Spain will face Germany in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup, while Qatar were given a tough draw as the hosts will come up against the Netherlands and Senegal.

Luis Enrique's Spain and their fellow European heavyweights Germany will do battle in Group E along with Japan, while the winner of a play-off between Costa Rica or New Zealand will be their other opponents.

Qatar will take on Ecuador in the opening game of the tournament at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor on November 21 before coming up against African champions Senegal and the Oranje in Group A.

The ceremony in Doha on Friday saw holders France drawn to lock horns with Denmark, Tunisia and either Peru, Australia or the United Arab Emirates in Group D.

 

Five-time champions Brazil, the top-ranked side in the world, will fight it out with Switzerland, Serbia and Cameroon in Group G.

England, semi-finalists in Russia four years ago, could face neighbours and fierce rivals Wales or Scotland in Group B, although Ukraine are also in contention to qualify via the play-offs. 

Gareth Southgate's side will definitely take on the United States and Iran in Group B.

 

Copa America champions Argentina, captained by the mercurial Lionel Messi, will be expected to advance from a Group C that will see them face Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

The 2018 runners-up Croatia and Belgium were drawn in Group F along with Morocco and Canada, who qualified for a World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana will be in Group H.

 

Spain will face Germany in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup, while Qatar were given a tough draw as the hosts will come up against Netherlands and Senegal.

Gareth Southgate insists England are among a select band of teams that can win the World Cup – but to land glory in Qatar they must be "close to perfect".

As he waited to learn his team's fate in Friday's draw, Southgate was taking confidence from the upturn in England's performance on big stages in recent years.

A semi-final run at the 2018 World Cup in Russia was followed by another appearance in the last-four stage of the Nations League, before England went close to landing a long-awaited trophy in the delayed Euro 2020 tournament.

Reaching the final of the European Championship means England should head to Qatar in November with plenty of belief as they attempt to land a second World Cup, some 56 years after Geoff Hurst's hat-trick against West Germany in the 1966 final.

"The World Cup is very special. It's the pinnacle. It's still the ultimate prize," said Southgate.

"What have we said to the team this week? That if we can get to a semi-final, we can get to a final – which we did. And if we can get to a final, we can win.

"To do that is incredibly difficult, and we'll have to be as close to perfect as can be. That's the challenge for us, not just when we get to Qatar, because we've got to be in the right condition, even before that. That's what we've got to work towards every day we're together."

Southgate, whose side have beaten Switzerland and Ivory Coast in the past week, added: "We know we've had consistent performances over a three, four-year period, and we are one of the teams – I think there are a few – that could win this tournament."

In charge since September 2016, Southgate has surpassed most initial expectations of his reign already, bringing through an exciting generation of young players who were only denied Euro 2020 glory by Italy in a penalty shoot-out.

England have qualified for the World Cup for the 16th time, and Qatar 2022 will mark their seventh appearance in a row, their longest streak in the competition.

The Three Lions have progressed past the quarter-finals only twice since their Wembley triumph in 1966, but they have not been to another final.

This time there are signs that England might be ready to take that step. They had the best goal difference in the group stage among European qualifiers, scoring 39 goals and conceding only three, and Southgate expects other national teams will be wary of his side.

He said, quoted widely in British media on Friday: "We've definitely got respectability and I think we will be a team other teams wouldn't look forward to playing. But that's a double-edged sword though because some teams are going to prepare differently for you.

"You're there to be shot at, and they are going to have a specific way of playing to try and stop you, but some will be a little bit fearful of you and might allow you more of the game, so from our point of view, what really matters is how it makes us feel about ourselves."

Qatar 2022 is fast approaching and the anticipation will surely be at its most intense so far when Friday's draw for the group stage is completed.

The Doha Exhibition and Convention Center plays host to the milestone event, which will see eight groups drawn from pots as the eventual storylines of the World Cup begin to unfurl.

Among the narratives that will start being mapped out on Friday is France's title defence, with Les Bleus hoping to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to successfully defend their World Cup crown.

Ahead of the draw, Stats Perform provides a lowdown of all the key information…

 

How will the draw work?

Most of us have seen a draw and understand the general premise, but there's a lot of detail to consider before we end up with our completed group stage.

