The Russian Football Union (RFU) has confirmed it is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) following the suspension of its teams by FIFA and UEFA.

Russian clubs and national teams were banned from all FIFA and UEFA competitions "until further notice" on Monday.

This decision followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine last week, which prompted rivals of its football team to vow they would not play Russia.

Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic – opponents and potential opponents in the 2022 World Cup play-offs – threatened to withdraw from qualifying until FIFA and UEFA made the joint-announcement.

But the RFU, which "categorically disagreed with" its suspension and hinted at a challenge "in accordance with international sports law", has formalised an intention to appeal through CAS.

The ban, the RFU claims, "did not have a legal basis".

And Russia still hope to take part in the play-offs for the Qatar finals later this month, wanting a swift appeal process in which the RFU will also pursue compensation.

Russia had been set to host Poland on March 24, and the RFU's statement added it would ask for competitions its teams had been participating in to be delayed if a challenge could not be accelerated.

"The Russian Football Union will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne against the decision taken by FIFA and UEFA to suspend the Russian national teams from participating in international competitions," the statement read on Thursday.

"As part of a single lawsuit against the two organisations, the RFU will demand the restoration of all men's and women's national teams of Russia for all types of football in the tournaments in which they took part (including in the qualifying round of the World Cup in Qatar), as well as compensation for damage, if its presence is established.

"In order to ensure the possibility of participation of Russian teams in the next scheduled matches, the RFU will insist on an accelerated procedure for considering the case.

"If FIFA and UEFA refuse such a procedure, a demand will be put forward for the introduction of interim measures in the form of suspension of FIFA and UEFA decisions, as well as competitions in which Russian teams were supposed to participate.

"The RFU believes that FIFA and UEFA did not have a legal basis when deciding on the suspension of Russian teams. It violated the fundamental rights of the RFU as a member of FIFA and UEFA, including the right to take part in competitions.

"In addition, the decision to withdraw the national team from qualification for the 2022 World Cup was made under pressure from direct rivals in the play-offs, which violated the sporting principle and the rules of fair play.

"The Russian Football Union was also not granted the right to present its position, which violated the fundamental right to defence.

"In addition, when making decisions, FIFA and UEFA did not take into account other possible options for action, except for the complete exclusion of participants from Russia from the competition.

"Other details of the appeal, including the timing of the hearing of the claim, will be reported additionally."

Scotland remain in contact with FIFA and UEFA regarding World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine, while the Scottish FA (SFA) confirmed they will boycott fixtures with Russia amid the ongoing conflict.

Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday, with the fighting escalating over the weekend after weeks of heightening political tensions between the two countries.

The conflict has been widely condemned, with sporting, political and financial sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus in an attempt to deter the pair from continuing with the attacks.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged action as they called on international sporting federations to relocate or cancel any events set to take place in Russia or Belarus.

UEFA subsequently acted by stripping St Petersburg of the 2021-22 Champions League final, while Formula One removed the Russian Grand Prix from its 2022 calendar.

A plethora of international sporting stars, including Russian tennis stars Andrey Rubley and Daniil Medvedev, have demanded peace as they condemned war.

The SFA has followed suit by offering support to Ukraine, who Scotland's men are scheduled to face in a World Cup play-off semi-final on 24 March with the women's teams set to meet on 8 April.

"The Scottish FA President, Rod Petrie, has written to his counterpart at the Ukrainian Association of Football to send a message of support, friendship, and unity," a statement from the SFA read on Monday.

"Football is inconsequential amid conflict but we have conveyed the strong sense of solidarity communicated to us by Scotland fans and citizens in recent days.

"We remain in dialogue with UEFA and FIFA regarding our men's FIFA World Cup play-off and women's World Cup qualifier and have offered to support our Ukrainian colleagues' preparations as best we can in these unimaginably difficult circumstances.

"Should the current circumstances continue, we will not sanction the nomination of a team to participate in our scheduled UEFA Regions Cup fixture against Russia, due to be played in August.

"This will remain our position should any other fixtures arise at any level of international football."

FIFA has confirmed Russia must compete in their upcoming matches as the Football Union of Russia (RFU).

