The National:

TORY ministers have once again landed themselves in hot water after wading into football matters.

Having been humiliated – twice – by Marcus Rashford over free school meals, you’d think Tory Cabinet members would know better by now.

But International Secretary Liz Truss has sparked a backlash led by Gary Lineker after giving her thoughts on this year’s Champions League final.

The showpiece event is due to take place in St Petersburg in May, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked demands for Uefa to stage the match elsewhere.

Indeed, hosting the event in Russia while Vladimir Putin sends troops into a sovereign nation would doubtless be a galling sight – with Uefa under pressure from humanitarian groups, politicians and fans to reconsider its plans.

But Lineker and others couldn’t help but notice Truss seemed to be shifting the spotlight away from her own government’s action – or lack thereof.

WATCH: Liz Truss in car-crash interview about Russian money in the UK

The National: Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker

Asked about the Champions League final on LBC radio, Truss said: “If I were on an English team, I would boycott it."

She added: "I would personally not want to be playing in a football match in St Petersburg given what the Putin regime is doing."

That’s despite her own government coming under fire for its soft-touch sanctions on Russia.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon urges Johnson to put 'much tougher' sanctions on Russia

Boris Johnson had promised to “come down like a steel trap in the event of the first Russian toecap crossing into more sovereign Ukrainian territory". Yet his initial sanctions amounted to measures against five Russian banks and just three “very high net wealth” individuals.

Responding to Truss, Lineker replied: “Put the pressure on young footballers to take a tough stance on Russia, as the government doesn’t take a tough stance on Russia.”

The Tory government has also been criticised for failing to implement the full recommendations of the Security Committee’s damning Russia Report – or to provide sufficient financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Ian Blackford warned dithering from Number 10 has allowed Russian individuals to move “dirty assets and money” out of the country in recent weeks.

Others noted that Tory ministers had spent the summer telling footballers to stick to football after they staged anti-racism protests at Euro 2020.

“Footballers now encouraged to take political stances I see,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another added: "So let us get this correct: footballers, such as Marcus Rashford and @GNev2 [Gary Neville], should keep their noses out of politics when criticising Govt decisions affecting millions of UK citizens, but should be doing the work of politicians when it comes to Russia and potential war?!!"

Four English teams remain in the Champions League – Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. The final of the competition was last held in Russia in 2008 when Manchester United defeated Chelsea in Moscow.

Russia also hosted the World Cup in 2018, when England enjoyed a run to the semi-final. That came four years after Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

Truss’s comments signal her government’s latest foray into the world of football – but you can forgive fans for remaining sceptical.