For starters, the draw (19:00 local time) will only include 29 qualified teams, with the other three spots to consist of a couple of intercontinental play-off slot placeholders and one UEFA play-off slot placeholder, with those nations to be determined later in the year.

The qualified teams will be sorted into four pots of eight, with their FIFA world ranking determining which they enter – joining Qatar in pot one will be the top seven teams, while the nations ranked eight-15 will be in pot 2, and so on. The three play-off slot placeholders will be drawn from pot four.

There will also be eight pots representing the groups, A to H. Each group pot contains four balls with position numbers, ranging from one to four, which correspond to the teams' respective starting position in the tables and subsequently impact their fixture schedule.

Team pot one will be the first to empty, with Qatar automatically drawn into slot A1. The other sides from pot one will go straight into position one of the remaining groups.

From then on, a ball is drawn from a team pot and followed by one from a group pot, determining that team's position – for example, the second nation drawn into Group A could be placed in slot A4. The process continues until each team pot is emptied, with pot four the last to be drawn.

Where possible, no group will contain more than one team from the same qualification zone, with the exception of Europe – so anyone hoping for an encounter like Brazil v Uruguay will have to wait for the knockout stage.

Thursday's release of the latest world rankings confirmed the make-up of the respective pots, so, without any further ado, let's take a look through them…

The Pots

Pot One:

Qatar (hosts)
Brazil
Belgium
France
Argentina
England
Spain
Portugal

 

Pot Two:

Denmark
Netherlands
Germany
Mexico 
USA
Switzerland
Croatia
Uruguay

Pot Three:

Senegal
Iran
Japan
Morocco
Serbia
Poland
South Korea
Tunisia

 

Pot Four:

Cameroon
Canada
Ecuador
Saudi Arabia
Ghana
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 1 
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 2
UEFA play-off placeholder

Luck of the draw!

It goes without saying that, theoretically, being in pot one means you would be favourites to win your group. But that's the beauty of football; practically anything can happen once you're on the pitch.

If we look back to the last World Cup four years ago, defending champions Germany were top of the FIFA rankings and in pot one, but then failed to get through the group stage for the first time ever.

 

But just as being in a higher pot is no guarantee of going deep into the tournament, who's to say how eventual 2018 champions France would have fared had they been in pot two?

Les Bleus were ranked seventh at the time so squeezed into pot one ahead of Spain. While that arguably gave them a trickier route to the final in the knockout phase, perhaps the tests posed by Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium were what kept them sharp all the way to the end?

This time around, Spain do appear in pot one. Portugal do as well, with Fernando Santos' men benefiting in that regard from European champions Italy's shock absence.

Nevertheless, there are some powerful teams in pot two. The Netherlands and Germany are undoubtedly the pick of the bunch there, both of whom will provide a stern test for any of the teams in pot one. Brazil v Die Mannschaft in the group stage, anyone?

There's a chance we could even see a repeat of the 2018 final in the group stage, with Croatia (pot two) able to come up against France in the opening round, while an England v United States showdown would surely capture the imagination of fans on both sides of 'the pond'.

We can expect to see plenty of quality in pot three as well, especially with Serbia, Robert Lewandowski's Poland and African champions Senegal present.

Among those in pot four are Canada. They may only be competing in their second World Cup and first since 1986, but John Herdman's team have won plenty of admirers en route to winning the CONCACAF qualifying section ahead of Mexico and reaching a record high of 33rd in the rankings.

 

Excitement, expectations and exoduses as Ronaldo and Messi look likely to bow out

Whether watching football on TV or from the stands, it can often be easy to forget that our heroes are just ordinary people as well. They are individuals who in all likelihood had the same hopes and dreams as many of us as children.

The glitz and glamour surrounding professional football can lead us to put footballers on a pedestal, but behind the sport's shiny facade, our teams are made up of – and coached by – people who are just as obsessed with the idea of the World Cup as anyone else.

England manager Gareth Southgate encapsulated the excitement earlier this week, as he said: "[The World Cup evokes] a different sort of feeling, but it's still a tournament we all watched as kids, we all filled our wallcharts out, we all hoped and followed when England were there that we would do well. And it's a unique chance to make history, so that of course is massively exciting."

