Portugal coach Roberto Martinez has warned his team's perfect Euro 2024 qualification record will count for nothing at next year's tournament, though he is content with their group-stage draw. 

Portugal were drawn into Group F at Saturday's draw in Hamburg, alongside Turkiye, the Czech Republic and a yet-to-be-decided play-off winner.

Georgia, Luxembourg, Greece and Kazakhstan will battle for the final place in Portugal's group in March's play-offs.

Portugal have won all 10 of their games since Roberto Martinez replaced Fernando Santos in the aftermath of last year's disappointing World Cup exit, scoring 36 goals and only conceding two as they dominated their qualification group.

Having led Belgium to the last three major tournaments, Martinez is experienced enough to know that will count for little when Portugal begin their campaign against the Czech Republic on June 18.

Asked whether he was satisfied with the draw, Martinez said: "Yes, because the format of the European Championship is unpredictable, there can be three teams that qualify.

"They are difficult opponents. The Czech Republic is a bit of an unknown because they don't have a coach.

"Turkey won their qualifying group against Croatia and Wales. It is a team with a mix of talent, youth and experience. 

"We want to have a perfect preparation. We qualified very well, but that doesn't give us an advantage in the tournament. We need to be prepared."

Martinez's main focus was on the logistical implications of Portugal's draw, and he was relieved to discover that their final two group games will be played in the neighbouring cities of Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen.

"For us, it is good news to be in Group F," he said. "We are based in the centre of Germany and we will have extra time to prepare for the first game. This is important for us." 

Philippe Clement praised his revamped Rangers side for their second-half response against Sparta Prague which earned a valuable Europa League point.

With Borna Barisic and Dujon Sterling injured and Ridvan Yilmaz not in the European squad, the new Gers boss had no natural left-back available which meant a change to a back-three with prolific attacker Abdallah Sima playing left wing-back.

The visitors were fortunate to go into the break with their goal intact as Sparta dominated but there was a gradual improvement in the second half with substitute Danilo having a shot tipped on to the bar by Peter Vindahl late in the game which ended goalless.

Clement said: “The second half was much better. In the end it was a game that was in the balance, the first half for Sparta, the second half for us.

“But I am happy with the reaction in the second half. It has been a very special week, losing three left full-backs and because of that we had to change the system and doing that with two training sessions is very difficult for any team in the world.

“If you have time to prepare on those things it is different but that was not the case.

“So I am really happy after showing images at half-time, where the spaces were and what we had to do, that it was much better in the second half where we dominated in the chances and in the end we could say we could win the game because there were two really great saves from the goalkeeper.

“It is a very important point. Getting points away from home is really important but I am a winner, I want to win always and I want the team to have the same mentality.

“I saw it after the game, they were disappointed that they didn’t win and that is the mentality we need in the next couple of months but in the circumstances we can be happy with a point against a team that plays really good football, a team with a lot of quality.

“The reaction in the second half was good and we need to build on that.”

Rangers are now on four points from three Group C fixtures ahead of Sparta Prague’s visit to Ibrox on November 9 albeit Clement’s focus is on the visit of Hearts in the cinch Premiership on Sunday.

The Belgian, whose tenure at Ibrox began with a 4-0 cinch Premiership win over Hibernian at the weekend, highlighted the performance of Sima, on loan from Brighton, saying: “Sima played a really important role as wing-back, which he is not used to playing and he did a great job defensively for the team.

“We want to see a team fight for each other until the edge and over the edge to keep clean sheets and that is two clean sheets in a row and if you do that you take a lot of points in the season but I don’t want a team that only play for clean sheets and only defends to keep clean sheets.

“I want a team that plays good football and creates chances like they showed in the second half.”

Rangers played second fiddle to Sparta Prague for most of their Europa League clash in the Czech Republic before leaving with a point in a goalless draw.

Philippe Clement’s tenure as Gers boss began with a convincing 4-0 win over Hibernian at Ibrox on Saturday but he had to rely on keeper Jack Butland to keep the home side at bay in the first half of the Group C match in which the visitors lacked zip.

There was a marked improvement in the final 20 minutes where Brazilian substitute Danilo hit the bar but Sparta will wonder how they did not win this game early on.

Rangers beat Real Betis 1-0 at Ibrox on match day one before a shock 2-1 defeat by Aris Limassol in Cyprus and are now on four points ahead of Sparta Prague’s visit to Ibrox on November 9, albeit Clement’s focus will first turn to the visit of Hearts on Sunday.

The new Gers boss will have learned more about his players in Prague then he did against Hibs at the weekend and he may have to reassess the way forward.