The order from world football's governing body comes in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which began on Thursday, with fighting having escalated over the weekend.

FIFA has been put under increasing pressure to sanction Russia, with UEFA having already stripped St Petersburg of this season's Champions League final, while the football associations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic all jointly outlined their refusal to play Russia.

This cast doubt over next month's World Cup qualifiers, with Poland set to face Russia in a play-off semi-final, with the winner of that match to play either Sweden or the Czech Republic for a place in Qatar.

On Sunday, FIFA confirmed Russia would have to play under a neutral banner of the RFU, similar to how the International Olympic Committee had the country's athletes represent the Russian Olympic Committee following a state-sponsored doping scandal.

Russia's flag cannot be displayed, nor can their anthem be played, and all of their home matches must now take place at a neutral venue, behind closed doors.

A statement read: "FIFA would like to reiterate its condemnation of the use of force by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Violence is never a solution and FIFA expresses its deepest solidarity to all people affected by what is happening in Ukraine.

"FIFA calls again for the urgent restoration of peace and for constructive dialogue to commence immediately. FIFA remains in close contact with the Ukrainian Association of Football and members of the Ukrainian football community who have been requesting support to leave the country for as long as the current conflict persists."

"With regard to the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers, FIFA has taken good note of the positions expressed via social media by the Polish Football Association, the Football Association of the Czech Republic and the Swedish Football Association and has already engaged in dialogue with all of these football associations. FIFA will remain in close contact to seek to find appropriate and acceptable solutions together."

However, FIFA's sanctions do not go far enough, according to Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza, who tweeted: "Today's FIFA decision is totally unacceptable.

"We are not interested in participating in this game of appearances. Our stance remains intact: Polish National Team will NOT PLAY with Russia, no matter what the name of the team is."

FIFA's sanctions followed on from the English FA confirming it would boycott any upcoming matches against Russia for the foreseeable future, at any level.

The Czech Republic have joined Poland and Sweden in refusing to play Russia ahead of next month's UEFA World Cup qualifying play-offs.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, following weeks of rising political tensions in the region. The conflict escalated further on Friday, with the fighting reaching the capital city of Kyiv. There was intense fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, on Sunday.

It was confirmed by Poland's Football Association on Saturday that they would refuse to play their scheduled 'Path B' play-off semi-final against Russia.

Russia had been set to host Poland in March, but on Friday, UEFA said any international matches due to be held in Russia or Ukraine would have to be moved to a neutral venue, as well as confirming St Petersburg had been stripped of holding this season's Champions League final, which will now be played in Paris.

That followed a request from the Polish, Swedish and Czech FAs that Russia be barred from hosting any upcoming World Cup qualifiers. The winner of the tie between Poland and Russia would have been due to play either Sweden or the Czech Republic for a place at Qatar 2022.

Despite UEFA's declaration, the power to decide where the qualifiers are played and whether Russia can remain a part of them ultimately rests with world governing body FIFA.

Announcing their boycott, Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza said the three national associations were working to find a "common position" and that has now been achieved. The Swedish FA said on Saturday it was not possible to play Russia "regardless of where the match is played" and on Sunday the Czech FA took the same stance.

A statement posted on Twitter read: "The Czech FA executive committee, staff members and players of the national team agreed it's not possible to play against the Russian national team in the current situation, not even on the neutral venue. We all want the war to end as soon as possible."

Football's world governing body FIFA previously said in a statement that it "condemns the use of force by Russia in Ukraine and any type of violence to resolve conflicts. Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue".

It added: "FIFA also continues to express its solidarity to the people affected by this conflict.

"Regarding football matters in both Ukraine and Russia, FIFA will continue to monitor the situation and updates in relation to the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers will be communicated in due course."

Robert Lewandowski says war is against "everything beautiful in sport" as he pleaded for solidarity with Ukraine amid Russia's invasion of the country.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, following weeks of rising political tensions in the region. The conflict escalated further on Friday, with the fighting reaching the capital city of Kyiv.

Sportspeople, teams and organisations around the globe have joined in the condemnation of Russia's attack.

On Friday, Bayern Munich – Lewandowski's club side – lit their stadium up in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, with coach Julian Nagelsmann expressing his shock at the invasion.

