Pep Guardiola has told Erling Haaland to focus more on getting his body language right than scoring goals.

The Manchester City manager admitted to being concerned about the prolific Norwegian’s demeanour since his return to action following a two-month lay-off with a foot injury.

Guardiola feels the striker has been preoccupied with adding to his remarkable goal tally and wants him to relax more.

He thinks Saturday’s victory over Everton was a good example, when Haaland had a quiet first half before netting twice late on to secure a 2-0 success.

Guardiola, speaking in Denmark at a press conference to preview Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 clash with FC Copenhagen, said: “Erling is young, playing in the most difficult position on the pitch surrounded by four or five players with minor space.

“In the first half maybe we didn’t have the special delivery players, like Kevin (De Bruyne) for example, who can find him.

“In that moment he has to be positive. When he scored a goal, he reacted but he doesn’t need to score because he helps us for many things.

“He is defined on goals but it is not just scoring a goal. As much it’s how he is clapping, encouraging his mates and the first intense press. This is what we need from Erling.

“But we cannot forget he has been two months out, which is a lot of time for a guy who is so tall.

“Back to the dynamic is not easy. He’s a huge competitor who wants to score goals. OK, we know that, so relax.

“If we don’t score today, or if he doesn’t score in 10 minutes, it’s OK. In the process he has to try because the team always wins when they overcome bad moments.”

Guardiola did stress this was a minor problem and he has no doubts about the 23-year-old.

“It looks like I am complaining about Erling but it was in general,” the City boss said. “How many games did Erling play and how many goals? His body language is not a problem.

“If he doesn’t score tomorrow, the day after or next week, it’s not a big issue.

“He’s so strong. It comes from nature. He’s coped perfectly because he’s so strong mentally. He scores one goal and wants a second and a third.

“You see his numbers at his age. In the Champions League not even (Lionel) Messi or Cristiano (Ronaldo) had these numbers at his age.”

City are hoping to silence a raucous atmosphere at Parken to take the initiative after the first leg of their tie against Copenhagen.

The Danes have not played competitively for two months due to their winter break but Guardiola expects a stern challenge from a side that finished above Manchester United and Galatasaray in their group.

He said: “I would say they are starving to compete and hungry and have full energy, fresh in legs and mind.

“I don’t know the rhythm but they have had lots of time to prepare for the game. Hopefully we can be in a good level to compete.

“It’s back to business in the competition but huge respect for the opponents. It was not an easy group and they did really well in all the games.”

Celtic midfielder Matt O’Riley will keep focusing on his daily routines for self-improvement rather than be derailed by thoughts of Euro 2024 after making his Denmark debut in midweek.

The 23-year-old won his first cap in Monday’s 2-0 defeat against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park.

Kasper Hjulmand’s side had already won their group before the Belfast trip and O’Riley will keep trying to impress for Celtic with his international hopes firmly in the back of his mind.

“The first cap is obviously a good moment, albeit it wasn’t our best performance, but at the same time you are still playing for your country,” he said.

“It was a proud moment for me and my family also. My family were there, my mum and dad, girlfriend and agent/friend.

“It’s obviously a new experience, new team-mates, new players, that’s always challenging because it’s a new environment, new people, so it takes a bit of time to adapt naturally but I found it relatively easy just because they are really nice people.

“The first few days you are a little bit nervous, just getting into it, but after that you are fine.

“It’s not something I gave too much thought to, you are still just playing football at the end of the day. If I am playing with good players and playing under a good manager, it shouldn’t really be a problem to play well.

“And yeah, of course I was disappointed with the result and I was hard on myself after the game because you naturally are when you lose but I received some nice feedback regardless.

“I am obviously in the mix now so it’s about trying to keep improving.”

On the prospect of playing in Germany next summer, the former MK Dons midfielder said: “It was always a target anyway. It’s something I try not to think about too much on a regular basis, it’s more a case of daily processes here, boring day-to-day stuff, that usually helps get you to where you want to get to.

“It’s four or five months to the next camp so there is a lot of football to be played for your club before then and a lot of things can happen in terms of performances, so I will try my best.

“That’s what got me there in the first place and I will try to keep improving as a player.

