The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) praised their own "persistent efforts" to combat racism after avoiding more severe sanctions from UEFA in relation to their game against England on October 14.

England cruised to a 6-0 win in the Euro 2020 qualifier that was hosted in Bulgaria's capital Sofia, but the contest was marred by racist chants and Nazi salutes from sections of the crowd.

The match was paused twice by officials due to the incidents, which subsequently dominated the news agenda, as the BFU president and head coach Krasimir Balakov quit their respective posts.

UEFA had been urged to make an example of Bulgaria, but their decision to impose a two-match stadium ban – the second of which is suspended for two years – and a €75,000 fine has been met with antipathy from anti-discrimination campaigners.

However, in a statement, the BFU claimed their "persistent efforts to combat racism, xenophobia and tribal intolerance" had helped them steer clear of more serious punishment.

"The Bulgarian Football Union would like to emphasise that the incidents of October 14 at Vasil Levski St., which provoked a huge international response and created great public tension, failed to prevent the professional and effective response of all departments and units [of the BFU]," the statement read.

"Thanks to the diligent and competent work of the BFU administration and the Union's legal partners, as well as the persistent efforts to combat racism, xenophobia and tribal intolerance, the Bulgarian national team avoided more severe sanctions."

The BFU also reiterated their stance that supporters have been unfairly accused of intolerance.

"We sincerely believe that in the future the Bulgarian football fans will prove with their behaviour that they have unjustifiably become the subject of accusations of lack of tolerance and respect for their opponents," the statement continued.

"This will be of benefit to all - for football players as well as fans, as well as for Bulgaria's international sporting prestige."

Kick It Out has demanded an overhaul in UEFA's disciplinary process in response to incidents of racist abuse.

UEFA on Tuesday ordered Bulgaria to play two games behind closed doors – one of which is suspended for two years – and handed down a €75,000 fine following the racist behaviour of some of their fans during a Euro 2020 qualifier against England on October 14.

The Three Lions' 6-0 victory in Sofia was overshadowed by England players being targeted by discriminatory chants, leading to the match being halted on two occasions. Some Bulgaria supporters were also seen making Nazi salutes.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin vowed in the aftermath of the game the governing body would "wage war on the racists", while Kick It Out demanded the organisation "showed leadership".

However, UEFA's punishment has been deemed unsatisfactory by the campaign group.

"We are disheartened, but not surprised, to learn of UEFA's response to the racist abuse directed at England players," a statement read.

"In our view, they have missed another opportunity to send an uncompromising message on racism and discrimination.

"The current sanctions, however 'tough' UEFA think they may be, are clearly not working and leave victims with little faith in their ability to prevent abusive behaviour.

"We feel UEFA's entire disciplinary process in response to racial discrimination should be overhauled and urge them to explain the decision-making process behind their sanctions for incidents of discrimination."

Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster - who alleged he was racially abused by Spartak Moscow's Leonid Mironov during a UEFA Youth League match in 2017 but saw the case dropped due to a lack of evidence - labelled the sanctions "embarrassing".

"Another embarrassing verdict," the teenager tweeted. "Two games behind closed doors for Nazi salutes and racism. The world needs to wake up."

UEFA's decision to impose a two-match home stadium ban on Bulgaria for the racist behaviour of supporters during a match against England has underwhelmed anti-discrimination campaigners Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE).

England crushed Bulgaria 6-0 in Sofia on October 14, but the match was marred by the actions of a group of home fans, who targeted Tyrone Mings, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling with racist abuse.

Nazi salutes in home sections of the ground were also seen and the match was twice brought to a halt by officials.

UEFA confirmed the punishment on Tuesday, with Bulgaria set to play against the Czech Republic behind closed doors in November, with the second game of the ban suspended for two years.

Many had called on UEFA to make an example of Bulgaria after the governing body's president Aleksander Ceferin vowed to "wage war on the racists", but FARE is dissatisfied with the sanction handed down.

FARE executive director Piara Powar said: "We welcome the speed of this decision, but we are disappointed that Bulgaria will not be expelled from the Euro 2020 qualifying competition given their previous record, and obvious inability to deal with the problems they face.

"We think that the evidence and circumstances of this match would have justified European football being given a stronger signal on the need to tackle racism.

"Obtaining justice for racist acts is not easy in any setting, it is clear that football is no exception.