"Everything beautiful in sport is against what war brings," Lewandowski posted to his official social media channels.

"For all people who value freedom and peace, this is a time of solidarity with the victims of military aggression in Ukraine."

On Thursday, the Polish football association, along with their counterparts from Sweden and the Czech Republic, requested that Russia be barred from hosting any upcoming World Cup qualifiers. The four nations are in the same play-off pathway for Qatar 2022.

Russia had been set to host Poland in March, but on Friday, UEFA confirmed any international matches due to be held in Russia or Ukraine would have to be moved to a neutral venue, as well as confirming St Petersburg had been stripped of holding this season's Champions League final.

Lewandowski, who is Poland's captain, went on to explain that he will hold discussions with his team-mates as to whether they wish to face Russia.

"As the captain of the national team, I will talk to my colleagues from the team about the match with Russia in order to work out a common position on this matter and present it to the president of the Polish Football Association as soon as possible," the statement finished.

UEFA's decision to move the Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris has been criticised by the Russian Football Union (RFU), which believes the move was "dictated by political reasons".

The decision came after European football's governing body condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Thursday and called an emergency meeting of the executive committee to discuss the situation.

It is understood UEFA agreed to relocate the final on Thursday, the first day of Russia's military assault, which continued on Friday. An announcement was delayed while a suitable new venue was selected.

The match will now be held at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, Paris at the original time of 20:00 GMT (21:00 CET) on May 28.

It was also ordered that all Russian and Ukrainian club sides, as well as the national teams, must play their home matches at neutral venues "until further notice" during competitions that fall under the auspices of UEFA.

The RFU criticised UEFA's announcement, adamant the Krestovsky Arena was still able to meet requirements, including from a safety perspective.

RFU president Alexander Dyukov, who is also chairman of majority state-owned Russian energy company Gazprom, which sponsors the Champions League and the Krestovsky Stadium, said: "The Russian Football Union has been acting as a reliable partner of UEFA for a long time, not only fulfilling all the necessary obligations, but also offering and providing comprehensive support in the implementation of new projects and holding major competitions.

"The most important and prestigious of them was to be the UEFA Champions League final in St Petersburg, preparations for which have continued to this day and fully met all the requirements, including from the point of view of safety.

"We believe that the decision to move the venue of the Champions League final was dictated by political reasons. The RFU has always adhered to the principle of 'sport is out of politics', and thus cannot support this decision.

"The RFU also does not support the decision to transfer any matches involving Russian teams to neutral territory as this violates the sports principle and infringes on the interests of players, coaches and fans.

"We are always ready to provide all the necessary guarantees for holding international football matches in Russia with a high level of organisation and security."

The RFU's statement also noted that it will continue its preparations to host Poland in Moscow in next month's World Cup qualifying play-off after the Polish Football Association (PZPN) and its counterparts from Sweden and the Czech Republic – either of whom could play Russia in the second play-off finals – signed a joint statement saying they would not play matches in the country.

The RFU added: "The introduced restrictions do not apply to the matches of the qualifying stage of the World Cup in Qatar, held under the auspices of FIFA on March 24 and 29. The RFU continues to prepare for them as planned."

The Ukrainian Premier League has been suspended after the government's imposition of martial law following neighbouring Russia's decision to launch an attack on the country.

Russian president Vladimir Putin opted to launch a military assault on Ukraine on Thursday, having previously recognised the independence of two breakaway regions in the east of the country.

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, responded by cutting diplomatic ties with Moscow and announcing the imposition of martial law.

As a result, Ukraine's premier footballing competition will be forced to halt. 

"Due to the imposition of martial law in Ukraine, the championship of Ukraine has been suspended," read a short statement on the league's website.

Defending champions and 16-time winners Dynamo Kiev currently trail Shakhtar Donetsk by two points at the division's summit, although the competition's ability to reach a conclusion will now be thrown into doubt.

The ongoing crisis has also brought scrutiny to UEFA's decision to host May's Champions League final in the Russian city of St Petersburg, with recent reports suggesting European football's showpiece event could be moved from the Gazprom Arena.