Of course, that innocent excitement harbours expectation and hope for many, for others there will be a feeling of responsibility to amend the wrongs of the past.

This time around, that's arguably truest when looking at Germany, with Manuel Neuer fully appreciating he may not get another opportunity to put things right.

"I know that I will probably not get to play many more World Cups, so after crashing out in 2018 in Russia and our exit against England [at Euro 2020], it's important that we show a new version of ourselves and visualise success," the experienced goalkeeper said.

That finality Neuer alluded to is another key aspect of the World Cup. Given the four-year cycle of the tournament, every time we bid a fond farewell to a few greats of the game who opt to take advantage of the cyclical nature and end their international careers.

 

This time it looks as though Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who for so long battled out their own personal 'Greatest of All-Time' rivalry – may be among those appearing on the World Cup stage for the last time.

"Goal achieved, we're at the Qatar World Cup. We're in our rightful place!" Ronaldo's Instagram post after Portugal's play-off success focused on the positive, but at 37, Qatar 2022 will surely be his final appearance at the tournament.

As for Messi, he said last week: "I don't know, the truth is I don't know. Let's hope [Argentina's preparations] go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change."

Exoduses after major international tournaments are common as teams reset or rebuild, but given what Messi and Ronaldo have represented on the pitch and the fact they've appeared at each of the previous four World Cups, their appearances at Qatar 2022 need to be savoured.

It all begins with Friday's draw, when narratives and talking points that'll live longer than any of us will start to take shape with the unscrewing of a few shiny plastic balls.

It's nearly four years since Didier Deschamps became only the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach, as he guided France to their second success on football's grandest stage.

The target now for Les Bleus is to become the first nation since Brazil in 1962 to retain their crown, and that journey begins on Friday with the draw for the group stage of Qatar 2022.

Four years is a long time to wait for anything, but the draw for the World Cup is always a milestone event that sees the anticipation taken up a notch.

The eyes of the football world will be on the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, where the eight groups will be drawn and potential routes to December's finale can start being plotted.

But there is a little more to the draw than that…

 

How will the draw work?

Most of us have seen a draw and understand the general premise, but there's a lot of detail to consider before we end up with our completed group stage.

For starters, Friday's draw (19:00 local time) will only include 29 qualified teams, with the other three spots to consist of a couple of intercontinental play-off slot placeholders and one UEFA play-off slot placeholder, with those nations to be determined later in the year.

The qualified teams will be sorted into four pots of eight, with their FIFA world ranking determining which they enter – joining Qatar in pot one will be the top seven teams, while the nations ranked eight-15 will be in pot 2, and so on. The three play-off slot placeholders will be drawn from pot four.

There will also be eight pots representing the groups, A to H. Each group pot contains four balls with position numbers, ranging from one to four, which correspond to the teams' respective starting position in the tables and subsequently impact their fixture schedule.

Team pot one will be the first to empty, with Qatar automatically drawn into slot A1. The other sides from pot one will go straight into position one of the remaining groups.

From then on, a ball is drawn from a team pot and followed by one from a group pot, determining that team's position – for example, the second nation drawn into Group A could be placed in slot A4. The process continues until each team pot is emptied, with pot four the last to be drawn.

Where possible, no group will contain more than one team from the same qualification zone, with the exception of Europe – so anyone hoping for an encounter like Brazil v Uruguay will have to wait for the knockout stage.

Thursday's release of the latest world rankings confirmed the make-up of the respective pots, so, without any further ado, let's take a look through them…

The Pots

Pot One:

Qatar (hosts)
Brazil
Belgium
France
Argentina
England
Spain
Portugal

 

Pot Two:

Denmark
Netherlands
Germany
Mexico 
USA
Switzerland
Croatia
Uruguay

Pot Three:

Senegal
Iran
Japan
Morocco
Serbia
Poland
South Korea
Tunisia

 

Pot Four:

Cameroon
Canada
Ecuador
Saudi Arabia
Ghana
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 1 
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 2
UEFA play-off placeholder

Luck of the draw!

It goes without saying that, theoretically, being in pot one means you would be favourites to win your group. But that's the beauty of football; practically anything can happen once you're on the pitch.