With Borna Barisic and Dujon Sterling injured and former Gers boss Michael Beale not including Ridvan Yilmaz in the European squad, Clement had no  natural left-back available and had to call on the services of centre-back Ben Davies and change to a back-three with prolific attacker Abdallah Sima playing left wing-back, while Scott Wright made way for fully-fit Todd Cantwell.

The visitors struggled with the change of system.

The Czech champions showed their intent early on and Butland had to makes two great saves within seconds after the ever-dangerous Veljko Birmancevic waltzed into the Gers box to get a shot away before Qazim Laci latched on to the rebound.

Hard-working Sparta were quick and fluid and as they continued to probe the Gers rearguard Laci volleyed just inches wide from the edge of the box uin the 20th minute.

Rangers were offering almost nothing going forward.

When Ibrox midfielder Nico Raskin carelessly gave possession away at the edge of the box on the half-hour mark Butland was required to make another save from Laci’s drive, then Birmancevic hit the side netting with a close-range effort .

Still Sparta kept coming and when Butland parried a powerful drive from Matej Rynes, Gers midfielder John Lundstram got in front of Birmancevic to deny him a tap-in from six yards.

Lundstram’s wayward shot before the break was the only effort on goal from Rangers who needed a vast improvement in the second half.

Dessers had a half chance when Cantwell’s inadvertent pass came over his shoulder in the Sparta box but he was too slow to react and keeper Peter Vindahl gathered easily.

However, the Czech side remained much more dangerous.

In the 55th minute Davies headed away an effort from Martin Vitik two yards from goal then Sparta striker Jan Kuchta missed the target from close range.

Wright took over from Cantwell and in the 72nd minute, as Rangers began to edge forward more, he fired high over the bar from the edge of the box, before Danilo took over from the ineffective Cyriel Dessers.

Rangers at last began to play.

Soon afterwards Vindahl made a good save from a Sam Lammers drive and then tipped a Danilo shot on to the crossbar to ensure the spoils were shared.

Wales Under-21s boss Matty Jones paid tribute to his side’s never-say-die spirit after they salvaged a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic in Ostrov.

Substitute Cian Ashford scored the equaliser in the sixth minute of injury time to extend his side’s unbeaten start to their European Championship qualifying campaign to three games.

“It genuinely feels like a win and you have to give the boys credit for sticking to the plan and fighting for their lives,” Jones told Wales’ social media accounts.

“I always felt we were in there and it is a huge credit to the players and staff for sticking together and finding a way.

“We’ve spoken a lot about that in this campaign. It’s the winning mentality we always want to keep promoting, and we’re going away celebrating because it actually feels like a win.”

England suffered their first qualifying defeat in a decade on this day in 2019 as they slipped to a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Czech Republic in Prague.

Gareth Southgate’s men went into the game knowing victory would put them through to Euro 2020 with three matches to spare, and many thought it would be done with ease given the 5-0 thrashing England inflicted on the Czechs at Wembley a few months prior.

More of the same seemed on the cards when Harry Kane slotted home a fifth-minute penalty to put England in the driving seat.

However, the lead lasted just four minutes before the hosts drew level when Jakub Brabec bundled home a corner, and from then on, the Czechs played with increasing confidence as they chased victory at the Sinobo Stadium.

England failed to make any impression in the second period and a Czech winner would arrive in the 85th minute when they capitalised on over-elaborate play at the back from the visitors.

Jordan Pickford’s pass was pounced on by Lukas Masopust who scurried down the right before cutting back to substitute Zdenek Ondrasek who swept home the winner.

The result ended England’s 43-match unbeaten run in Euro and World Cup qualifying matches stretching back to a 1-0 loss in Ukraine in October 2009 and was a result that Southgate’s stuttering side very much deserved.

“Clearly that’s not a night that we wanted to be a part of in terms of that record,” Southgate said.

“We didn’t play well enough, simple as that. We conceded possession of the ball too cheaply.

“Particularly in the first half we didn’t create enough chances. Second half we had some good chances that we didn’t take and throughout the night we were too open out of possession.

“Some of that was because of giving the ball away. So we gave the Czechs, who played well, got to give them credit, we gave them too many opportunities to score.”

England bounced back from the defeat in impressive fashion, winning their final three qualifiers emphatically – beating Bulgaria 6-0, Montenegro 7-0 and Kosovo 4-0 – to finish six points clear at the second-placed Czechs at the top of Group A with seven wins out of eight.