“I feel good, feel strong physically and mentally, which is progress. I feel like I have improved a lot this season on various aspects.”

One of those aspects is goalscoring – O’Riley has six goals to his name ahead of Saturday’s visit of Motherwell, more than his total from last term.

When asked what had contributed to his figures, the former Fulham trainee said: “A clearer mind first and foremost, I am more open when I am on the pitch.

“Secondly just getting into the right positions to score and then taking a little bit of pressure off myself, not expecting myself to score every game, just going into trying to do my best for the team and naturally you get your outcomes.

“You have to go through experiences. I had to go through the phase where I didn’t score for a long time to know maybe then how to take pressure off myself the next time.

“For me the big thing that has helped the most is just being in the best frame of mind. That’s something I give a lot of attention to on a daily basis.

“I meditate a lot, I speak regularly with my friend/life coach who lives in India. I work a lot with him in terms of speaking about things that were maybe kept inside me for a long time.

“I might not have had the knowledge to understand how to speak about it.

“That has helped me loads, I feel more confident and open to speak to people in general.”

Michael O’Neill called Northern Ireland’s 2-0 win over Denmark a step in the right direction but knows his side remain a long way from the finished article.

In their final Group H fixture of a miserable campaign, O’Neill’s side finally beat someone other than minnows San Marino as second-half goals from Isaac Price and Dion Charles earned Northern Ireland their first competitive win over a team ranked above them since they beat Ukraine in June 2016.

It will not paper over the long list of issues facing O’Neill as he tries to rebuild his injury-ravaged squad, but it will provide a much-needed shot of belief and confidence at the end of a year which has seen supplies of both run low.

O’Neill has had to lean on several young players, more than he would have liked, whose introduction to international football has been a tough one, but a night like this can change the narrative.

“It’s totally different,” O’Neill said of the mood inside his dressing room. “You can see the young lads and you can see what it means to them. The ones who were involved in the previous campaign, I think they only won one game and this campaign we’ve only won three.

“We’ve been challenged in this campaign so they’ll take a lot from tonight.

“It’s a good result against a good team but that’s all it is. Hopefully they’ll come back in March with added confidence and belief, regardless of who the opposition are…

“I’m not getting carried away. It’s a step in the right direction and we have to take more steps in the right direction.”

Northern Ireland started well, with Dion Charles hitting the post eight minutes in before Eoin Toal headed wide.

Gradually Denmark, who have finished top of Euro 2024 qualifying Group H despite the loss, grew into the game but Conor Hazard, at fault for Finland’s second goal in Friday’s 4-0 defeat, made two fine saves before half-time to keep the scores level, and the game changed after the break.

Jamal Lewis, having one of his best nights in a Northern Ireland shirt, started the move that led to the first, moving the ball inside via Dion Charles and Shea Charles for Price to rifle in his second international goal.

Then Conor McMenamin came off the bench to send in the low ball that Dion Charles swept home.

After a long and difficult campaign in which Northern Ireland suffered five 1-0 defeats and failed to score in six of their 10 games, it was a welcome moment.

“It’s a very difficult campaign to judge,” O’Neill said. “To be competitive in any campaign we will need a consistency of selection, there’s no getting away from that.

“When we came into this campaign we felt we were going to have a different team and that we would have younger players around it who could energise the team and give us a lift if and when we needed it.

“We’ve ended up playing with a lot of those younger players more than we expected to but they’ve been terrific. Shea Charles has played nine out of 10 and was suspended for one, he’s barely missed a minute and his level of performance is top drawer.

“Isaac as well. I went to see Isaac in February playing in an under-20 game for Everton. I didn’t envisage he would be starting six or seven games, score two goals, playing in a variety of positions.

“These lads have gone through a massive transformation in their careers in the last eight months, never mind adapting to playing international football as well.”

Northern Ireland wrap up their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign when Denmark visit Windsor Park on Monday night.

Here the PA news agency looks at the key talking points ahead of the game.

It’s (almost) over

The good news is that this is the last of Northern Ireland’s Group H fixtures. A campaign which began with such optimism unravelled quickly in the first few games and has never recovered, with seven defeats in nine causing Northern Ireland’s world ranking to drop from 59th to 75th.