If we look back to the last World Cup four years ago, defending champions Germany were top of the FIFA rankings and in pot one, but then failed to get through the group stage for the first time ever.

 

But just as being in a higher pot is no guarantee of going deep into the tournament, who's to say how eventual 2018 champions France would have fared had they been in pot two?

Les Bleus were ranked seventh at the time so squeezed into pot one ahead of Spain. While that arguably gave them a trickier route to the final in the knockout phase, perhaps the tests posed by Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium were what kept them sharp all the way to the end?

This time around, Spain do appear in pot one. Portugal do as well, with Fernando Santos' men benefiting in that regard from European champions Italy's shock absence.

Nevertheless, there are some powerful teams in pot two. The Netherlands and Germany are undoubtedly the pick of the bunch there, both of whom will provide a stern test for any of the teams in pot one. Brazil v Die Mannschaft in the group stage, anyone?

There's a chance we could even see a repeat of the 2018 final in the group stage, with Croatia (pot two) able to come up against France in the opening round, while an England v United States showdown would surely capture the imagination of fans on both sides of 'the pond'.

We can expect to see plenty of quality in pot three as well, especially with Serbia, Robert Lewandowski's Poland and African champions Senegal present.

Among those in pot four are Canada. They may only be competing in their second World Cup and first since 1986, but John Herdman's team have won plenty of admirers en route to winning the CONCACAF qualifying section and reaching a record high of 33rd in the rankings.

 

Excitement, expectations and exoduses as Ronaldo and Messi look likely to bow out

Whether watching football on TV or from the stands, it can often be easy to forget that our heroes are just ordinary people as well. They are individuals who in all likelihood had the same hopes and dreams as many of us as children.

The glitz and glamour surrounding professional football can lead us to put footballers on a pedestal, but behind the sport's shiny facade, our teams are made up of – and coached by – people who are just as obsessed with the idea of the World Cup as anyone else.

England manager Gareth Southgate encapsulated the excitement earlier this week, as he said: "[The World Cup evokes] a different sort of feeling, but it's still a tournament we all watched as kids, we all filled our wallcharts out, we all hoped and followed when England were there that we would do well. And it's a unique chance to make history, so that of course is massively exciting."

Of course, that innocent excitement harbours expectation and hope for many, for others there will be a feeling of responsibility to amend the wrongs of the past.

This time around, that's arguably truest when looking at Germany, with Manuel Neuer fully appreciating he may not get another opportunity to put things right.

"I know that I will probably not get to play many more World Cups, so after crashing out in 2018 in Russia and our exit against England [at Euro 2020], it's important that we show a new version of ourselves and visualise success," the experienced goalkeeper said.

That finality Neuer alluded to is another key aspect of the World Cup. Given the four-year cycle of the tournament, every time we bid a fond farewell to a few greats of the game who opt to take advantage of the cyclical nature and end their international careers.

 

This time it looks as though Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who for so long battled out their own personal 'Greatest of All-Time' rivalry – may be among those appearing on the World Cup stage for the last time.

"Goal achieved, we're at the Qatar World Cup. We're in our rightful place!" Ronaldo's Instagram post after Portugal's play-off success focused on the positive, but at 37, Qatar 2022 will surely be his final appearance at the tournament.

As for Messi, he said last week: "I don't know, the truth is I don't know. Let's hope [Argentina's preparations] go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change."

Exoduses after major international tournaments are common as teams reset or rebuild, but given what Messi and Ronaldo have represented on the pitch and the fact they've appeared at each of the previous four World Cups, their appearances at Qatar 2022 need to be savoured.

It all begins with Friday's draw, when narratives and talking points that'll live longer than any of us will start to take shape with the unscrewing of a few shiny plastic balls.

England manager Gareth Southgate has come under criticism from Nasser Al Khater for questioning Qatar's human rights record.

Southgate confirmed earlier this month that his side intend to use the World Cup in Qatar to highlight concerns around the host country.

However, he also stressed that they must be "realistic" as any demonstration will be "complicated".

Qatar's stance towards women and the LGBTQ+ community was widely pointed to as a problem before FIFA awarded it the tournament in 2010. 

Meanwhile, the deaths of thousands of migrant workers have been reported during preparation for the finals, although Qatar's organising committee disputed what it called "inaccurate claims" around the number of fatalities.