That sealed their place at Euro 2020 – a tournament delayed until 2021 – where England would finish runners-up after losing to Italy on penalties in the final at Wembley.

England Under-21s head coach Lee Carsley praised the spirit of his squad after goals from Jacob Ramsey and Emile Smith Rowe secured a 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic in their Euro 2023 opener.

Chelsea forward Noni Madueke had signalled England’s intent early on when his effort came back off the crossbar.

Although the Czech Republic also had chances, with Vasil Kusej spurning the best of them when clear through on goal, the Young Lions maintained their composure to make the breakthrough at the start of the second half through Aston Villa midfielder Ramsey.

 

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After Anthony Gordon saw a goal ruled out with 20 minutes left for Morgan Gibbs-White blocking a free-kick in the build-up, England continued on the front foot and were eventually rewarded during stoppage time when substitute Smith Rowe slotted home following a counter-attack.

England reached the semi-finals of the tournament in 2017, but failed to make it out of the group stage in both 2019 and 2021.

With holders Germany and Israel having played out a 1-1 draw in Kutaisi, Carsley’s side now find themselves in the driving seat for qualification from Group C.

“I am really pleased to get the result,” Carsley said on UEFA.com.

“The preparation has gone really well, but I didn’t want to jinx us before the game by saying that.

“There is a brilliant spirit within the lads. We feel like we’re in a good place.”

Carsley’s side next face Israel on Sunday before tackling Germany in Batumi on June 28.

Arsenal midfielder Smith Rowe said: “We wanted to make a statement in the first game.

“We knew the Czechs would be really strong, so we are really happy with the three points.”

The Czech Republic will now regroup for their second game against Germany.

“A match like this has to be the best motivation for the future despite our loss,” coach Jan Suchoparek said.

“It is not the end of the tournament for us and I am sure we will fight in the next two matches even more.”

England Under-21s got their Euro 2023 finals campaign off to the perfect start with a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic in Georgia.

Aston Villa midfielder Jacob Ramsey broke the deadlock at the start of the second half, with substitute Emile Smith Rowe adding another in stoppage time to seal victory.

There was a lively start to the Group C opener at the Batumi Arena, with Chelsea forward Noni Madueke seeing his early effort from the edge of the penalty area clip the crossbar, while at the other end Manchester City goalkeeper James Trafford saved from Vasil Kusej.

England, who beat the Czech Republic home and away in qualifying as they topped their group, remained on the front foot, with Newcastle forward Anthony Gordon close to converting a cross from Morgan Gibbs-White.

A defensive mix-up when trying to play out from the back against a high press saw Vaclav Sejk gifted a chance on the right of the England area, but his angled shot flew into the side-netting.

There was another major let-off for England in the 18th minute when Kusej was sent racing clear down the right and he charged into the area, only to fire wide as Trafford came out.

England created another opening in the 25th minute when Gordon clipped the ball across the six-yard box and Ramsey’s header dropped on to his boot and wide at the far post.

Madueke continued to carry a threat and he cut in from the right to curl a shot just wide as England again came close to breaking the deadlock.

The Czechs, though, should have taken the lead five minutes before half-time.

Sejk surged forward down the left, holding off England captain Taylor Harwood-Bellis before cutting back inside the area and clipping a low drive towards the far corner, which Trafford tipped wide at full stretch.

Instead England took the lead two minutes into the second half when Gordon combined with Ramsey on the edge of the area and the Villa midfielder carried the ball on before coolly slotting into the far corner.

The Czechs immediately went on the offensive as Pavel Sulc got clear of Harwood-Bellis, but Trafford was out quickly to smother the danger.

England, who face reigning champions Germany and Israel next week, had the ball in the net again with 20 minutes left, but the goal was disallowed.

After Gibbs-White blocked a quick free-kick, the ball bounced out to Madueke on the right and his low cross was swept in by Gordon.

England’s celebrations were cut short as the referee ruled the goal out and showed Gibbs-White a yellow card for not having retreated 10 yards at the free-kick.

After the let-off, the Czechs pressed for an equaliser and substitute Krystof Danek headed over from Adam Karabec’s floated free-kick.

However, Smith Rowe made sure of victory in stoppage time when he slotted in a pass from fellow substitute Cameron Archer after a break down the left.

Coach Lorne Donaldson believes Jamaica's Reggae Girlz needs to a better job at managing games following his team's 3-2 loss to the Czech Republic in the FFA Nations Cup in Australia on Sunday.

“There’s some stuff, but we’ve got to be able to manage games,” he said after Sunday’s loss. “We conceded in the last minute of the first half and in the second half, we decided to give up a goal because we’re thinking outside the box.

