the previous incumbent, Paul Murray, set to move to Dundee in the summer, with the Premiership club relying on contractors in recent weeks.

Dundee have had five postponements this season due to a waterlogged pitch and Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell claimed parts of the surface were unplayable after his side’s win at Dens Park on Saturday, which only went ahead after a second, late inspection.

Speaking after Wednesday’s postponement, Drysdale pointed to bad luck with home fixtures coinciding with storms.

And he added on Sky Sports News: “I can understand that people are annoyed and are looking at this as being Dundee’s fault.

“What I would say is that, from the research that we’ve done in the last few days, we note that this year’s rainfall is 35 per cent higher than the last 10 years’ average.

“That shows the effects that climate change is having on it and it appears we need to urgently do more work on the Dens Park pitch and we are absolutely up for doing that in the summer.”

Another Dundee-based team had a cheeky dig at the Premiership club, whose ground is sponsored by Scot Foam.

Writing on Facebook ahead of a cup tie at the Riverside playing fields in the city on Wednesday evening, the Tayside Fire Brigade AFC, who play in the Dundee Saturday Morning Football League, said: “Fortunately for us the game is not at the Scot Foam tonight therefore, the game goes ahead.”

Sean Dyche has called on Everton to show the same positive reaction to their second points deduction of the season as the first.

Having seen November’s 10-point penalty for breaching spending rules reduced to six on appeal, the Toffees were penalised a further two points this week, dropping them back to within two points of the Premier League relegation zone.

Everton’s best spell of the season came shortly after the initial sanction, with the Toffees’ four-match winning run including a 2-0 success against Monday’s opponents Chelsea.

Manager Dyche said: “The last time we got a knock everyone pulled together, and I think that’s important to remind yourself. The fans were terrific in a new reality. There’s another one now.

“Everyone went, ‘hang on a minute, the badge is more important than anything’, and I still feel the same. Myself, the players, the staff all pulling together, and the fans as well to make sure we look after ourselves and we look after the club.

“The restart is Chelsea. A reaction to the news is important, a positive reaction. The time for fault and blame is gone. It’s the way society works, everyone wants fault and blame for everything but we’ve got to park it.

“What’s done is done. We’ve just got to stay in line, stay connected, and take on the next challenge. The club’s had a few knocks recently, let’s all pull together and get it done.”

Everton will appeal against the latest sanction and, while Dyche does not want to dwell on what has happened, a sense of injustice remains.

A perceived lack of consistency has frustrated club and fans alike, and Dyche said: “I think it’s difficult because of the confusion.

“I don’t think it’s just Evertonians. I travel a lot and football fans generally come up to me and say, ‘What’s that all about?’ They’re confused by it, we’re a bit confused by it, I think that’s fair to say.

“But, whether we are or we’re not, there’s still a job in hand and the focus has to go back to the current situation.

“Therefore our focus is on the next round of games coming up. I spoke to the players after it, reminded the staff about it, the truth of the moment, which is to stay focused on the job in hand.”

Ongoing doubt, meanwhile, surrounds the club’s proposed takeover by 777 Partners, with a further delay reported this week.

Dyche sees no reason to panic, saying: “I’m certainly not in that world but I can only imagine buying a football club’s not an easy business. There must be so many different things to go through and so many checks that have to be done.

“It’s taking more time, that’s the way it goes. I certainly am not involved in that level of what we do here. The rest is just a wait-and-see situation.”

The points deduction made last weekend’s win over Burnley, their first in the league since December, look even more important, with goal-shy Dominic Calvert-Lewin netting his second in as many games.

There is a fitness doubt over the striker for Monday’s game after he missed training on Thursday with a hamstring issue.

But Dyche expects him to be fit, saying: “He’s just got a minor niggly hamstring, which we’re just being ultra careful with. But he thinks he’s on top of it and the medical team are as well.”

The first EFL promotion places could be confirmed this Saturday, with Portsmouth, Stockport and Wrexham all looking for the results to rubber-stamp their elevation.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what is required in each division.

