The much-maligned forward scored a sensational second goal as the favourites announced their arrival in Qatar with a 2-0 win.
It’s fair to say we can end the debate about who should be Brazil’s No.9 right here – the shirt belongs to Richarlison.
The Tottenham man was the hero, scoring twice as the five-times World Cup winners began their 2022 campaign in style, beating Serbia 2-0 in Doha’s Lusail Iconic Stadium.
After watching Argentina, their great rivals, fall victim to one of the great World Cup shocks against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Tite’s men knew they would have to be fully focused if they were to avoid a similar fate.
They were, defending ruggedly, and then ruthlessly taking advantage with two goals in the space of 11 second-half minutes, Richarlison first reacting quickest to fire home after Vinicius Junior’s shot was saved, and then adding a second with a spectacular overhead kick soon after.
A win over Switzerland on Monday, then, would see the Selecao safely into the last 16, and you’d back them to get it. Twenty years on from the last of their World Cup triumphs, Brazil look like they have a side which can go all the way once more.
Below, GOAL takes a look at the winners & losers from Thursday’s game…
He may not be prolific at club level, but there’s something about that famous yellow jersey which brings out the best in Richarlison. There has been plenty of debate as to who should be wearing the No.9 shirt for Brazil, but we won’t be hearing any complaints now. Gabriel Jesus has his fans, and many were surprised at Roberto Firmino’s omission from the World Cup squad, but here Richarlison delivered a masterclass, proving to the world why Tite has so much faith in him. His record this season for Spurs is modest – two goals in 15 appearances in all competitions, and none in 10 Premier League outings – but he’s got 19 in 39 caps for his country now, nine in his last seven, and here he demonstrated all of his penalty-box prowess. The reaction for the first goal was outstanding, quicker than the Serbian defender to convert after goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, once of Manchester United, had pushed out Vinicius Junior’s low strike. Then came the encore, Richarlison controlling Vinicus’ astute pass with one touch before adjusting his body superbly to find the corner with a spectacular, acrobatic finish. It was pretty much his last act. He was replaced by Jesus soon after, with Tite eager not to take any risks with his damaged ankle. No wonder. Brazil are going to need him if they are to experience the Joy of Six in Qatar.
We all know Brazil’s history in this tournament, and we all know how much joy they have given the world with flair players down the years. So while the pre-match focus fell largely on Neymar, what a treat it was to see the youngest member of Brazil’s front four take his first steps on the big stage, and look entirely at home while doing so. Vinicius, at 22, is already some player, already a Champions League and La Liga winner, and already one of the most exciting young forwards in world football. Here, we saw why.
He had a hand in both of Richarlison’s goals, his shot parried for the first and his cute pass expertly finished for the second. He might have had a couple himself, but skewed one effort wide and was denied by a brave stop from Milinkovic-Savic on another occasion. He’ll feel he should have done better with both opportunities. But every time he got the ball, which was not often enough if truth be told, he looked like he would make something happen. He is the kind of player to get you off your seat, and the best thing is, he’s only going to get better and better.
Amid all the attacking talent on display, here was another reminder that if you win the midfield, you usually win the game. Brazil won the midfield comfortably, and much of that was down to Casemiro, who is beginning to purr after a low-key couple of months following his move to Manchester United. The 30-year-old bossed proceedings, his ability to read the game and cover space making it almost impossible for Serbia to launch counter-attacks. His passing was crisp and accurate – one pass into Vinicius in the first half was simply beautiful – and he very nearly rounded off a fine display with a 25-yard screamer in the second half. Alas, the crossbar intervened on that occasion, but this was a world-class performance from a world-class performer.
This was not a night for Serbia’s all-time record goalscorer to look back on with any great fondness. Mitrovic has been in stunning form for club and country for more than 18 months now, but he was feeding off scraps tonight, as Brazil’s defenders dominated and Serbia showed little-to-no attacking desire. The Fulham man finished without having taken a shot at goal, and having failed to register a single touch in the opposition penalty area. Credit Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, who both cruised through the game, but Serbia will need from their main man if they are to keep their hopes alive against Cameroon next week.
Of Brazil’s four forwards who started the game, three know they will be starting against Switzerland on Monday. The other is Raphinha. It’s not that the Barcelona man was terrible, but when the big chances came his way, he fluffed his lines. He strangled an effort late in the first half and hit the goalkeeper early in the second. Then came an errant touch to squander another opening. It didn’t ultimately cost his side, but only because Vinicius and Richarlison came to the party. They delivered, and the former Leeds man didn’t. The likes of Jesus, Antony and Gabriel Martinelli will have their eye on his shirt, for sure.