“Managing the game, especially when you’re tired is key and we were awful at that.”

In what was a much better showing than their 3-0 loss to Spain on Thursday, Jamaica conceded from the penalty spot in the 24th minute after Satara Murray was deemed to have fouled Kristyna Ruzickova, after she drove into the box.

Andrea Staskova converted from the spot.

Jamaica would pull level in the 42nd following some quality build-up play involving Havana Solaun, Drew Spence and Trudi Carter, whose pass found Jody Brown who buried her shot from just inside the box for her 14th international goal.

However, Klara Cahynova headed in from a corner in first-half stoppage time to give her team a 2-1 lead at the break.

Ten minutes after the resumption debutant Kameron Necole Simmons collected a rebound from a Spence attempt on goal and slotted into the bottom left corner to pull Jamaica level once again.

It was her first international goal for Jamaica.

However, Jamaica conceded in the 90th minute from a low cross that found Alena Peckova wide open at the far post for an easy tap-in and victory for the Czech Republic.

Jamaica will next play hosts Australia on February 22.

 

Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Spain in their opening match of the Cup of Nations at Central Coast Stadium in Australia on Thursday.

Jakub Jankto has come out as gay, becoming the first LaLiga player to do so.

The Czech Republic international is on loan at Sparta Prague from parent club Getafe.

Jankto posted a video on Twitter on Monday where he made the announcement, with a caption at the end stating: "This is not an entertainment. The purpose of this video is to encourage others."

"I am Jakub Jankto and like everybody else, I have my strengths and I have my weaknesses," the 27-year-old said.

"I have a family and I have my friends. I have a job which I have been doing as best as I can for years with seriousness, professionalism and passion.

"Like everybody else I also want to live my life in freedom, without fears, without prejudice, without violence, but with love.

"I am homosexual and I no longer want to hide myself."

Jankto has 45 caps for the Czech Republic, including making five appearances at Euro 2020.

The former Udinese and Sampdoria midfielder joined Getafe in August 2021, before returning to his native country in a loan deal with Sparta at the start of this season, where he has one goal in 10 Czech First League appearances.

Jankto is the latest professional footballer to come out as gay following Adelaide United's Josh Cavallo in 2021 and Blackpool youngster Jake Daniels last year.

Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz have been confirmed as participants in the 2023 FFA Cup of Nations in Australia from February 13-25.

The 44th ranked Girlz will battle Spain, Czech Republic and the hosts in the four-team tournament.

The teams will play a round-robin tournament where the winner will be determined by who finishes with the most points after their three games.

The event was last held in 2019 with Australia coming out on top ahead of South Korea, New Zealand and Argentina.

Diogo Dalot struck twice as Portugal crushed the Czech Republic 4-0 in Prague to go top of Group A2 in the Nations League.

The Manchester United full-back opened the scoring after 33 minutes, with club-mate Bruno Fernandes doubling Portugal's lead before Patrik Schick smashed a penalty over the bar following a VAR call at the end of the first half.

Dalot scored again shortly after the break, and Diogo Jota added gloss to the scoreline late on.

The result moved Portugal above Spain in the standings with one round of games left to play.

Antonin Barak wasted the best chance for the hosts on the half-hour mark as he headed wide, and he would rue his error when Dalot broke the deadlock from close range after Rafael Leao prevented the ball from going out of play by cutting back into the middle.

A dramatic end to the opening half saw Fernandes volley home Mario Rui's cross to double Portugal's lead, before Cristiano Ronaldo was penalised for handball at the other end, the VAR intervention resulting in a penalty that Schick wasted.

Any hopes of a comeback for the Czech Republic suffered a significant dent six minutes after the restart, Dalot netting his second of the game when he curled home a low effort from outside the penalty area.

Further opportunities were few and far between, but there was time for Portugal to extend their lead further, Jota heading home following a corner in the 82nd minute.

Luis Enrique is in no doubt Spain can compete with the very best in the world after watching his side cruise past the Czech Republic 2-0 in the Nations League on Sunday.

Carlos Soler and Pablo Sarabia were on target in each half as La Roja moved top of Group A2 following Portugal's 1-0 defeat to Switzerland.

The win, which stretched Spain's unbeaten run to eight games, means their progress to the Nations League finals could be sealed before their final group game against Portugal.

Should they beat Switzerland in their penultimate game and Portugal lose to the Czech Republic, Spain will seal their place in the tournament.