Championship

Rotherham are down and nothing else will be decided this weekend at either end of the table, though Southampton will secure a play-off place unless they lose and Coventry and Preston both win.

League One

Portsmouth will be confirmed as a Championship team for next season if they beat third-placed Bolton.

Should Pompey drop points, they can still be promoted on Saturday if they at least match the results of both second-placed Derby and fourth-placed Peterborough, who face Leyton Orient and Oxford respectively.

At the bottom, Carlisle are already relegated and the other three places will remain in contest at least until midweek, though Fleetwood could end Saturday nine points adrift of safety with only nine to play for.

League Two

Stockport need only a point against Morecambe to secure their promotion.

Wrexham could join them with victory over bottom club Forest Green, if MK Dons do not beat Mansfield in the battle of fourth against third – that would also send Stockport up even if they lose. The top three are already secure in the play-offs as a minimum and could be joined by MK Dons.

Relegation issues will not be confirmed, but Forest Green could be left six points adrift with two games remaining.

The Premier League will use semi-automated offside technology before the end of the year.

Clubs unanimously agreed to introduce the technology next season at a meeting of top-flight teams on Thursday, which sources say is expected to cut the average length of a VAR check for offside by 31 seconds.

The Premier League said the intention was to introduce the technology after one of the autumn international breaks – so as early as September or as late as November.

“The technology will provide quicker and consistent placement of the virtual offside line, based on optical player tracking, and will produce high-quality broadcast graphics to ensure an enhanced in-stadium and broadcast experience for supporters,” a league statement said.

Football’s global governing body FIFA first used semi-automated offside technology at the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar.

Burnley boss Vincent Kompany has been handed a two-match touchline suspension after his red card against Chelsea at the back end of last month.

Kompany was sent off from the dugout during the Clarets’ 2-2 draw at Chelsea on March 30 for his protests against a penalty decision which also led to defender Lorenz Assignon seeing red.

The Football Association confirmed in a statement Kompany must serve a one-game ban straight away with the other suspended until the end of the year, while the Belgian was also handed a £10,000 fine.

“Burnley FC’s Vincent Kompany has been fined £10,000 and suspended from the touchline for two matches following misconduct at their Premier League game against Chelsea FC on Saturday 30 March,” the FA statement said.

“One match is to be served immediately and one match suspended until 31 December 2024. The manager admitted that his language and/or behaviour in the 40th minute of the fixture was improper and/or abusive and/or insulting towards a match official and/or questioned the integrity of a match official.

“An independent regulatory commission imposed his sanctions following a subsequent hearing.”

Relegation-threatened Burnley, who sit second bottom in the Premier League and six points adrift of safety, welcome Brighton to Turf Moor on Saturday, when Kompany will be in the stands.

Kompany, who had 11 seasons as a player for Manchester City, revealed he spoke to referee Darren England after his dismissal at Stamford Bridge to apologise for his choice of words at the time.

But Kompany insisted last week that the standards of refereeing in the top-flight have dropped in this campaign.

“I’m not shying away from it and I’ve said it to the referees themselves, the officials, refereeing hasn’t been good enough this season,” he said.

“I think the addition of VAR and more opinions and more officials doesn’t make it easy for them to do their jobs.

“You make a mistake and we all have a laugh about it and usually the traditional view is that it all evens itself out over the course of a season.

“This year, I haven’t felt like this. Where we are in the league doesn’t really matter for me, it’s not in that conversation.”

Meanwhile Wolves boss Gary O’Neil is facing an FA charge over his behaviour after the match against West Ham on Saturday.

An FA statement said O’Neil’s ‘language and/or behaviour in and around the match officials’ changing rooms was improper and/or threatening.” He has until Monday (April 15) to respond to the charge.

The Championship’s promotion race continues to head towards one of the most dramatic finishes in its history after the division’s three leading teams all failed to win their midweek matches.

Leicester are top on goal difference and have a game in hand on second-placed Ipswich, while Leeds sit a point behind in third.

