THE SOCCER REPORT

Cristiano Ronaldo gets 700th goal; Bulgaria-England blemished by racist chants

Cristiano Ronaldo gets 700th goal; Bulgaria-England blemished by racist chants
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo is the only active player with 700 goals to his name. Credit: Nike, Inc.

With international soccer taking center stage due, this week's soccer recap centers around all the action in the men's FIFA international break. The following are the top stories of the international break.

Note: Scroll to the end of the article for top upcoming matches as top division club football resumes on the weekend.

Cristiano Ronaldo reaches 700 career goals

A 72nd minute penalty ultimately played little part in the outcome of the match as Ukraine defeated Portugal 2-1 in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying. It carries importance because it was the 700th career goal in Cristiano Ronaldo's illustrious career, the only active player to reach the mark and one that places him alongside historic goalscorers Pelé, Romário, Josef Bican, Gerd Müller and Ferenc Puskás. It is also CR7's 95th goal for Portugal.

UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying blemished by racist chants towards England players

England defeated Bulgaria with an emphatic 6-0 win in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying. The conversation coming out of this encounter, however, is two stoppages during the match due to racist "monkey chants" directed towards England players. The English Football Association released a statement following the match to confirm its players were subjects of "abhorrent racist chanting" and has asked UEFA, Europe's governing body in football, to investigate the matter.

The match was already taking place with reduced capacity due to previous UEFA sanctions on Ukraine for a prior incident regarding racist chants.

Turkish players defy UEFA with another military salute

For the second time in four days, Turkish national team players displayed a salute - understood to be a display of solidarity with Turkish forces involved in the invasion of Kurdish-held regions in northern Syria. German Bundesliga club Fortuna Dusseldorf released a statement on Friday to explain that the involvement of two of their players do not coincide with the values of the club.

UEFA does not allow for political statements during its matches.

Sergio Ramos passes Iker Casillas on Spain's all-time appearances list

Sergio Ramos became Spain's most capped player after featuring in his 168th match with the senior national team. Spain drew 1-1 at Norway in EURO 2020 qualifying and will play at Sweden on Tuesday.

Iker Casillas, now the second-most capped player and Spain's captain during the 2010 FIFA World Cup title, sent a congratulatory message to Ramos on social media.

Neymar injured in Brazil friendly

Senegal win 2019 WAFU Cup of Nations

Tournament hosts Senegal defeated defending champions Ghana 3-1 on penalties to be crowned 2019 WAFU Cup of Nations Champions.

USA, Mexico enter Concacaf Nations League play

The giants of Concacaf have officially entered the Nations League and, after the USA's 7-0 win over Cuba and Mexico's 5-1 win at Bermuda, talk has escalated over whether the competition brings any real value to them.

In the case of the United States, a true test will come in Canada on Tuesday as the top spot of their group is on the line. For a young Mexican squad, the story is off the field where sanctions could be imposed in Tuesday's match against Pamana if a certain "anti-gay" chant is heard.

Venezuela plays first match on home soil since 2017 World Cup qualifiers

Not since October 5, 2017 had the Venezuelan men's national team played within its country's borders. Since 2018, "La Vinotinto" had played in exhibition matches all over the world including the United States, Spain and Qatar. Venezuela competed in last year's Copa America tournament in Brazil, the closest it had been to home soil.

Friday's match in Caracas, a 4-1 win over Bolivia, was also the first match in the nation's capital in eight years. The national team played there again on Monday, picking up a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago.

Indian Super League to became country's top division

The Indian Super League will hold the stature of being the top division of Indian football with the start of the 2019-20 season. The ISL held it's first season in 2014. The I-League, India's top tier for 23 years, will become the second tier and later have promotion to the ISL in 2022-23.

Battle of the Koreas

North Korea and South Korea played to a nil-nil draw in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying. The first of the two "Korean Derby" matches took place in Pyongyang on Tuesday. It is the first time the match takes place in North Korea since a 1990 friendly. The match was played with limited media coverage and was not televised.

TV listings (All Times CT):

Tuesday, October 15

1:45 p.m. - [UEFA EURO Qualifying] Sweden vs. Spain (ESPNEWS, UniMas, TUDN)

1:45 p.m. - [UEFA EURO Qualifying] Switzerland vs. Ireland (ESPN3, TUDNxtra)

6:30 p.m. - [Concacaf Nations League] Canada vs. USA (ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN)

8:30 p.m. - [Concacaf Nations League] Mexico vs. Panama (UniMas, TUDN)

Wednesday, October 16

6:00 p.m. - [USL Championship] Indy Eleven vs. Swope Park Rangers (ESPN+)

Thursday, October 17

6:00 p.m. - [Uruguay First Division] Peñarol vs. Boston River (GolTV)

Friday, October 18

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Bayer Leverkusen (FS2, TUDN)

1:45 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Nice vs. PSG (beIN Sports)

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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