England U21s lose Richards as well

Manchester City defender Richards, 22, had reported sick after his

club’s Premier League defeat at Sunderland on Saturday. He was

given extra time to recover but failed to do so in time to make

Wednesday’s flight to Portugal for Friday’s penultimate Group 9

clash. Richards’ withdrawal follows those of Jack Rodwell, Andy

Carroll, Victor Moses, Henri Lansbury and Alex Smithies. Midfield

star Rodwell and forwards Carroll and Moses all pulled out with

ankle injuries, while Lansbury had a groin problem and Smithies a

dead leg. The call-offs were bad news for England Under-21s, who

need to win both Friday’s match and Tuesday’s game against

Lithuania – and hope Greece do not win in Macedonia on Saturday –

to guarantee a place in next summer’s finals. Smithies was replaced

in the squad by Middlesbrough’s Jason Steele for the Portugal game

but could yet rejoin the party for Tuesday’s match in Colchester.