Here, the PA news agency looks at how the race could play out.

Leicester (1st, played 41, 88 points, +42 goal difference)

Run-in: Plymouth (a), West Brom (h), Southampton (h), Preston (a), Blackburn (h).

Leicester looked virtually promoted two months ago and were 17 points ahead of Leeds at the turn of the year.

However, a 3-1 loss at Elland Road in February was damaging – it followed a home defeat to Middlesbrough – and Tuesday night’s setback at relegation battlers Millwall means they have now been beaten in five of their last nine league matches.

Their rivals both dropped points in midweek to leave them in pole position with a precious game in hand, but the Foxes must regroup quickly as they look anxiously over their shoulder.

Ipswich (2nd, P42, 88pts, +32GD)

Run-in: Middlesbrough (h), Hull (a), Coventry (a), Huddersfield (h).

It is easy to forget this is Ipswich’s first season back in the Championship and when they scored a winner in the seventh minute of added time against Southampton at the start of this month, back-to-back promotions felt closer than ever.

But that win was followed by a 1-0 defeat at derby rivals Norwich and after Leicester and Leeds had both dropped points on Tuesday, they missed the chance to climb back into top spot as they were held to a goalless draw at home to Watford.

And their next three fixtures are against sides bidding for a play-off place.

Leeds (3rd, P42, 87pts, +43GD)

Run-in: Blackburn (h), Middlesbrough (a), QPR (a), Southampton (h).

Daniel Farke’s men were unbeaten in the league in 2024 until last weekend when that run was halted at play-off chasing Coventry.

Leeds remain undefeated at home all season, but they were further frustrated on Tuesday in a goalless draw against Sunderland at Elland Road.

In Crysencio Summerville they have the division’s outstanding player with 17 goals and eight assists, but Leeds must quickly rediscover their creative flair after one win in their last four games has allowed fourth-placed Southampton to close the gap on them to nine points with two games in hand.

Stuart Broad is cherishing the opportunity to pull on an England shirt again at Soccer Aid almost a year on from a fairy-tale finish to his cricket career.

Broad bowed out last summer in memorable fashion, clinching a Test victory over Ashes rivals Australia with his final delivery before retirement.

Now, after throwing himself into a life of fatherhood and television punditry, he is ready to rewind the clock for one night only, donning Three Lions once more after signing up as part of Harry Redknapp’s England XI at UNICEF’s annual charity football match.

Despite exiting elite sport on the crest of a wave, a feat all too few achieve, this ardent Nottingham Forest fan cannot hide his enthusiasm to head back into battle for his country at Stamford Bridge on June 9.

“To put on an England shirt again, even if it’s not a cricket one, will feel pretty cool,” he told the PA news agency.

“I’ve no doubt I’ll have that competitive spirit back. I don’t think it ever leaves you. I’m at peace with the way I finished at The Oval, if I tried to play another 100 games I’d never get that high again, and I achieved my goal of finishing on my own terms rather than being told by a coach or selector that time was up.

“I didn’t leave with any bitterness, just brilliant memories. But one of the things I’ve noticed from stepping away from the game is how little you realise about the pressure you’re really under.

“It can be quite addictive, that feeling of being under pressure to perform. Soccer Aid is all about raising money and awareness for UNICEF and what it does for children all over the world, but whenever you put a professional sportsperson on a field those competitive juices flow.”

The 37-year-old is ready to embrace that familiar feeling as he eyes up a place in Redknapp’s defensive line. Broad made a handsome career as a fast bowler but he plans to pit himself one on one with an opponent who really cornered the market when it comes to speed.

“I’ve been playing five-a-side on Monday nights, but it’s a little bit of a step up marking Usain Bolt,” he said.

“I saw Harry and he told me ‘I’ve heard Usain has a bit of pace’, so I’ll need to work on that high line. I’d probably class it as diving in at the deep end, playing at the Bridge in front of a full house, live on TV, with some of the world’s best talent.