A nation holds its breath. Shortly after Brazil went 2-0 up here, their star man sank to the turf, a grimace on his face. Not another World Cup injury, surely? It wasn’t quite the tears of 2014, when his tournament was ended prematurely by a back problem, but Neymar certainly didn’t look amused as he made his way off the field, to be replaced by Manchester United’s Antony. Brazil fans will hope his departure was purely precautionary – the game was won and Tite has plenty of talent on his bench – but he had ice on his suspected sprained ankle as he sat on the bench. The early signs are not good. Neymar’s tournament may already be over…
Cristiano Ronaldo says he feels “betrayed” by Manchester United for trying to force him out of the club and says he has “no respect” for boss Erik ten Hag because he “doesn’t show respect for me”.
In an interview with broadcaster Piers Morgan, Ronaldo criticised Ten Hag, the club and former interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
The 37-year-old was suspended by Ten Hag after refusing to appear as a substitute during the 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in October.
Ronaldo has missed United’s past two games because of illness despite Ten Hag insisting last week the striker was likely to be available for the trip to Fulham, which the Dutchman’s side won 2-1 on Sunday.
“I don’t have respect for him [Ten Hag] because he doesn’t show respect for me,” Ronaldo said in a fragment of the interview that will air in full on Wednesday on “Piers Morgan Uncensored.”
“If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna have respect for you.”
Ronaldo and his representatives were actively looking for a move away from Old Trafford in the summer, but the Portugal international insists it was United and Ten Hag who pushed him toward the exit. “Manchester United tried to force me out,” he said.
“Not only the manager, but the other two or three guys who are around the club [at the senior executive level]. I felt betrayed. I don’t care, people should listen to the truth. Yes, I felt betrayed. I feel that some people didn’t want me here, not only this year but last season too.“
During the interview, Ronaldo also claimed to have “never heard of” Rangnick before he was appointed caretaker manager last season and accused United of failing to move forward in the time between his departure to Real Madrid in 2009 and his return to the club in 2021.
“I followed my heart,” Ronaldo said. “He [Ferguson] said to me, ‘It’s impossible for you to come to Manchester City,’ and I said, ‘OK, Boss.’
“The progress was zero. Since Sir Alex left, I saw no evolution in the club. Nothing had changed. He [Ferguson] knows better than anybody that the club is not on the path they deserve to be.
“He knows. Everyone knows. The people who don’t see that. It’s because they don’t want to see; they are blind.”
The last and the most important thing: don’t hesitate to follow our Twitter account @ApexFootballApp, we will keep you up to date with all the latest news leading up to football’s biggest international competition.
The World Cup 2022 final stage, which runs from November 20 to December 18, will feature 32 teams split into eight groups. We already know what’s in store after April’s draw in Doha: England and the United States will face Wales in Group B, while former world champions Spain and Germany have been pitted against one another in a muscular-looking Group E.
Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands Group B: England, Iran, USA, Wales Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland Group D: France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia Group E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
Group stage: November 20 to December 2 Round of 16: December 3-6 Quarter-finals: December 9-10 Semi-finals: December 13-14 Final: December 18
Every team at a glance
How they qualified: Hosts FIFA world ranking: 51 Fixtures: Ecuador (November 20), Senegal (November 25), Netherlands (November 29) Manager: Felix Sanchez (Spain) World Cup appearances / best performance: 0 / tournament debut In a nutshell: Scrutiny will continue off the pitch for all of these reasons but expect little of the tournament debutants — ranked 51st in the world — on the field. Winger Akram Afif, who has had spells in Spain, is a standout performer among a crop of unheralded, Qatar-based players. Casually drop into conversation: Qatar are the current AFC Asian Cup holders, scoring 19 goals and conceding just one during the 2019 tournament.
How they qualified: CONMEBOL fourth place FIFA world ranking: 46 Fixtures: Qatar (November 20), Netherlands (November 25), Ecuador (November 29) World Cup appearances / best performance: 3 / Round of 16 – 2006 Manager: Gustavo Alfaro (Argentina) In a nutshell: Relieved to be there. Their participation was in jeopardy but FIFA dismissed a Chile complaint that they had fielded an ineligible player during qualification. Enner Valencia, once of West Ham but now at Fenerbahce, is the old head who showed an enduring eye for goal on the road to the finals. Casually drop into conversation: Ecuador have played just 10 matches at the World Cup to date, with four wins, one draw and five defeats.