Al Khater – the chief executive of Qatar 2022 – has rebutted Southgate's concerns, though, believing the England boss is unaware of the actual situation in the Gulf State.

"My question would be, who from the England squad has come to Qatar? My question to the coach is, has he been to Qatar? Is he basing his opinions and his public statements on what he has read? Because it is kind of an issue if you're basing your opinions and you are very vocal about that based on things you have read," Al Khater told Sky Sports.

"Somebody with a lot of influence, such as Southgate, somebody with a big audience that listens to what he says, ought to pick his words very carefully.

"And I think that before making statements like that, when it comes to the workers, he needs to come here and speak to workers and understand what workers get out of being here.

"There are isolated cases, those are the cases that make it to the media, however, I can assure him that if he comes here and speaks to the majority of the workers, they will tell you how they put their children through university, they will tell you how they've built their houses for them and their families.

"These are the stories that nobody hears, so I look forward to welcoming him here, I look forward to meeting him at the draw and he can listen to my opinion, he does not have to believe it, but at least he needs to go that far to understand different opinions and different cultures.

"No country is perfect, let's get that right and I do not think anybody can claim that, so if somebody is coming and claiming they are a perfect country, they need to really take a look at themselves."

Al Khater, who was pictured with Southgate at an event in December 2019, also suggested fans should not be concerned about travelling to Qatar.

"People are basing their opinions and fears on things they do not understand and that is usually what causes apprehension with human beings, a lack of understanding," he added.

"People are going to feel safe here, people are going to be very comfortable, what I can say to fans is, we are a modest country, we have our culture, we have our norms, what we ask of them is to respect it. What that means is, whether you are a gay couple, whether you are a heterosexual couple, we have the same norms, we look at it the same way.

"All we ask is for people to be respectful, like we are respectful when we travel around the world, and just to observe these cultural differences. Basically what it means is public displays of affection are frowned upon, that is simply it."

Roy Keane has taken aim at England manager Gareth Southgate, accusing him of "picking and choosing" when to support his players after Harry Maguire was booed by his own fans at Wembley on Tuesday.

Southgate came out in staunch defence of the centre-back, labelling the reaction from home supporters during the Three Lions' 3-0 friendly win against Ivory Coast as "an absolute joke".

However, Keane believes the former Middlesbrough boss made it "a bigger story than it is", and questioned why he had not offered the same support to other players in the past.

Speaking during ITV's post-match coverage of the game, the former Manchester United captain said: "Every player gets booed. There is going to be idiots at football matches – England have a lot of idiots.

"Gareth could have easily said tonight 'it is no big deal'. He actually played well tonight, just focus on that.

"He is almost picking and choosing when to support his players. [Raheem] Sterling had a bust-up two or three years ago and was bombed out of the squad. He's left other players out.

"I remember when [Maguire] was sent off last year against Denmark and [Southgate] didn't really support him when he was walking off the pitch.

"I think he has made it a bigger story than it is. Just get on with the game.

"He played well and he will get fans back on side with his performances, not by people reacting to a few boos or social media. Be big enough and man enough to get on with the game."

Maguire posted a message on Twitter on Wednesday morning simply saying "Enjoyable week playing for my country."

The United defender has had public support from a number of England team-mates since the game, with Jack Grealish, Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane among those who have criticised the fan reaction.

Jack Grealish is in awe of England team-mate Jude Bellingham, labelling his abilities as "scary" for one so young.

Bellingham played the full 90 minutes as the Three Lions beat 10-man Ivory Coast 3-0 at Wembley on Tuesday, catching the eye as he featured in an advanced role ahead of James Ward-Prowse and Declan Rice.

It was Bellingham's 12th senior cap, with England winning every single match he has played in – only Theo Walcott (14 matches) has enjoyed a longer winning start to his Three Lions career than the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.

Bellingham is in his second season in the Bundesliga with Dortmund and has already established himself as a key player, making 25 league starts from a possible 27.

Links to other major European clubs have been frequent for the youngster, and Grealish could not hide the admiration he holds for his fellow West Midlands-native after a mature performance.

Asked if he had ever played alongside a teenager as good as Bellingham, Grealish told reporters: "I haven't actually. It is scary how good he is at 18.