Likewise, FIFA's World Cup qualification campaign could also be affected, with Russia due to face Poland and Ukraine set to meet Scotland in the upcoming play-offs next month.

Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini is set to miss the first leg of the Bianconeri's Champions League last-16 tie with a Villarreal after sustaining a calf injury that will reportedly sideline him for a month.

Chiellini, 37, suffered the issue in Juve's 2-0 win over Hellas Verona on Sunday and a statement on Tuesday confirmed it was a calf strain.

The statement read: "Giorgio Chiellini underwent radiological scans at J Medical today, which revealed a low-grade lesion of the deep musculature of the left calf."

While Juve have not put a specific timeframe on his recovery, reports across the Italian media suggest he is likely to miss the rest of February.

As such, he is likely to miss five matches, starting with Thursday's Coppa Italia clash with Sassuolo.

Juve are also due to face Atalanta, Torino and Empoli in Serie A before the end of the month, while they go to Villarreal for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on February 22.

However, Chiellini should be able to feature in the return leg on March 16, while Roberto Mancini can still expect to select his captain at the crucial end of their World Cup qualification campaign.

European champions Italy did not secure automatic World Cup qualification, meaning they must face North Macedonia in the play-off semi-finals – Portugal or Turkey await in the play-off finals.

If Italy do not reach Qatar 2022, it will be the first time in history the Azzurri have failed to qualify for successive World Cups.

Mario Balotelli has been called up for a three-day Italy training camp and Joao Pedro is among the new faces given the nod by Roberto Mancini.

Balotelli has not played for his country for over three years, but the in-form striker was named among 35 players who will assemble for a camp in Coverciano from Wednesday to Friday this week.

The enigmatic 31-year-old has scored nine goals for Adana Demirspor since joining the Turkish Super Lig side in July, including three in his past four matches.

Brazil-born duo Joao Pedro and Luiz Felipe are among seven uncapped players brought in by Mancini two months before the European champions face North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifying play-off.

Marco Carnesecchi, Giorgio Scalvini, Nicolo Fagioli, Davide Frattesi and Samuele Ricci were also called up for the first time.

The Azzurri do battle with North Macedonia in a play-off semi-final at Stadio Renzo Barbera on March 24.

If they come out on top in Palermo, Italy will then face Portugal or Turkey knowing a victory will seal their place in the tournament in Qatar this year.

 

Italy training squad:

Marco Carnesecchi, Alessio Cragno, Alex Meret, Salvatore Sirigu; Alessandro Bastoni, Cristiano Biraghi, Davide Calabria, Giorgio Chiellini, Mattia De Sciglio, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Alessandro Florenzi, Luiz Felipe, Gianluca Mancini, Luca Pellegrini, Giorgio Scalvini, Rafael Toloi; Nicolo Barella, Bryan Cristante, Nicolo Fagioli, Davide Frattesi, Manuel Locatelli, Matteo Pessina, Samuele Ricci, Stefano Sensi, Sandro Tonali; Mario Balotelli, Domenico Berardi, Federico Bernardeschi, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Joao Pedro, Giacomo Raspadori, Gianluca Scamacca, Mattia Zaccagni, Nicolo Zaniolo.

Juventus winger Federico Chiesa will not play again this season after undergoing knee surgery on Sunday.

The Serie A giants said Chiesa is likely to be sidelined for around seven months, meaning he could return in the early stages of the 2022-23 campaign.

That would give Chiesa a chance to prove his fitness to Italy boss Roberto Mancini ahead of the World Cup starting in November, providing the Azzurri qualify. It definitively means Chiesa can be ruled out of Italy's plans for the World Cup play-offs.

The European champions face North Macedonia in the play-off semi-finals in March and will then meet either Turkey or Portugal for a place in Qatar.

Chiesa was hurt in the thrilling 4-3 Serie A victory over Jose Mourinho's Roma two weeks ago, sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury. He was substituted in the first half of that game.

Juventus said Chiesa's operation had gone to plan, indicating they had been expecting this outcome.