How they qualified: CAF third round winners FIFA world ranking: 20 Fixtures: Netherlands (November 21), Qatar (November 25), Ecuador (November 29) Manager: Aliou Cisse (Senegal) World Cup appearances / best performance: 2 / 2002 quarter-finals In a nutshell: Reigning African champions, who booked place at Qatar at the expense of Egypt. Sadio Mane, who converted a spot-kick as Mohamed Salah fluffed his, brings stardust to a squad full of Premier League faces. Where, though, will the forward be playing his club football by the time the tournament comes around? Casually drop into conversation: Senegal are the third Africa Cup of Nations title-holder to qualify for the World Cup in the 21st century, after Cameroon in 2002 and Nigeria in 2014.
How they qualified: UEFA Group G winners FIFA world ranking: 10 Fixtures: Senegal (November 21), Ecuador (November 25), Netherlands (November 29) Manager: Louis van Gaal (Netherlands) World Cup appearances / best performance: 10 / Runners-up – 1974, 1978, 2010 In a nutshell: Should be fun. Booked their spot as group winners after ignominy of failing to reach Russia, can call on Virgil van Dijk after his Euro 2020 injury absence, and have Louis van Gaal making mischief at the helm. The ex-Manchester United boss has spent the summer seemingly delighting in any chance to rile his former employers and has dismissed FIFA’s assertion the tournament will “develop the game” in Qatar as “bullshit”. Casually drop into conversation: The Netherlands have won 11 of their last 14 matches at the World Cup, penalty shoot-outs excluded, and their last defeat in a group game was back in 1994 against Belgium (0-1).
How they qualified: UEFA Group I winners FIFA world ranking: 5 Fixtures: Iran (November 21), USA (November 25), Wales (November 29) Manager: Gareth Southgate (England) World Cup appearances / best performance: 15 / Champions – 1966 In a nutshell: Familiarly breezed through qualifying after progress of reaching the semi-final in Russia and final of Euro 2020. England’s core squad of players have become used to going deep in tournaments but The Southgate Debate rumbles on. As does The Grealish One. Casually drop into conversation: England set the best goal difference in the group stage of European qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, scoring 39 goals and conceding only three (+36).
How they qualified: AFC third round Group A winners FIFA world ranking: 21 Fixtures: England (November 21), Wales (November 25), USA (November 29) Manager: Dragan Skocic (Croatia) World Cup appearances / best performance: 5 / group stage – 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018 In a nutshell: Upwardly mobile. Strikingly pipped South Korea to top spot in qualifying and breaking new ground after reaching a third successive World Cup finals. Casually drop in conversation: Iran are one of 20 teams to have featured at each of the last two World Cups in 2014 and 2018 — of those teams, they have had the fewest shots (47), the fewest shots on target (10) and scored the fewest goals (3) in the group stages across those two tournaments combined.
How they qualified: CONCACAF third round third place FIFA world ranking: 15 Fixtures: Wales (November 21), England (November 25), Iran (November 29) Manager: Gregg Berhalter (USA) World Cup appearances / best performance: 9 / Third – 1930 In a nutshell: Back at the finals after watching the 2018 tournament from the sidelines. High-pressing and full of bright young things. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic will hope to serve reminders of his talent, while Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira has staked a claim for the starting striker’s spot. Casually drop into conversation: The USA have reached the knockout stage in three of their last four World Cups (2002, 2010, 2014).
How they qualified: UEFA play-off Path A winners FIFA world ranking: 18 Fixtures: USA (November 21), Iran (November 25), England (November 29) Manager: Rob Page (Wales, caretaker) In a nutshell: Gareth Bale’s retirement is on hold. Wales are back on the world stage for the first time since 1958, emboldened by a ‘Red Wall’ of reinvigorated Welsh supporters since the country’s unlikely run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. “Misfits for their clubs, immortals for their nation,” neatly sums it up. Casually drop into conversation: Wales’ gap of 64 years between tournaments is the biggest by any nation in the competition’s history.
Can Messi deliver the big prize for Argentina? (Photo: Getty Images)
How they qualified: CONMEBOL runners-up FIFA world ranking: 4 Fixtures: Saudi Arabia (November 22), Mexico (November 26), Poland (November 30) Manager: Lionel Scaloni (Argentina) World Cup appearances / best performance: 17 / Champions – 1978, 1986 In a nutshell: Undefeated in qualifying and among the favourites after a Copa America triumph last summer that brought with it the sense of a psychological burden eased. Lionel Messi’s international fate will dominate the narrative but Angel Di Maria, Paolo Dybala, Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez can deliver in a side with the sort of blend and balance that makes them genuine contenders. Casually drop into conversation: Argentina have qualified for their 18th World Cup, with Qatar 2022 being their 13th in a row — the third-longest ongoing run, after Brazil (22) and Germany (18).