“It’s not doing things by halves. I’m looking to present myself as a no-nonsense centre-back, win my aerial battles and if I get in trouble just kick it out. I might wear a Forest under-shirt to keep the passion up.”

While Broad does not feel any pangs of regret about his retirement he admits the start of England’s Test summer could be a challenge to his equilibrium. He has no immediate plans to fill the void by stepping into any formal coaching role but is enthusiastic about working with the next generation and sharing his experience.

“I’ve not massively missed the playing side yet but seeing the England lads walk out at Lord’s or the Test at Trent Bridge, that will probably be the time I go, ‘Wow, I don’t do this anymore’,” he said.

“If you go straight into (full-time) coaching, you’re almost travelling more than the players, but I want to stay part of the game. I’ve gathered a lot of knowledge over my time playing 167 Test matches and I want to share that with people. The exciting thing for me is talking to bowlers at the start of their journey…if they can take five per cent from me that grows them as bowlers, that’s great.

“Whether I do that by stepping back in at grassroots level with Nottinghamshire, or speaking to the England Under-19s, it’s just about getting the knowledge I gained from 20 years of playing out of my brain and into theirs.”

:: Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2024 takes place on 9th June at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, with tickets available at www.socceraid.org.uk/tickets

A trip to Wembley is within touching distance for Tottenham and Jess Naz, but the forward knows better than most not to take anything for granted.

Spurs host Women’s Super League rivals Leicester at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday in the Women’s FA Cup semi-final and the winner will play at the national stadium for the first time on May 12.

Tottenham won last month’s league meeting between the sides, but the long-serving Naz is determined to ensure the squad’s unwavering belief does not turn into complacency.

“The excitement was there when we got through, but we’ve got to hone down and make sure we turn up on the day,” London-born Naz told the PA news agency.

“It’s one more step to the final. Playing at the stadium will be great. In front of the fans, it will give us another source of energy to go out there, play our football and hopefully win.

“We have got the quality to win a trophy this season. The FA Cup would be a great way to start and then we’ll grow in the league.”

It has been a dramatic cup journey for Spurs, which mirrors the career of Naz given she recently made her 97th appearance for the club but has also fought back from a serious knee injury in 2019.

Tottenham were two down to Sheffield United in round four before scoring a stoppage-time winner. Charlton, another Championship opponent, were narrowly negotiated next before they faced title-chasing Manchester City for a fourth time this season.

After three previous losses by a 10-0 aggregate score, the odds were stacked against Spurs, but captain Bethany England hit a stoppage-time leveller before Becky Spencer’s penalty shootout heroics secured a semi-final berth.

It means Tottenham are one win away from playing at Wembley, something that has always been a dream for Naz – although one that has felt far away at times.

Born into a football-mad family, some of the earliest memories Naz has of the sport are being forced to watch her brothers play from the touchline after she was denied the chance to join in with their team.

Everything changed aged eight when she caught the eye of Tottenham scouts before she spent her teenage years in Arsenal’s academy.

The decision to return to Spurs paid off when she scored the goal to fire them into the WSL in 2019, but disaster struck when she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament and missed the whole of the 2019-20 campaign.

“At the time, I didn’t even know what ACL or MCLs were until I did it,” Naz said.

“I had just come back from the Under-19 Euros so was on a high. It was pre-season, we had just got promoted and it was a dream come true but then it came crashing down.

“It was a long, long recovery but the belief I had – and with the staff helping – got me through.

“There has been ups and downs along the way still with injuries, but I think this season I’ve been in a really good place.

 

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“I feel confident, which is the best thing for me because when I feel confident I play my best.”

 

Naz has eight goal involvements from 25 appearances this season, form which puts her in contention for an England call-up.

She added: “Going through the age groups from under-15s all the way through to under-23s, it would be a great honour to represent England.

“I’ll just keep pushing and hopefully it comes.

“When you are younger, going to FA Cup games or watching England play, it is definitely a dream place to play. It would be great to play there one day.”

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