"We will be in touch with UEFA to explore options and maintain that Bulgaria and others in the same situation fundamentally reappraise how they deal with racism."

The Football Association (FA) also addressed UEFA's ruling and reiterated a call to stamp out racism, though there was no indication as to whether it was content with the punishment.

"We sincerely hope the disgraceful scenes in Sofia are never repeated," an FA statement read.

"Our priority remains our players, support team and fans and we will do all we can to ensure they never have to endure such circumstances again.

"While we acknowledge UEFA's ruling, a huge challenge still exists around racism and discrimination in society.

"Football has its part to play, and must do so, but it is for all to recognise the seriousness of the problem.

"While those responsible for such deplorable behaviour at home or abroad need to be held to account, we should not lose sight of the importance of education programmes in finding a long-term solution.

"That has to be the way forward to help address the root cause of such disgusting behaviour. We are ready to build on our work with UEFA, Kick It Out and the FARE network in any positive way we can."

UEFA's decision to impose a two-match home stadium ban on Bulgaria for the racist behaviour of supporters during a match against England has underwhelmed anti-discrimination campaigners Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE).

England crushed Bulgaria 6-0 in Sofia on October 14, but the match was marred by the actions of a group of home fans, who targeted Tyrone Mings, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling with racist abuse.

Nazi salutes in home sections of the ground were also seen and the match was twice brought to a halt by officials.

UEFA confirmed the punishment on Tuesday, with Bulgaria set to play against the Czech Republic behind closed doors in November, with the second game of the ban suspended for two years.

Many had called on UEFA to make an example of Bulgaria after the governing body's president Aleksander Ceferin vowed to "wage war on the racists", but FARE is dissatisfied with the sanction handed down.

FARE executive director Piara Powar said: "We welcome the speed of this decision, but we are disappointed that Bulgaria will not be expelled from the Euro 2020 qualifying competition given their previous record, and obvious inability to deal with the problems they face.

"We think that the evidence and circumstances of this match would have justified European football being given a stronger signal on the need to tackle racism.

"Obtaining justice for racist acts is not easy in any setting, it is clear that football is no exception.

"We will be in touch with UEFA to explore options and maintain that Bulgaria and others in the same situation fundamentally reappraise how they deal with racism."

The Football Association (FA) also addressed UEFA's ruling and reiterated a call to stamp out racism, though there was no indication as to whether it was content with the punishment.

"We sincerely hope the disgraceful scenes in Sofia are never repeated," an FA statement read.

"Our priority remains our players, support team and fans and we will do all we can to ensure they never have to endure such circumstances again.

"While we acknowledge UEFA's ruling, a huge challenge still exists around racism and discrimination in society.

"Football has its part to play, and must do so, but it is for all to recognise the seriousness of the problem.

"While those responsible for such deplorable behaviour at home or abroad need to be held to account, we should not lose sight of the importance of education programmes in finding a long-term solution.

"That has to be the way forward to help address the root cause of such disgusting behaviour. We are ready to build on our work with UEFA, Kick It Out and the FARE network in any positive way we can."

Bulgaria must play next month's home match against the Czech Republic behind closed doors as punishment for fans aiming racist abuse at England players in the recent Euro 2020 qualifier, UEFA has said.

England’s 6-0 win in Sofia on October 14 was tarnished by the behaviour of a group of home supporters, who targeted the likes of Tyrone Mings, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling with racist abuse. Nazi salutes in home sections of the stadium were also witnessed.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin vowed European football’s governing body would "wage war on the racists", amid the outcry that followed the game.

Its decision to impose a two-game closed-doors punishment – with the second of those games suspended for two years – may not appease those who called for a robust reaction from UEFA.

The Bulgarian Football Union [BFU] must also display a ‘No To Racism' banner at the national team’s next two UEFA competition matches, and has been fined 75,000 euros for the racist behaviour and throwing of objects during the England game.

UEFA added, in a statement revealing the punishments imposed by its control, ethics and disciplinary body, that it had also imposed a fine of 10,000 euros on the BFU for disrupting England’s national anthem. The BFU was also issued with a warning over the showing of replays on a big screen.

The English Football Association [FA] was fined 5,000 euros for fans disrupting Bulgaria’s national anthem, with a separate charge regarding stewarding levels put back until a November 21 hearing.