"He is just so mature. He is built like he is my age at 26. He has so much technical ability and he is mature for his age.

"I can tell you one thing, I was nowhere near as good at 18. I was at Notts County [on loan from Aston Villa] and I was a scrawny little thing as well.

"You see talented 18 or 19-year-old kids but not many are that mature as he is on the pitch. He is so versatile and can play in many different positions on the pitch.

"He can be a six, eight or a 10. It was good to play with him and I think it was my first time playing with him. It is nice to play with a fellow Brummie."

Harry Kane has launched a staunch defence of under-fire England team-mate Harry Maguire after the defender was jeered by fans, describing the reception as "just not right".

Manchester United captain Maguire started Tuesday's 3-0 win over Ivory Coast at Wembley, where goals from Ollie Watkins, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings sealed victory for the hosts.

Despite having been a key figure under Gareth Southgate, even earning a spot in the UEFA Team of the Tournament for his performances at Euro 2020, Maguire has become a target for the boo boys in club and international colours.

Southgate labelled the reaction "an absolute joke", and Kane took to Twitter on Wednesday to echo those sentiments, adding that Maguire had the full backing of his international team-mates.

"We’ve worked hard to rebuild our connection with England fans in the last few years so to hear Harry Maguire booed at Wembley before kick-off was just not right," the Tottenham striker tweeted.

"The fact that he's been brilliant on the pitch and given us all so many great memories makes it even harder to understand. He doesn't deserve that reception.

"He's got full support in the changing room and should have the same from every England fan."

 

Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson also offered his support to Maguire via social media.

"I can't get my head around what happened at Wembley tonight," he wrote on Twitter.

"Harry Maguire has been a colossus for England. Without him, the progress made at the last two tournaments would not have been possible.​

"To be booed at his home stadium, for no reason? What have we become? What happened tonight was just wrong. As someone who wants to win with England, I feel fortunate to share a dressing room with him.

"We all feel the same!"

Raheem Sterling spoke of his pride after recording a goal and an assist while standing in as England captain for Tuesday's 3-0 win over Ivory Coast.

The Manchester City winger teed up Ollie Watkins' opener before turning home the second goal after Serge Aurier had seen red for the visitors, donning the captain's armband as regular skipper Harry Kane started on the bench. 

Tyrone Mings added a late third for Gareth Southgate's men, with the Three Lions maintaining their record of having never lost to an African team, winning 14 and drawing six of their 20 clashes with sides from the continent.

Sterling's strike at Wembley, meanwhile, was his first ever friendly goal for England, with the first 18 of his 19 international goals coming in competitive fixtures.

Speaking to Sky Sports in the aftermath of the win, Sterling highlighted the role England's senior players have played in welcoming a raft of new faces to a much-changed squad this month.

"It's a good night," he said. "It's always an honour to get the opportunity to wear the captain's armband, and I thought it was a great team performance in the end.

"[Being captain] is a great privilege. Never in my wildest imagination, as a young player coming through, did I think that I would captain England one day. It's not something I'd ever have imagined. 

"I remember coming through as a young player, and it's always nice when senior players put their arm around you and make you feel comfortable, because it's a new environment, at the end of the day.

"All we can do is try to make the new players as comfortable as possible, so they can play as well as they can."

England, meanwhile, are now unbeaten in their last 22 games in all competitions inside 90 minutes, recording 18 wins and four draws during that time.

And Sterling said the Euro 2020 runners-up have to take things "game-by-game" if they are to better that run at the World Cup later this year.

"We've had two good friendlies here, where the manager has tried different formations and different teams," Sterling added.

"All we can do is just continue to build on last summer, go one game at a time, get through this summer and put in some good performances."

Gareth Southgate described the reaction of some England supporters towards Harry Maguire as "an absolute joke" after the defender was booed before kick-off on Tuesday.

Manchester United captain Maguire started the Three Lions' victory against the Ivory Coast, as goals for Ollie Watkins, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings secured a 3-0 success at Wembley.

The centre-back has been a key performer for Southgate since breaking through into the senior set-up, and he was named to the UEFA Team of the Tournament for his performances at Euro 2020.