Michael O’Neill was clear ahead of the game that it was not as simple as drawing a line and moving on because lessons must be learned, but it will still be welcome to change the narrative of a campaign in which any realistic hope of reaching next year’s finals was gone in by the summer.

Can they end on a high note?

O’Neill said in Finland last week that he and his players would need to look at themselves if they could not take something from at least one of their fixtures against someone other than San Marino, but a 4-0 hiding in Helsinki leaves this match as the final opportunity.

Playing a side ranked 19th in the world and the top seeds in the group is hardly ideal in those circumstances, but Northern Ireland were a tight offside decision away from scoring a late equaliser when they lost 1-0 in Copenhagen in June, so they will take some confidence from that.


Shea Charles returns from suspension and Paul Smyth is back in the squad following the hamstring injury which prevented him from travelling to Finland.

O’Neill indicated the absence of both players in Helsinki had limited his options not only in terms of personnel but also the shape of his team so their return will be welcome.

O’Neill admitted he needed to consider whether or not he had fielded too many young players at the same time, leaning too heavily on inexperienced players, so any reinforcements will be welcome. However, in keeping with the campaign as a whole there is a fresh injury worry with Daniel Ballard a doubt due to a hamstring problem.

Denmark are through

Denmark’s 2-1 win over Slovenia on Friday night booked their ticket to Euro 2024, meaning neither side has anything too much riding on Monday’s game.

That should in theory benefit Northern Ireland with Denmark no longer desperate for points, but things are not always so simple.

If coach Kasper Hjulmand does choose to make changes, those players who come in will have a point to prove as attention turns to the squad selection for the finals.

Davis back in Belfast

There was a welcome sight at training on Sunday morning as absent captain Steven Davis watched the session from the sidelines.

After his recent spell as interim manager of Rangers, Davis has stepped back from his coaching role to concentrate on his rehabilitation from the knee injury which has sidelined him since December, and O’Neill remains hopeful the 38-year-old can finish his career on the pitch.

In the meantime, his experience in and around the group is invaluable.

“It’s great to see Davo back among the squad,” Paddy McNair said. “It’s great to have him around. When he’s at the hotel he can speak to the younger lads, they can ask him questions and he can pass on his experience.”

Lauren James’ first-half strike ensured England made it two wins from two at the World Cup with a 1-0 win against Denmark.

Although the Lionesses are currently top of Group D, there is still plenty to play for in the group after a dramatic second half saw China beat Haiti 1-0 in the late kick-off.

Elsewhere Argentina salvaged a draw against South Africa with two late goals in Group G.

Here the PA news agency takes a look at today’s World Cup action.

Two in two for England

James’ stunning sixth-minute strike gave the Lionesses a vital three points to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group D, but victory was overshadowed by an injury to Keira Walsh.

She was carried off the pitch on a stretcher after sustaining an apparent knee injury, immediately flagging to the bench that she needed to be taken off.

The severity of Walsh’s injury is a major worry for the rest of England’s campaign, with Sarina Wiegman’s side due to face China in the final group match.

When asked about the extent of Walsh’s injury post-match, the Lionesses boss said: “Of course I’m concerned because she couldn’t walk off the pitch.

“But we don’t know yet, so we can’t take any assumptions. Let’s just wait until we really have a diagnosis and then we can tell you.”

China comeback

China go into the final game with everything to play for after staging an incredible comeback to beat Haiti.

The Steel Roses were reduced to 10 in the first half when Zhang Rui was sent off for a dangerous knee-high challenge on Sherly Jeudy.

Haiti were unable to capitalise on their player advantage, and it proved costly when China were awarded a penalty which Wang Shuang tucked home.

The result means Group D is still wide open going into the final round of fixtures, with Haiti up against Denmark in their last match.

Argentina keep their World Cup alive

Late goals also kept Argentina’s faint World Cup hopes alive with a draw against South Africa in Group G.

Linda Motlhalo put South Africa ahead and Thembi Kgatlana doubled their lead in the second half.

However, Argentina mounted a dramatic comeback to salvage a point with Sophia Braun’s stunning shot pulling one back before Romina Nunez equalised with a header.