Bulgaria sit bottom of Group A in Euro 2020 qualifying. Confirmation of the closed-doors punishment could bolster second-placed Czech Republic’s hopes of an away victory in the November 17 fixture between the teams, as the Czechs bid to secure a place in the finals.

UEFA did not immediately detail whether its ruling would mean Czech fans intending to travel to the game at the Vasil Levski national stadium would have their plans thwarted.

Bulgaria must play next month's home match against the Czech Republic behind closed doors as punishment for fans aiming racist abuse at England players in the recent Euro 2020 qualifier, UEFA has said.

Ronald Koeman has a clause in his Netherlands contract that allows him to leave to coach Barcelona, but Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) director Nico-Jan Hoogma hopes he stays put.

One point from their final two qualifying matches in Group C will see Netherlands clinch their place at Euro 2020 and they are in good shape after winning their past four games.

Former Barca defender Koeman is under contract until the conclusion of the 2022 World Cup and Hoogma hopes not to change coach until after the tournament in Qatar.

"I hope we can work together for a very long time, because I think it is going very well," Hoogma said of Koeman on FOX Sports.

"But Ronald has long indicated that he wants to be Barcelona coach someday. Let's see what will happen.

"Success with Oranje will certainly help him. But again, I hope that the process continues up to and including the World Cup in Qatar."

Barcelona are top of LaLiga after nine matches in 2019-20 but question marks linger over the future of head coach Ernesto Valverde, who came under pressure towards the end of last season.

The Blaugrana's elimination from the Champions League semi-finals by Liverpool and defeat in the Copa del Rey final to Valencia left Valverde's position in doubt, but Hoogma indicated Koeman would not come cheap if there is an attempt to lure him to Camp Nou.

"Agreements have been made about it," said Hoogma. "They will have to pay something for him. How much? I'm not talking about that.

"After one year [of Koeman's time in charge] we still have a year to go to the European Championship, so this is not the time [to talk about it].

"No matter how I respond, there will always be people who say if they [Barcelona] come for him, he will go anyway."

Krasimir Balakov has resigned as head coach of Bulgaria four days on from the 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying loss to England that was marred by racist abuse.

The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) confirmed Balakov's departure following a meeting of its executive committee on Friday.

In a statement, the BFU attributed the 53-year-old's resignation to substandard performances.

Bulgaria succumbed to a heavy defeat against the Three Lions in Sofia but not before their supporters subjected England players to racist chants, which forced the match to twice be halted in the first half.

"The performance of Bulgaria's men's national team in recent months has been described as unsatisfactory, which is why the national coach Krasimir Balakov resigned, which was accepted by the members of the [executive committee]," the BFU's statement read.

Balakov initially said he did not hear the abuse directed at England's players at Vasil Levski National Stadium but later apologised to Gareth Southgate's squad and condemned the behaviour of the fans responsible.

"I would like to say very clearly: since there were cases of racial discrimination in Sofia, I would like to sincerely apologise to the English footballers and to all those who felt offended," Balakov wrote in a letter posted to his official Facebook page.

Balakov's decision to quit after five months in charge follows that of BFU president Borislav Mihaylov, who was urged to stand down by Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov.

The organisation's former vice-president Mikhail Kasabov has been temporarily installed as Mihaylov's replacement after two others rejected the opportunity, with an extraordinary congress to elect a new board on the agenda.

The BFU is facing disciplinary proceedings from UEFA in response to the ugly scenes at Monday's match, during which several supporters appeared to perform Nazi salutes.

Mauricio Pochettino hailed stand-in Tottenham captain Harry Kane as a "natural leader" as he reflected on the England skipper's response to the racism row in Bulgaria.

Kane will take the Spurs armband in the absence of injured goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the coming months, while he is also England's captain.

The striker's role with the Three Lions put him at the forefront of the controversial Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia on Monday, which was twice stopped due to racist abuse from the crowd.

Kane stood by his team-mates as they followed UEFA's protocol and ultimately saw out a 6-0 win, later describing his pride at the way England players had acted in testing circumstances.

Pochettino, discussing Kane's more prominent Tottenham role on Thursday, said: "He's become a natural leader. He's great.

"His commitment, not only for Tottenham but the national team, is fantastic for England and Tottenham. We will miss Hugo for a few months and to have Harry to step up is important, like others who are important and mature.

"They will step up and handle problems when they happen like this. It's good to see how he behaved and of course he showed great maturity."

Asked specifically about the Bulgaria match, the Spurs boss added: "I'm going to respect players always. The way Harry behaved was top.