Yet since scoring in England's penalty shoot-out loss to Italy in last year's final, Maguire has struggled for form at club level, and has often found himself a scapegoat for United's on-field issues.

Those frustrations translated themselves into audible jeers from sections of the home support on Tuesday, leaving Southgate to launch a passionate defence of his player at the full-time whistle.

"I thought the reception was a joke, an absolute joke," manager Southgate said. "The way he has performed for us has been absolutely phenomenal.

"I don't get it. We're either all in this together or we're not. He's in an England shirt and [...] you support a player in an England shirt regardless.

"When you've played at the level he has for us and put the performances in he has, it should be total commitment behind him. I don't get it at all.

"His performance was pretty faultless really. He stepped out from the back really well for his first goal, was involved in the second one too.

"The team are totally united. We recognise everyone has difficult moments, but he's a top player and he will come through it.

"They are real England fans and some are influenced by whatever – social media or players that played previously who are influencing opinion.

"The club situation is obviously very difficult, but he's in an England shirt. I remember decades ago a few players being booed in an England shirt, and it's never been acceptable to me. Fans should always get behind their team."

 

Jack Grealish also came to Maguire's defence, with the Manchester City attacking midfielder hailing the defender's creative prowess as crucial to the Three Lions' success against Ivory Coast.

"Personally I think it's ridiculous," Grealish said. "Harry's been unbelievable for this country. Our first two goals have come from him.

"Not every centre-back can have those qualities. It was ridiculous for him to get booed, and it wasn't something the team liked one bit."

Jack Grealish believes it is a "brilliant time" to be in his shoes, as the England star focuses on improving his attacking output to impress Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Grealish produced a lively display as England beat Ivory Coast 3-0 in Tuesday's international friendly, with the attacking midfielder playing a leading role in a largely inexperienced starting XI.

The former Aston Villa man set up his City team-mate Raheem Sterling for England's second goal, with what was one of three key passes – only James Ward-Prowse supplied more.

While his performances for City since his massive £100million move from Villa last year have been far from alarming, Grealish's productivity in terms of goals and assists is lacking.

Eight City players have managed more goal involvements than Grealish (who has seven) across all competitions, and while Guardiola has indicated he is not worried, the 26-year-old playmaker is eager to see his end product improve.

 

"I'm just happy to get goals and assists," Grealish told Sky Sports after teeing up Sterling for England.

"They have been difficult to come by at Manchester City, but with England I have got quite a few. I want to continue playing well because I'm really enjoying it.

"Of course, I've spoken to Pep Guardiola. He's shown me every other stat in the world that you would be happy with, apart from goals and assists.

"He's the only person I need to impress, but if you're a forward you want to get goals and assists, so hopefully in the business end of the season I can get them."

He did not seem overly concerned in general, however, clearly recognising he is in a good place.

"It's a brilliant time to be in my shoes," Grealish said. "We're in so many competitions still and then at the end of the year we have the World Cup. I need to keep impressing the manager to get into that squad."

Tuesday's match was effectively ended as a spectacle in the 40th minute when Serge Aurier was shown a second yellow card for dissent, reducing an Ivory Coast side that was already struggling to hurt England to 10 men.

Curiously, even Grealish was protesting in favour of his opponent at the time.

"I wanted [Aurier] to stay on because it's a friendly and you get more from playing against 11," Grealish explained.

"I think it would have been more of a challenge for us. I said to the referee: 'Come on!'"

England are next in action at the start of June when they start their Nations League campaign against Hungary – but first, they turn their attention to Friday's World Cup draw, which will reveal who they are to face in the group stage of Qatar 2022.

Raheem Sterling played a starring role with the captain's armband as England cruised to a 3-0 friendly win over Ivory Coast, who had Serge Aurier sent off in the first half.

Gareth Southgate made 10 changes from the team that beat Switzerland 2-1 on Saturday, though at no point did that look an issue for the Three Lions, whose record unbeaten run was extended to 22 matches – excluding penalty shoot-outs.

Sterling was at the centre of much that was good about England in the first half, teeing up Ollie Watkins for the opener and then providing a finish just before the interval having seen Aurier dismissed moments earlier.

An England penalty was then overturned early in the second half, and the Three Lions looked like settling for a two-goal win during a disjointed second 45 minutes until Tyrone Mings headed a last-gasp third.