Both sides are tied on one point each after two games, while either Italy or Sweden could reach the knock-outs on Saturday with a win against each other.

Up next

Group G: Sweden v Italy (8:30am, Wellington)
Group F: France v Brazil (11am, Brisbane)
Group F: Panama v Jamaica (1:30pm, Perth)
All times BST.

Starting a race weekend as championship-leading driver is never a bad thing, but doing so carries extra weight. However, there is also added pressure when a driver, who holds himself to high regard, has to make up grounds to deliver a championship win.

That's the situation Jamaica's karting sensation Alex Powell is in, as he heads into the business end of the season in pole position in the five-race Champions of the Future (COTF) series, but at the same time, is someway off the lead in the more illustrious four-round FIA Karting European Championship.

Still, Powell welcomes the challenge that both events present as part of his growth process in a budding career that could see him transition to the Formula 4 ranks next year.

"I want to win both the Champions of the Future and the European Championships, so I will do everything I possibly can to achieve that feat. I have been a little lacking in some cases, particularly where race pace is concerned, but I am confident with the direction that we are working in and we will be working very hard over these next few weeks," Powell told from his base in Italy.

The American-born driver's declaration came while he reflected on the second and third place finishes in the third round of both events, in the OK category, on separate weekends in Rodby, Denmark.

In the COTF series, Powell was beaten by Italian Gabriel Gomez, with Great Britain's Kean Nakamura-Berta in third. Despite placing second, Powell moved to the top of the series standings 24 points ahead of rivals with two more rounds to come at Cremona and Franciacorta, both in Italy on July 12-15 and September 13-16, respectively.

"Champions of the Future was quite a successful event in terms of consistency, as I was in the top five from the qualifying heats all the way through to the final. Unfortunately, in the final, we missed out as we were lacking a bit in pace. 

"But it is good to be atop the overall standings with a fairly good lead and so the aim is to maintain that over the next two rounds. It comes with some amount of pressure because you have to ensure that you drive the best race possible for those two rounds," Powell said.

Just this past weekend, the 15-year-old Mercedes-Benz AMG F1 protégé, again showed good speed through the rounds, but faltered at the backend of the 21-lap final in European Championship action. He placed behind Dutchman Rene Lammers and Gomez.

"The weekend started off poorly as qualifying didn't go to plan so we had to completely change the kart and it did work for us to an extent because I won all three of my heats, but that race speed was missing in the latter stages of the final. It was a bit frustrating, but we did the best we could, and we just have to try to improve going forward," the Prema Racing representative shared.

Though he is 43 points off Lammers, who heads the European Championships on 208 points, Powell on 165 points, admits overhauling the leader will be tough but is by no means impossible. Gomez (202 points) currently occupies second position.

"I'm not saying that it is over but I'm going to need a really big points haul or some mishap for the first two for me to win the overall championship. But it is important that we stay positive, there are 81 points available and I'm 43 behind so with a perfect weekend we can overturn it," Powell, a cousin to former 100m World record holder Asafa Powell, said.

"We were in a similar position last year and just missed out on it so I'm not giving up and I will be giving it my all. All or nothing for the last round," he added.

With that last round of the European Championship scheduled July 27-30 in Italy, Powell pointed out that he will be putting in the necessary work, physically, mentally and otherwise in an attempt to once again prove his class.

In last year's championships, Powell won the last round but just missed out on being crowned European champion by a mere two points.

"We basically have a month to prepare, I'm actually off to Sarno, Italy for a race in Kz2 (shifter karts) in preparation for the last round of the European champions for that category which is the first week of July. So though its two different categories, it will serve as a preparation race and could be a good indicator of what I need to work on in terms of race strategy," he explained.

"Because we are going to need a very good last round but until then, we will have to focus on ourselves and do the best that we can and then hopefully we will be in the best possible position to challenge," Powell ended.


Jonny Evans said Northern Ireland’s 1-0 Euro 2024 qualifying defeat to Denmark was “hard to take” after he was adjudged to be offside when setting up Callum Marshall for what had appeared to be a stoppage-time equaliser.

The 1,700 travelling fans inside the Parken Stadium erupted when teenage debutant Marshall neatly directed Evans’ header inside the post following Jordan Thompson’s free-kick.