"The way he handled the situation on Monday was exemplary. He showed calm, followed the rules. We're so proud of how he behaved.

"But of course, when you're on the touchline, you need to understand the players always have rights and it's difficult to be in their position, know how they feel when they suffer abuse like this. That's why I will always support my players.

"Harry handled everything perfectly, I want to congratulate him. He was calm, the situation was always under control. He showed great maturity in these situations which are not always easy to manage."

As well as missing Lloris, Tottenham are waiting for news on star midfielder Christian Eriksen, who suffered a dead leg on international duty with Denmark.

Cristiano Ronaldo should be regarded as the greatest footballer in history after reaching 700 career goals, according to his agent Jorge Mendes.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner brought up his latest milestone for club and country when he dispatched a second-half penalty against Ukraine on Monday, taking his Portugal tally to 95.

The majority of Ronaldo's goals came during a storied spell with Real Madrid, for whom he scored 450 times after netting 118 for Manchester United.

Although Ronaldo is entering the twilight of his career at the age of 34, Mendes sees no sign of him slowing down at Juventus.

And there is even more still to come, the agent suggests.

"He is the strongest ever. For him, the best is yet to come and will arrive with the Juve jersey," Mendes told Tuttosport.

"The numbers do not lie and they illuminate the overwhelming way in which Cristiano Ronaldo shatters the records, which elevates him to the category of the best player in the history of football and with a big difference compared to the second [best].

"He's in that position for all that he has achieved in the service of the different clubs that he represented, either in England or in Spain or now in Italy, but also with the Portuguese national team.

"And the fact is that, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal has already played in three finals, winning two."

Sandro Tonali said he is a mix of Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso as he compared himself to the Italy greats following his international debut.

Tonali came off the bench to make his Italy bow in the country's 5-0 rout of Liechtenstein in Euro 2020 qualifying on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old Brescia sensation – who has been linked to Serie A champions Juventus, Manchester United and Fiorentina – addressed comparisons post-match.

"It's tough to pick one of those champions," Tonali told Rai Sport after being compared to Pirlo, Gattuso and Daniele De Rossi.

"Maybe a mix of all of them would be perfect. I guess there are similarities with Pirlo in a way but I also add a lot of a grit in there, so maybe more Gattuso."

Italy matched a national team record as they extended their winning streak to nine games, having booked their place at Euro 2020 with a win over Greece at the weekend.

Roberto Mancini named a young starting team for the clash at Rheinpark Stadion as Federico Bernardeschi, Andrea Belotti, Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy all got on the scoresheet in Vaduz.

There was also time for Tonali to make his debut with 16 minutes remaining and he reflected on the emotion he felt when replacing Bernardeschi.

"I felt wonderful as not everyone gets to play for the national team. I was a little emotional for 30 seconds that it was really happening," Tonali added.

"The coach told us all to be ready to play so I had an idea. Everyone in the squad was very helpful to the newcomers like me and it felt easy to come in.

"The system is different, so is the timing and there is obviously a lot more quality in the Italy side, but the role and position remain the same."

Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy says a "cup final" against Denmark awaits his players after defeat to Switzerland damaged their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020.

Haris Seferovic opened the scoring before a Shane Duffy own goal secured the Swiss a 2-0 win over their 10-man opponents on Tuesday, with the visitors having Seamus Coleman sent off.

McCarthy's team remain top in Group D with Denmark level with them on points. Switzerland are a point further back but both they and the Danes have a game in hand before the final round of fixtures on November 18. 

Denmark finish up with a trip to Dublin, where they ended Ireland's 2018 World Cup hopes in the play-offs.

"We've got to play Denmark now at home," said McCarthy. "I would've taken that at the start and I'll take it now. We've still got a chance to qualify automatically."

He added: "We've got ourselves a cup final against Denmark next month and if you have handed me that before the group began, I'd have taken it."

A philosophical McCarthy had no complaints over the outcome as his team were beaten for the first time in the group, capping a disappointing few days following a 0-0 draw against Georgia.

"We were beaten by the better team, much the better team actually," he added,

"Certainly in the first half we didn't play particularly well. Whatever system we play it does not excuse our wayward passing and the stuff that we did.

"I changed it midway through the second half and that settled things down a bit. Second half we played much better. I think it was a performance that we can be proud of, certainly when the players went down to ten men. Second half, not the first half."