The club said in a statement on Sunday: "This afternoon, Federico Chiesa underwent surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

"The operation, performed at the Hochrum clinic in Innsbruck by Professor Christian Fink and in the presence of Juventus' Dr Stefanini, proved to be a perfect success. The expected recovery time is approximately seven months."

His confirmed absence is a huge blow to Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri, whose side were in Serie A action against Milan on Sunday evening.

Juve have recently appeared to have turned a corner after a rocky start to the season, but they still face a battle to secure a top-four finish and a place in next season's Champions League.

Their Champions League last-16 tie with Villarreal begins in February, and Chiesa will only be a spectator.

After making an impressive impact in Euro 2020, Chiesa scored four goals and provided two assists in 18 appearances for Juve in all competitions this season.

Juventus star Federico Chiesa will undergo surgery in the coming days on an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

The Italy international was hurt in the thrilling 4-3 Serie A victory over Jose Mourinho's Roma on Sunday.

The winger suffered what Juve described as "a blunt trauma sprain" to his left knee, which left him requiring crutches to attend the club's medical centre on Monday.

"The diagnostic tests performed this morning at J|Medical revealed an injury of the anterior cruciate ligament," Juve's statement said.

"It will be necessary for the player to undergo surgery in the next few days."

Chiesa is likely to miss the rest of the season in what is a huge blow to Massimiliano Allegri's side.

The Bianconeri, who face Inter in the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday, are 11 points off the league-leading champions and three outside the top four.

They continue their Coppa Italia defence against Sampdoria next week, while their Champions League last-16 tie with Villarreal begins in February.

Chiesa's injury is also a significant setback for Italy's hopes of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

The European champions face North Macedonia in the play-off semi-finals in March and will then meet either Turkey or Portugal for a place in Qatar.

 

Chiesa has four goals and two assists in 18 appearances for Juve in all competitions this season, his dynamic displays with the ball at his feet often a notable bright spot in a difficult campaign for Allegri.

He has the most overall take-ons (68) and take-ons in the opponents' half (51) of any Juve player this term, while his average carry progress of 7.8 metres per attempt is the best of anyone in the squad to make more than one appearance.

In total, 23 of his carries – where a player moves five metres or more with the ball – have ended in either a shot or a chance created. Among Juve players, only Alvaro Morata, who has played seven more matches, can better this figure (28).

Roberto Mancini has expressed regret about Italy's failure to secure automatic World Cup qualification and warned the Azzurri must forget about their Euro 2020 success ahead of the playoffs.

Italy, who missed out on the 2018 World Cup, have undergone a transformative period under former Inter and Manchester City manager Mancini. That culminated in them triumphing at Euro 2020 – their first European Championship title since 1968.

The Azzurri embarked on a world-record 37-game unbeaten run, which ended at the hands of Spain in the Nations League semi-finals in October, but their World Cup prospects hang in the balance.

Italy finished runners-up to Switzerland in Group C, as did Portugal to Serbia in Group A. The pair were then drawn on the same play-off path, meaning there is no way that Mancini's side and Cristiano Ronaldo and co can both qualify for Qatar 2022.

Italy have to navigate past North Macedonia in the play-off semi-final in late March and Mancini wishes his side had managed to confirm qualification earlier.

He told Sky Sports Italia: "Yes, but this is football, it is sport. Sometimes you deserve to win and you don't win, we deserved to finish the group much earlier.

"We let ourselves go a bit and now we have to roll up our sleeves and do a great job in the two games. But I remain optimistic, as I knew that our group with Switzerland would be difficult. I thought we would qualify, but I knew it would be difficult."

Reflecting on Euro 2020 success, Mancini said: "We have done an extraordinary thing, we have made millions of people happy. It is the most beautiful thing, of which we are all proud.

"But the European Championship is behind us, now we have to think about something else."

The play-offs are one-leg ties, with Italy and Portugal hosting North Macedonia and Turkey in their respective semi-finals.

The winners of those two semi-finals will meet in a final, in which Portugal or Turkey will be at home, to secure a place at Qatar 2022.

If Italy can negotiate such a tricky route, Mancini believes they have players who will benefit from experiencing a World Cup.

He said: "There are many players who can improve a lot and, for me, it will be important to go to the World Cup because I think there are 10-12 players who can improve a lot going to the World Cup, if we go there."