But when referee Daniel Stefanski signalled there would be a VAR check, a seemingly interminable five-minute wait followed as Tomasz Kwiatkowski took an age to review the footage before eventually ruling that Evans had been offside by the tightest of margins when Thompson struck the free-kick.

“I kind of felt I was coming back from an offside position but it wasn’t until we were back in our own half that I even considered it might be a thing,” Evans said.

“When they were checking for that long I thought they were going to something to try and disallow it. Those were the emotions going through my mind.

“I’ve been involved before where decisions take a long time but that’s definitely the longest. The longer it was going on I kind of felt it was like a dream really. It was strange. The referee tried to explain afterwards that they checked every single possible scenario.

“I don’t get many assists and I was gutted and I was obviously gutted for Callum. For him to be able to experience that feeling of scoring was great and I hope that stays with him and he can take motivation from it.”

The trip to Copenhagen represented the toughest fixture on paper for Northern Ireland in Group H, and they acquitted themselves well, defending doggedly for long periods and soaking up pressure from the hosts.

But a mistake from Ciaron Brown – about the only foot the Oxford defender put wrong – was punished by Jonas Wind at the start of the second half and that proved the difference in the match.

“It is hard to take,” Evans said. “Denmark are obviously buzzing. Had it gone our way we would have been the same. You can run all that through.

“In the last five or 10 minutes we tired but I thought we did well. We were brought on fresh legs to try and get something out of the game and we nearly did. When we got the free-kick I thought this is our chance…

“I thought we did what we had to do. We came in at half-time pretty pleased. We knew the first 10 minutes of the second half would be important and it was disappointing to concede a goal.

“I looked up at the clock and saw 47 minutes. We really needed to ride that out but they came out strong and quick and once they got their goal it wasn’t really until they changed their shape that we had a chance to get back in it.”

Northern Ireland had a stoppage-time equaliser ruled out by VAR as a battling display went unrewarded in a 1-0 Euro 2024 qualifying loss to Denmark.

Jonas Wind’s goal early in the second half made the difference in Copenhagen as debutant Callum Marshall saw a dream goal ruled out for offside after a review which took almost five minutes.

The West Ham youngster flicked the ball in after Jonny Evans headed on a free-kick, but there was despair when referee Daniel Stefanski eventually signalled for offside after his colleague Tomasz Kwiatkowski took an age to review the footage.

Michael O’Neill’s men defended doggedly away to the top seeds in Group H, but a mistake just two minutes after the break proved decisive as Denmark bounced back from March’s shock defeat to Kazakhstan and put the pressure on Northern Ireland to deliver when the Kazakhs visit Windsor Park on Monday.

Wind pounced when Ciaron Brown got it all wrong trying to deal with Joakim Maehle’s short cross in from the left, slamming the ball home from close range.

But O’Neill will take encouragement from how a youthful line-up dealt with the hardest fixture in Group H.

Before kick-off came news that Craig Cathcart had suffered a back injury, taking the number of first-team regulars missing to 10, a figure threatening to derail this qualifying campaign even before the halfway stage.

Trai Hume made his first start at left wing-back, with Evans between Brown and Paddy McNair at the back. Also making his first start was Isaac Price, one of three teenagers in the side along with Conor Bradley and Shea Charles.

O’Neill was well aware of what he was asking of such inexperienced players in the raucous atmosphere of the Parken Stadium, and watched on as they soaked up huge amounts of pressure before the break as Denmark grew frustrated.

Andreas Skov Olsen’s early cross was slightly behind Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who twisted acrobatically to make contact but could not find the target.

Christian Eriksen sent a free-kick from long range wide, while the clearest chance came to Crystal Palace defender Joachim Andersen just before the half hour as space opened up in front of him, but his powerful shot was straight at Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Shayne Lavery, selected ahead of Dion Charles in attack, worked tirelessly to offer an outlet as he and the slender figure of Price, asked to play in an advanced role, faced up to Denmark’s imposing back three of Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen and Andersen.

It was Lavery who had Northern Ireland’s only first-half opportunity when Price laid the ball off on the edge of the area. Lavery looked up to see three defenders closing in, but got off a deflected strike which Kasper Schmeichel was able to gather.