Midfielder Glenn Whelan admitted they gave their hosts "too much respect" in the first half in Geneva.

"We stood off them a little bit but, in the second half, we had a go and tried to get back in the game," he added.

"I think, for us, we need to do that all of the time. We show teams too much respect and then get sloppy on the ball. If we are on the front foot we will get the fans behind us and give anyone a go."

Switzerland boss Vladimir Petkovic praised his team's response after defeat to Denmark in their previous outing but insisted they still have much to do despite having the easiest run-in.

"It was a good performance. We had to show a reaction after losing to Denmark and that's what we did," he said.

"The result doesn't mean a lot in the group – we still need to get results in our next two games. If we get the points we need against Georgia and Gibraltar, we can turn our attentions to Euro 2020."

Italy matched a national team record as a 5-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein stretched their winning streak to nine games, but head coach Roberto Mancini's still sees areas where they can improve.

The Azzurri, who qualified for Euro 2020 by beating Greece at the weekend, eased to victory against Group J minnows Liechtenstein on Tuesday.

Victory means the current crop have equalled the achievement of the Italy team that played under Vittorio Pozzo, with their run spanning from May 1938 to March 1939.

Mancini, however, is more interested in another Pozzo record, as he explained following proceedings at the Rheinpark Stadion.

"Matching Pozzo's record of victories is nice, but I'd rather match his record of winning two World Cups!" Mancini, who also said there was still plenty of improvements for his side to make, told Rai Sport.

"It was natural with so many changes that we'd lack some consistency. There were some positives, other things we can improve, but the main issue was that these players haven't really worked together before."

Federico Bernardeschi opened the scoring inside two minutes – the Azzurri's fastest goal since June 2013 – though Italy had to wait until midway through the second half to double their lead.

Andrea Belotti headed home in the 70th minute, sparking a flurry of goals, the forward grabbing another after Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy had also scored.

El Shaarawy's goal marked his first Italy appearance since 2017 and the former Roma and AC Milan forward admitted it was an emotional moment.

"There was a bit of everything. It was emotional for me, very satisfying to be back on the field in an Italy jersey," El Shaarawy told Rai Sport.

"I feel Italy really deserved this qualification and these results, as we are all working so hard and are very pleased with how things are going.

"I was so hungry to be out there, as my last game for Italy was two years ago, the play-off that saw us fail to reach the World Cup. I needed to change the impressions from that match."

Rodrigo Moreno revealed he played through the pain barrier to seal Spain's place at Euro 2020.

The Valencia striker started on the bench as Sweden entertained Spain at the Friends Arena on Tuesday, having felt discomfort during training before the match.

He came on midway through the second half with La Roja trailing to Marcus Berg's 50th-minute opener at the time and pounced in stoppage-time to secure the 1-1 draw Robert Moreno's side needed to secure qualification.

"The other day I trained with a little pain. The important thing was to go out and help," Rodrigo told reporters.

"If we don't win every game, they [Spain's critics] will start saying we're not at the [right] level. It's logical. We have to work harder."

The result made it back-to-back 1-1 draws during this international break for Spain, with midfielder Rodri agreeing improvement is necessary before the finals.

"It seems that Spain has to win, always being there, but the rivals are increasingly difficult," said Manchester City's record signing.

"We are happy to have got the draw in the end but we wanted more. [Sweden] live to score a goal and lock themselves up [defensively]."

In-form Villarreal striker Gerard Moreno started in Rodrigo's place to make his international debut – remaining on the field to revel in the late drama.

"I'm happy with the debut and the qualification. It's a dream I've always had. It's the best," he told reporters.

"It's a dream to be in the [squad for the] European Championship. I'm going to work for it.

"One shirt I will keep for me and another for my family. It's a beautiful memory."

Rodrigo Moreno came off the bench to snatch a last-gasp 1-1 draw in Sweden and confirm Spain's place at Euro 2020.

Inspired saves from Robin Olsen and an injury to their own goalkeeper, David de Gea, added up to what was starting to look like a wretched outing at the Friends Arena for Robert Moreno's men.

But Rodrigo, who was dropped to the bench as his coach made six changes to the XI held by Norway last time out, reacted sharply to prod in from close range.

Sweden rode out an early storm to hit the front through Marcus Berg in the 50th minute and still have their fate in their own hands ahead of pivotal trip to Romania next month.

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