Ellen White became England women's all-time top scorer as she netted a hat-trick in a record-breaking 20-0 demolition of Latvia in World Cup qualifying.

The Manchester City forward, making her 101st appearance for her country, equalled Kelly Smith's record of 106 goals for England after just six minutes at the Keepmoat Stadium.

White, who achieved the mark in 16 games fewer than Smith, surpassed the milestone just three minutes later before adding her third – one of four hat-tricks scored by England on Tuesday – after the interval.

The 32-year-old now has 48 goals for the Lionesses, averaging almost a goal per game, following England's record competitive win. Their 13-0 thrashing of Hungary in October 2005 was the previous biggest margin of victory.

In total England, who had hit double figures 10 times previously since the team started in 1972, had 10 different goalscorers and over their two group matches against Latvia have attempted 121 shots while facing none in return, according to Opta data.

England remain top of their World Cup qualifying group, with a perfect six wins from six games, in which they have managed 53 goals and conceded none in reply.

White is also the second-highest scorer in Women's Super League history, netting 58 times in 126 appearances for Arsenal, Notts County, Birmingham and Manchester City.

It took the man in the waistcoat to turn the tanker.

In a year's time, England will be at the Qatar 2022 World Cup with serious aspirations of bringing back the trophy. And while there are a number of key figures who have made that prospect realistic, nobody stands out quite like Gareth Southgate, who on Tuesday celebrated a five-year anniversary as manager.

Greg Dyke was a newly appointed chairman of the English Football Association (FA) when he declared in a famous 2013 speech: "English football is a tanker that needs turning."

He spoke that day of wishing to create an England team that could be successful on the world stage.

"The two targets I have for the England team are – one, to at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and two, win the World Cup in 2022," Dyke said. Many duly scoffed.

Nine years on, England have ticked one box, with Southgate's team finishing runners-up to Italy at the delayed Euros; now, a nation expects as his squad bid to match Alf Ramsey's 1966 heroes.

 

A questionable choice?

It was not Dyke who selected Southgate after Roy Hodgson's four-year reign ended and successor Sam Allardyce lasted just one game, an ill-fated choice.

Indeed, as Dyke left his post at FA HQ in the summer of 2016, he questioned the appeal of the England manager's job, specifically asking "why anybody would want it".

Southgate was unsure initially too, albeit for a different reason, saying the role "wasn't something I think I've got the experience for". But his tune soon changed, with Allardyce's reign ending abruptly after a newspaper investigation within weeks of his appointment and the FA needing a steady hand on the tiller.

Southgate made 426 Premier League appearances in his playing career – more than anyone else with zero appearances off the bench. He was therefore not used to being deployed as a substitute, but on this occasion he accepted the chance to step in as a replacement.

His credibility for the England post had been questioned, with former Tottenham and West Ham boss Harry Redknapp dismissive of the notion that Southgate would know all about the English system.

"Knows what system? The losing system? He knows the losing formula? I like Gareth Southgate, he's a great lad," Redknapp told BBC Radio 5 Live, "but what's he done?"

Egyptian striker Mido, who played under Southgate at Middlesbrough, tweeted: "I can't believe that in England they are talking about @GarethSouthgate to become the new Manager!! I hope he learned since the @Boro days!!"

Even former Three Lions midfielder Jermaine Jenas balked at the prospect of Southgate's three years as England Under-21 manager being a suitable pathway to the senior role, instead throwing his support behind Glenn Hoddle.

In a column for Yahoo, Jenas said of Hoddle: "I know he has been out of the managerial game for a long time, but I certainly think he would be a better option than Southgate."

 

From scaredy cats to roaring lions

Dyke said Roy Hodgson's England were "just scared" as they lost to Iceland at the Euro 2016 last-16 stage, heading home humiliated by relative minnows. Hodgson promptly resigned.

"It's the same in all sport," Dyke said. "Really talented sportsmen can just freeze. That's what happens."

After the Allardyce interlude came Southgate's appointment as a caretaker coach, and British bookmakers swiftly rated him favourite to keep the job on a permanent basis, ranking Steve Bruce, Alan Pardew, Eddie Howe and Hoddle as next in line on the list of likely candidates.