But after all that hard work in the first half, Denmark needed only two minutes of the second to find the breakthrough thanks to a mistake at the back.

Northern Ireland did not recover their shape after Bradley lost the ball, and when Brown stumbled to the floor, Wind accepted the gift.

A set-piece offered Northern Ireland an opportunity but Price and Lavery got their wires crossed trying to play it short and Denmark broke, with Peacock-Farrell saving smartly from the in-demand Rasmus Hojlund, scorer of five goals in the first two qualifiers.

Quick distribution from Peacock-Farrell set Price free down the right as the hour mark approached, but with no support the teenager had to test Schmeichel from a tight angle, forcing a corner.

It looked as though there was a late twist when Marshall, on for Ali McCann with five minutes left, turned the ball home from close range, but VAR would kill the celebrations.

Just three games into the qualifying campaign, it feels as though Northern Ireland must now deliver a result at home on Monday to keep themselves in the mix.

Michael O’Neill has told his young Northern Ireland players to embrace the challenge of taking on Denmark in Copenhagen on Friday night.

O’Neill said this Euro 2024 qualifier was not only the hardest fixture on paper but the “hardest fixture full stop” as Northern Ireland travel to take on the top seeds in Group H at the always noisy Parken Stadium.

Jamal Lewis has been added to an already lengthy injury list which has robbed O’Neill of half a dozen of his most experienced players, and with Shane Ferguson also out there is a shortage of left-sided players.

O’Neill will try to get as much experience as he can into his starting 11, but there will be no option but to rely on younger players too, with Conor Bradley and Shea Charles among the contenders to start.

“This is a good game for us,” O’Neill said. “It’s a young squad, we’ve got seven under-21 players with us. We’ll rely heavily on our experienced players as well. It’s a game we can only gain from really.

“Obviously we were disappointed with the home game against Finland (a 1-0 defeat in March), we felt we deserved more than we got, so we’ve got to try and make up points somewhere along the line. This is a hard place to play, but we’ll go with the intention of trying to find something from the game.”

The 38,000-seater Parken Stadium can become an intimidating place for visiting teams, but while it might be unlike anything Northern Ireland’s younger players have experienced before, O’Neill does not want them to shy away.

“I think they should embrace it really more than anything else,” he said. “The message will be go out and enjoy playing in a stadium like this…

“The thing I’ve enjoyed in working with the younger players is I see their attitude to the game, it’s very positive, I don’t think they’ll have a fear.

“There’s a lot of self-belief and abilities in the likes of Shea Charles, Isaac Price, Conor Bradley, Trai Hume, they play in games where they’ve a lot of expectancy where they’re currently playing their football.

“I think we have to have that mindset that we’ve got everything to gain from Friday night and not fear the atmosphere but look forward to it.”

One key challenge for Northern Ireland will be limiting Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen’s ability to dictate play from the centre of pitch.

“We understand we are dealing with a top level player here,” O’Neill said. “It’s brilliant seeing him back playing international football.

“The days of man marking players is more difficult now but as a team we have made the midfield players in particular very aware of the Danish midfield and Christian Eriksen is the major player in that midfield. He is a hugely experienced player at international level.

“I think to deal with players at that level it’s more about what we do as a collective as opposed to possibly that designated player to deal with that situation.”

Both sides come into the game nursing disappointments from the last round of fixtures in March.

Denmark suffered a shock defeat to Kazakhstan, blowing a 2-0 lead as their unfancied hosts scored three in the last 20 minutes, while O’Neill’s first game back in charge at Windsor Park ended in that loss to Finland.

O’Neill insisted he was not interested in making any sort of statement by claiming a big scalp on Friday, but his mind is on making up for what he sees as lost points.

“It would give us six points and it would make up for the disappointment of Finland,” he said. “I don’t think it’s about sending out a statement. I think this group could be very tight. Results have demonstrated that.

“If you can take anything off the number one seed in the group it is a massive achievement.”

Northern Ireland resume their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign on Friday night when they face Denmark in Copenhagen.

Here the PA news agency looks at the key talking points ahead of the Group H fixture.

The hardest task?