England were dominant right from the start and almost went ahead in the 15th minute, but Jude Bellingham's close-range effort was nudged onto the post by Badra Ali Sangare.

The visitors' goalkeeper was helpless a quarter of an hour later, though, as Sterling beat Aurier and squared across the six-yard box for Watkins to tap in.

Ivory Coast's chances of a turnaround were further damaged when Aurier was shown a second yellow card for dissent in the 40th minute, and soon after it was 2-0 thanks to Sterling's close-range finish from Jack Grealish's cut-back.

The VAR spared Ivory Coast a penalty concession early in the second half after Fousseny Coulibaly was initially penalised for a clean tackle on Bellingham.

Just when the game appeared to be petering out, Mings saw his header from a corner crash into the ground and bounce up to find the top-right corner in stoppage time.
 

What does it mean? Fringe players get a chance to impress

In truth, this ended up being little more than a training session that just happened to be attended by fans and televised, especially after Aurier's dismissal.

Nick Pope in the England goal will not have had many (any?) easier matches in his entire career, but further forward there were certainly a few players who grasped their opportunity with both hands.

Bellingham was particularly good, while Watkins got himself on the scoresheet and Emile Smith Rowe looked tidy after coming on in the second half.

Sterling shimmers

This was an excellent hour or so from the Manchester City star. Pep Guardiola probably grimaced when the forward was on the end of a heavy early tackle, but from then on he was a real threat, having a hand in the first two goals – it was the first time he had scored and assisted in an England game since October 2019.

Aurier surprises no one

There was a degree of mystery around Aurier's second yellow card for a moment, though it soon emerged he was punished for dissent. It was needless, as was his tough tackle on Grealish for his first yellow. But if anyone was a prime candidate for a first-half red card, Aurier was always going to be the man.

What's next?

England begin their Nations League campaign away to Hungary on June 4, but before that they will turn their attentions to Friday's World Cup draw.

West Indies great Curtly Ambrose says there’s still a lot of work to be done if the team wants to return to dominating world cricket.

The West Indies secured a 1-0 series win over England after a dominant 10-wicket win in the third Apex Test match in Grenada on Sunday.

The win extended the Windies’ home dominance over England in the past 50 years to eight wins and two draws in 11 series with England’s only series win coming in 2003-04.

“It means a lot not only for the team but for us as Caribbean people,” said Ambrose while working as a commentator for the series.

“We were spoiled, for many years we were the best team in the world, beating everybody. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he added.

The former fast bowler who ended his Test career with 405 wickets at an average of 20.99 while clearly delighted with the result, explained that the result doesn’t mean the West Indies have suddenly turned a corner.

“Winning one game convincingly doesn’t mean we’ve turned the corner but it’s a step in the right direction. We’ve seen times in the past when they get under pressure they tend to crumble. That didn’t happen in this series,” he said.

 

Michael Vaughan believes Joe Root should step down as England captain after another Test series defeat.

England's dismal 10-wicket defeat to West Indies in the third Test in Grenada meant a 1-0 series reverse, coming off the back of a 4-0 Ashes thrashing at the turn of the year.

Those are two of five consecutive Test series defeats for England, who had won four in a row before then. They have not endured a worse such run since six without a win between 1987 and 1990.

England are also winless in nine Test matches, their worst sequence since a barren stretch of 10 between 2013 and 2014.

Alastair Cook survived that spell as skipper, but Root – the only man to captain England in more Tests (64 for Root, 59 for Cook) – is now under intense pressure.

And Vaughan, fourth on the list of matches as England captain (51), suggests the time has come for one of the world's best batsmen to focus solely on his own game.

"He's taken it as far as he possibly can," Vaughan told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"If he rings me in the next week and asks for some advice, I'll be dead honest: I'd tell him to step down.

"Will England be any worse off not having him as a captain? I don't think they would, because they are going to get his runs and a senior player.

"They'll get a great role model – I don't think there is a better role model in English cricket."

Root has averaged 46.4 with the bat as captain, down from 52.8 up to that point, with all 53 prior matches coming under Cook.

Only in 2013 (34.5) has his batting average been lower across a calendar year than his 35.8 so far in 2022.

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