As well as having managed the England Under-21 team, Southgate also previously held the role of head of elite development at the FA. Jenas might not have liked it, but getting not only a foot in the door, but both feet and an office to call his own, and the respect of a young generation of rising stars, made Southgate an obviously worthy candidate.

Wins over Malta and Scotland, and draws with Slovenia and Spain, earned Southgate an interview for the permanent post, and he impressed a selection panel that featured FA chief executive Martin Glenn, technical director Dan Ashworth and chairman Greg Clarke – Dyke's successor – to the point he was handed the job permanently on November 30, 2016.

Southgate has been a revelation: England reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, losing out to Croatia, before surging through to the Euro 2020 title match, a first major final since Bobby Moore led the team to World Cup glory.

Along the way, the man who was a scapegoat for England's Euro 96 exit, when he missed a crucial semi-final shoot-out penalty against Germany, has become a national treasure.

"Southgate, you're the one" sing England fans nowadays, while his uptake of a waistcoat on the touchline became a symbol of stylistic significance at the World Cup in Russia, sparking a rush of high street sales and analysis by the fashion media.

The England boss told the BBC: "If you had said to the players when I started at Crystal Palace that I was going to be upheld as the sartorial model for the country, you'd have been hooted out of the training ground."

 

How has he developed a new England?

Once Southgate was handed the job permanently, he was able to outline his manifesto. "When I played, particularly in 1996, there were captains through the team that were captains of their club," he said.

The England starting XI for the fateful Iceland game in 2016 contained one club captain: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney. For the team's most recent game, the 10-0 drubbing of San Marino, Southgate named a defensive unit consisting of three club skippers: Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings, Wolves' Conor Coady and Manchester United's Harry Maguire.

Harry Kane captains England but not his club, Tottenham. Southgate rates him as a leader par excellence. Jordan Henderson has built up years of experience in skippering Liverpool and is another England regular and vice-captain of the team.

In terms of leadership, England have no shortage of on-field generals, the ideal complement to their burgeoning crop of talented, freewheeling youngsters. This is entirely deliberate.

Southgate also declared he wanted a team "that excites the public, that the supporters like watching and are proud of".

A competitive record of 44 wins, 14 draws and 10 defeats in 68 games gives him a winning record of 64.7 per cent. Of England managers with more than one game in charge, that is second only to Fabio Capello's 66.7 per cent (42 games, 28 wins, eight draws, six defeats). World Cup winner Ramsey achieved a 61.1 per cent win record from 113 games.

Southgate has explored his options and given debuts to 50 players, the most since Bobby Robson, who handed first caps to 64 players during his eight-year tenure.

Of the debutants under Southgate, Jordan Pickford has played the most games (42), followed by Maguire (41), Kieran Trippier (35) and Jesse Lingard (32). There have been 14 players who have won just one cap to date in the Southgate era, but among those are a number of players who might realistically expect to win plenty more, such as Harvey Barnes, Nathaniel Chalobah, Conor Gallagher, Mason Greenwood, Dean Henderson, James Maddison and Aaron Ramsdale.

Others seem likelier to go down as one-cap wonders, such as Dominic Solanke, Nathan Redmond, Jack Cork and Lewis Cook. But Southgate has rewarded players in form, cultivating an open-door policy within the England camp that can only be healthy.

Twenty of the debutants have been aged 21 or under, with the youngest being Borussia Dortmund livewire Jude Bellingham, who was 17 years and 136 days old when he featured against the Republic of Ireland in November 2020.

In total, Southgate has capped 83 players to date. There should be many more to come, with the manager recently signing a contract extension through to 2024

Kane, who made his debut under Hodgson, has made more appearances than any other player (50) and scored the most goals (43) during the Southgate era.

 

"Can we not knock it?"

That was the famous remark caught by documentary film-makers as Graham Taylor spluttered in frustration in the dugout at an England attack breaking down all too easily.

The game was a World Cup qualifier in 1993 against Poland, with David Bardsley lifting a long pass hopefully towards Teddy Sheringham, who could not nod the ball down into the path of Carlton Palmer. Taylor could not contain himself.