On paper, Friday’s match is the toughest on Northern Ireland’s fixture list, away to the top seed in the group. Denmark’s squad boasts elite-level talent and rich experience in every department. The likes of Christian Eriksen, Simon Kjaer, and Andreas Christensen have been operating at the top level for years, while in 20-year-old striker Rasmus Hojlund they have one of the hottest properties in European football. But Denmark are coming off a shock defeat away to Kazakhstan in March, showing they are far from infallible.


Northern Ireland need to get back on track themselves after a 1-0 home defeat to Finland last time out dampened spirits. That loss, in Michael O’Neill’s first home game in charge since his return to the job in December, was a reality check after the away win in San Marino a few days earlier, and made clear that even if Northern Ireland have been handed a relatively favourable draw for this qualifying campaign, they still face an uphill task to get out of Group H.

Injuries still biting

O’Neill has been able to welcome back Jonny Evans, Ali McCann and Shayne Lavery after they missed the March window through injury, but the likes of Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans, Shane Ferguson and Josh Magennis remain out, robbing O’Neill of vital experience. Northern Ireland’s squad includes five uncapped players, and 15 of the 28 have fewer than 10 caps to their name. The Parken Stadium is known for a raucous atmosphere and could be an intimidating place for Northern Ireland’s younger players.

Premier League exits

Evans has come into the international window still dealing with the disappointment of Leicester’s relegation from the Premier League – not to mention an uncertain future with his contract up for renewal. With Dallas’ Leeds having also suffered the drop, Premier League players are thin on the ground in the squad. Jamal Lewis has barely kicked a ball for Newcastle in the past season, while Manchester City youngster Shea Charles only made his senior debut off the bench last month. Bailey Peacock-Farrell is back in the top flight with Burnley but remains in a back-up role at club level. O’Neill has admitted it may be a long time before he can call on several Premier League players again.

Bradley vs Hume?

Conor Bradley was once again one of the brightest sparks in the Northern Ireland squad in March and should feature prominently again. Meanwhile, Trai Hume excelled in Sunderland’s promotion push. The problem for O’Neill is that both players, among Northern Ireland’s brightest prospects, are natural right-backs. Bradley looks stronger going forward while Hume has played across the back four for Sunderland this season, so a way of getting both players into the side can hopefully be found.

Denmark threw away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at Kazakhstan and suffer an early blow in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Kasper Hjulmand's side were semi-finalists at the last Euros and were handed a relatively kind draw for this qualifying campaign, beating Finland 3-1 in Thursday's opener.

Atalanta sensation Rasmus Hojlund scored a hat-trick in that game and then grabbed another two goals in the first half on Sunday, seemingly setting up another routine win.

But Baktiyor Zainutdinov pulled one back from the penalty spot with 17 minutes to play, and Kazakhstan were back level through captain Askhat Tagybergen's spectacular long-range strike four minutes from time.

That was not the end of the scoring as substitute Abat Aimbetov nodded the winner, although he was sent off in stoppage time.

Denmark will surely still back themselves to come through the group – particularly if Hojlund maintains his remarkable form – but this was an unexpected setback.

"I have to be careful what I say right now," captain Simon Kjaer told TV2.

"We run after instead of acting. We run after and not ahead with the ball. That's the difference in the second half, I think."

Asked why he needed to be careful, Kjaer said: "It is embarrassing. We win and lose together. Today we lose together. You cannot be 2-0 up and losing 2-3. You cannot. I don't know what it was. 

"It was many things. It wasn't good enough. What exactly happened in the situations I'm a little unsure about, and I don't want to say things I'm not sure of. 

"We must take responsibility for the criticism that will come. And then we must move on."

Andreas Christensen is expected to miss the final Clasico of the season after Barcelona confirmed he sustained a calf injury on international duty.

The centre-back started Denmark's opening Euro 2024 qualifier against Finland on Thursday but lasted only 18 minutes before being forced off.

Barcelona revealed it to be a problem with his left calf on Saturday following widespread media reports of him facing a period on the sidelines.

While the club have not given a timeframe for Christensen's return, simply saying he is "unavailable for selection and his recovery will determine his return", they are reportedly expecting him to be out for up to a month.