Luis Enrique was pleased with his side's display at La Rosaleda in Malaga, yet acknowledged there is room for improvement.

"I am very satisfied, how can I not be?" he said in a media conference.

"The rival has shown how good they are, in all aspects. We have been quite good, although we lacked some things.

"The atmosphere was wonderful, with lots of cheering and respect for the anthem of the rival. I hope it repeats itself and serves as an example.

"We are leaders and we have been good in general. Ask the rivals what they feel when playing with us. Surely we will compete [against anyone]."

Marco Asensio was particularly bright for Spain, teeing up Soler's goal to move level with Jordi Alba as the joint-highest goal creator under Luis Enrique's leadership (seven assists).

He played more key passes (three) than any other player on the pitch, and Luis Enrique says the fact he is not a regular starter at Real Madrid is not an issue.

"I always called him up when I saw him doing well," he said. "Now he has been playing less. We like him and he knows it. There are no doubts with him."

Unai Simon made important saves from Vaclav Cerny and Jan Kuchta before Soler's opener, with Luis Enrique pleased at his goalkeeper's decisiveness. 

"He chose well in decision-making," he added. "He gives us a lot with the ball in aerial aspects. He has been good.

"It gives me a lot of peace of mind, and I am the one who makes decisions. He has saved us and that's what the goalkeeper is for."

Spain made it back-to-back wins to go top of Nations League Group A2 as goals from Carlos Soler and Pablo Sarabia sealed a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Sunday.

Luis Enrique's side edged past Switzerland on Thursday after opening their campaign with two draws, and they racked up another win at La Rosaleda in Malaga. 

Valencia midfielder Soler scored the opening goal shortly after the midway point in the first half – his third strike at international level.

And substitute Sarabia made sure of all three points in the 75th minute as La Roja usurped Portugal, who lost 1-0 in Switzerland, at the top of the group. 

Unai Simon denied Vaclav Cerny and Jan Kuchta inside the opening 20 minutes as the visitors started brightly.

Yet Spain went ahead with their first attempt on goal in the 24th minute, Soler drilling past Ales Mandous from eight yards after running onto Marco Asensio's pull-back.

Soler then clipped wide soon after as Spain fell short of doubling their advantage before the interval.

Simon pushed away a long-range drive from Alex Kral midway through a tepid second half as both sides struggled to build any momentum. 

That was until Sarabia followed up his winner against Switzerland with another goal three minutes after being introduced for Asensio, the attacking midfielder nudging home from Ferran Torres' low cross to wrap up maximum points.

 

What does it mean? Victory moves Spain to group summit

After a sluggish start to their Nations League campaign, Spain are well and truly up and running now.

A second consecutive win moved them onto eight points, one ahead of Portugal. The Czech Republic, meanwhile, remain in third with four points from their opening four games.

Asensio shines

Asensio's pass for Soler's goal means no player has provided more assists for Spain under Luis Enrique's leadership (seven, level with Jordi Alba). He was Spain's biggest threat here, playing more key passes (three) than any other player on the pitch.

Morata goes missing

Alvaro Morata endured a game to forget up front for the hosts. The 29-year-old failed to have a single shot or play a key pass before he was hauled off for Torres in the 59th minute.

What's next?

Both sides complete their Group A2 campaigns in September. Spain are at home to Switzerland before visiting Portugal, while the Czech Republic host Portugal and then travel to Switzerland.

Spain made it back-to-back wins to go top of Nations League Group A2 as goals from Carlos Soler and Pablo Sarabia sealed a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Sunday.

Luis Enrique's side edged past Switzerland on Thursday after opening their campaign with two draws, and they racked up another win at La Rosaleda in Malaga. 

Valencia midfielder Soler scored the opening goal shortly after the midway point in the first half – his third strike at international level.

And substitute Sarabia made sure of all three points in the 75th minute as La Roja usurped Portugal, who lost 1-0 in Switzerland, at the top of the group. 

Unai Simon denied Vaclav Cerny and Jan Kuchta inside the opening 20 minutes as the visitors started brightly.

Yet Spain went ahead with their first attempt on goal in the 24th minute, Soler drilling past Ales Mandous from eight yards after running onto Marco Asensio's pull-back.

Soler then clipped wide soon after as Spain fell short of doubling their advantage before the interval.

Simon pushed away a long-range drive from Alex Kral midway through a tepid second half as both sides struggled to build any momentum. 

That was until Sarabia followed up his winner against Switzerland with another goal three minutes after being introduced for Asensio, the attacking midfielder nudging home from Ferran Torres' low cross to wrap up maximum points.

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