England's tactics were all too obvious then, subtlety not their strength, with overseas influences yet to seriously permeate the domestic leagues.

There has been progress in the years since, but even when Southgate came in, he felt England were too narrow-minded in some respects, saying he needed "to broaden the horizons" of his players.

"Because the lads see one league... they think we're the centre of the Earth and we're not," Southgate said. "That's what hit me. Other countries are quite happy to say nice things to us and then they pack us off home at a certain stage [of a tournament] and think, 'Good, we've got rid of them'. That's how it feels to me and I don't like it."

England perhaps still have some catching up to do, but Southgate is shifting the culture significantly.

This can be examined through the prism of World Cup qualifiers – Southgate's first campaign leading up to the 2018 tournament, and his latest, which saw England ease into the hat for next year's finals. In both campaigns, England played 10 games, winning eight times and drawing twice.

England are steadily learning to keep the ball and be patient, moving from 195 sequences of 10-plus passes in the 2018 qualifying campaign to 268 for the 2022 preliminaries, putting them second only to Germany among European teams, albeit Spain (253) in third place played just eight games.

They are achieving more high turnovers too, going from 82 in 2018 World Cup qualifying to 111 in their quest to reach Qatar 2022. In that aspect, England have jumped from ninth to third in Europe.

Hodgson's Euro 2016 squad contained players plucked exclusively from the Premier League, with his 23-man group including stars from 11 clubs.

Southgate's 26-strong Euro 2020 party contained representatives of 16 teams, including Trippier from Atletico Madrid and Bellingham and Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund. Gone, for now, are the days of England squads being dominated by players from a small group of clubs.

 

Making Dyke's vision a reality

The acid test comes at major tournament level, and to date Southgate's England are showing up on the big stage – at least until it comes to the crunch. They stood widely accused in both the Croatia semi-final and the Italy final of retreating into their shell, having taken the lead early in each game and then failed to build on the strong start.

That is something Southgate must address and surely will. This is a technically gifted England now, with a coach who has brought more sophistication to the role than many expected.

All that being said, there are still aspects of England's play that perhaps hark back to bygone days. They played 391 long passes at Euro 2020, more than any other side, although this should not be a serious concern given that was only marginally more than champions Italy (363), and semi-finalists Denmark (340) and Spain (339) were not lagging far behind.

Old habits die hard though and England remain the kings of the 'launch' – defined by Opta as "a long high ball into space or into an area for players to chase or challenge for the ball".

They hit 125 of these in the Euros, with the Czech Republic next on the list with 96. Just 27 of England's launches were judged to be successful, and Southgate may reflect on the fact Italy played just 52 such hit-and-hopes on their way to the title.

There is always learning to be done, advances to be achieved. Such data will be monitored by England, with a view to sculpting a winning tactical model in time for next November.

"I like Gareth Southgate, he's a great lad, but what's he done?" was Harry Redknapp's question five years ago.

Turns out, rather a lot in a short space of time. The tanker has turned.

Roberto Mancini admitted Italy would rather not have to do battle with Portugal for a place in the 2022 World Cup if they get past North Macedonia.

The European champions were on Friday drawn to face North Macedonia in a semi-final next March after missing out on automatic qualification for the tournament in Qatar.

Italy will come up against either Portugal or Turkey in a decisive showdown if they avoid a semi-final upset.

Euro 2016 champions Portugal were consigned to a play-off spot in dramatic fashion as Aleksandar Mitrovic's last-gasp strike saw Serbia through as Group A winners.

Italy boss Mancini is confident his side will qualify, but gave an honest reaction to the prospect of trying to deny Cristiano Ronaldo what could be his last trip to a World Cup.

He said: "We are always confident and positive. Macedonia had a good qualifying group, we will have to play a great match. Then we will see what happens in the final.

Asked about the prospect of coming up against Portugal, he said: "We would have liked to avoid them, in the same way Portugal would have gladly avoided Italy."

The draw also threw up the possibility of Wales going up against Scotland for a place in the finals, should they overcome Austria and Ukraine.

Russia will host Poland, with the winners playing either Sweden or the Czech Republic. 

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