As such, he could miss as many as six games – among those, crucially, is the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Real Madrid on April 5, when Barca host Los Blancos having beaten them 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg.

The other five matches he could be a doubt for are in LaLiga, though Barca will likely feel their 12-point lead at the summit is sufficient to cope without him for the time being.

Christensen has become a prominent figure at Camp Nou in recent times, however.

After joining on a free transfer from Chelsea in pre-season, the 26-year-old was initially a bit-part figure, making only five LaLiga appearances before the World Cup partly due to injury.

But he missed just one of their 10 games across all competitions prior to this international window – that being the first leg against Madrid.


Nice striker Kasper Dolberg has joined Bundesliga side Hoffenheim on loan for the remainder of the season after seeing his spell at Sevilla cut short.

Dolberg was loaned to Sevilla at the start of the season, but failed to net in four league games for the club, remaining out of favour after Jorge Sampaoli replaced Julen Lopetegui as head coach.

Reports last week suggested the Denmark international wished to end his stay at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to join Hoffenheim, who are 11th in the Bundesliga table after 15 games.

Hoffenheim confirmed the deal on Monday, with Andre Breitenreiter's men in need of offensive reinforcements after losing four of their last five league games.

Dolberg appeared in all three of Denmark's games at the recent World Cup in Qatar, though he only started once as Kasper Hjulmand's team surprisingly finished bottom of Group D.

With the Bundesliga enjoying a mid-season break, Hoffenheim are next in action against surprise top-four contenders Union Berlin on January 21.

Australia forward Mitchell Duke said "bring on whoever" when asked about taking on Lionel Messi or Robert Lewandowski in the World Cup round of 16.

The Socceroos progressed to the knockout stage of a World Cup for only the second time in their history, 16 years on from first doing so in 2006, by beating Denmark 1-0 on Wednesday.

Australia's victory at Al Janoub Stadium was required, with Tunisia stunning a much-changed France side in Group D's other game.

Messi's Argentina or Lewandowski's Poland are the most likely candidates to face Australia on Saturday, though Saudi Arabia could yet sneak through as Group C winners.

But whoever Australia have to face, Duke said they will be ready.

"Bring on whoever, I feel like we could take on anyone right now," he told reporters. "That's the belief, we go out with that mentality.

"Don't write us off. You can see there's something special building here, there's lot to be excited about."

Duke, who scored Australia's winner against Tunisia on matchday two, wants to make more history in Qatar, with the 31-year-old adding: "It doesn't really feel like it's sunk in quite yet.

"That's what some of the boys were saying when they walked in. 'Do we realise what we've just done?'

"Playing a part in history right now, we've got two clean sheets, six points out of a group with two world class teams. It's unbelievable, a lot of people would have written us off but the belief in our team is unbelievable.

"Everyone wrote us off, we've finished second in the group, it's massive and we're not done yet – we want to make history."

Australia captain Mat Ryan added that the team's unity is what has pushed them to successive World Cup wins for the first time.

"The pride of the whole group, we have such a great team – youngsters, leaders," Ryan said.

"The togetherness is our backbone, our identity and the foundation. The world keeps giving us reasons to be proud of ourselves.

"It's great to see we’re an ambitious group. We're enjoying the victory but the comments are already coming out – we want to keep going, keep having victories like this and go as deep as we can, make the nation as proud as we can.

"Everything's a collective, from front to back, the commitment from everyone. The ones who haven't got on yet, the ones who have, the ones who haven't played as much as the others, the mentality and attitude has been top class and that's what we strive for. Everyone sets the standards high."

Australia advanced to the last 16 of the World Cup after securing a hard-fought 1-0 win over Denmark on Wednesday.

Mathew Leckie's winning goal at Al Janoub Stadium meant Tunisia - who drew with France - joined Denmark in exiting the tournament as Graham Arnold's side went through as Group D runners-up.

The Socceroos qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup for only a second time from six tournament appearances, having only previously done so in 2006, and will now play the winners of Group C.

It is home time for Kasper Hjulmand's men though, who disappointed after reaching the Euro 2020 semi-finals, and are now winless in their last six World Cup games (D4 L2), since beating Peru in their first game of the 2018 tournament.

Page 1 of 11
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.