Is this World Cup Messi’s best chance yet?
How they qualified: AFC third round Group B winners FIFA world ranking: 49 Fixtures: Argentina (November 22), Poland (November 26), Mexico (November 30) Manager: Herve Renard (France) World Cup appearances / best performance: 5 / Round of 16 – 1994 In a nutshell: Among the rank outsiders but steadily improving at international level and qualified automatically from an Asian group that included Japan and Australia. Winger Salem Al-Dawsari, who had a stint at Villarreal, remains a key man and they will hope to benefit from playing close to home. Casually drop into conversation: Saudi Arabia have failed to score in nine of their 16 matches at the World Cup (56 per cent) — the highest such ratio of any Asian side to play five or more games in the competition.
How they qualified: CONCACAF third round runners-up FIFA world ranking: 9 Fixtures: Poland (November 22), Argentina (November 26), Saudi Arabia (November 30) Manager: Gerardo Martino (Argentina) World Cup appearances / best performance: 16 / Quarter-finals – 1970, 1986 In a nutshell: Scrambled to qualification, beating El Salvador on the final day. Can they finally go one better than the round-of-16 stage at which they’ve bowed out in the last seven tournaments? Hirving Lozano at Napoli and Wolves’ Raul Jimenez provide experience but with unprecedented tournament factors on the back of a string of mediocre performances, their stamina to go deep is questionable. Casually drop into conversation: During the third round of CONCACAF qualifying, Mexico had more different goal scorers than any other nation (excluding own goals), with their 17 goals scored by 13 different players.
How they qualified: UEFA play-off Path B winners FIFA world ranking: 26 Fixtures: Mexico (November 22), Saudi Arabia (November 26), Argentina (November 30) Manager: Czeslaw Michniexicz (Poland) World Cup appearances / best performance: 8 / Third – 1974, 1982 In a nutshell: Out to avenge a miserable campaign in Russia, where they finished bottom of their group. Robert Lewandowski is a match-winner but, collectively, they are unlikely to go deep. Casually drop into conversation: Poland scored 32 goals in qualifying, including play-offs — only England (39), Germany (36) and Netherlands (33) scored more among European teams in qualification.
How they qualified: UEFA Group D winners FIFA world ranking: 3 Fixtures: Australia (November 22), Denmark (November 26), Tunisia (November 30) Manager: Didier Deschamps (France) World Cup appearances / best performance: 15 / Champions – 1998, 2018 In a nutshell: Reigning champions. Dumped out of Euro 2020 in the second round — but have not lost a match since that Budapest shocker. After a schoolboy spat last summer about who was or wasn’t passing enough to whom, the waters of Deschamps’ ridiculous pool of talent — including a Kylian Mbappe sure to be fired up by his Euro 2020 flop — appear ominously calm. Casually drop into conversation: France are making their seventh appearance in a row, their longest ever consecutive run of participations.
How they qualified: AFC vs CONMEBOL play-off winners FIFA world ranking: 42 Fixtures: France (November 22), Tunisia (November 26), Denmark (November 30) Manager: Graham Arnold (Australia) In a nutshell: Competing at their fifth straight World Cup after beating Peru on penalties, thanks to Andrew Redmayne’s snake hips and flailing arms. Expectations had been lowered by start-stop qualifying campaign and while defensive vulnerabilities remain, Socceroos coach Arnold is banking on “Aussie DNA”. That means, he says: “Fight, scratch and do whatever you have got to do to win.” Casually drop into conversation: Australia have conceded in each of their previous 13 games in the finals — the joint-longest streak in the competition alongside Saudi Arabia.
How they qualified: UEFA Group F winners FIFA world ranking: 11 Fixtures: Tunisia (November 22), France (November 26), Australia (November 30) Manager: Kasper Hjulmand (Denmark) World Cup appearances / best performance: 5 / Quarter-finals – 1998 In a nutshell: Made light work of qualifying, winning nine of their 10 matches. An emotionally-charged run to the last four of Euro 2020 followed Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest but they have the technicality as well as togetherness to be stubborn opponents. Casually drop into conversation: Denmark kept more clean sheets in the group stage of European qualifying than any other side (8).
How they qualified: CAF third round winners FIFA world ranking: 35 Fixtures: Denmark (November 22), Australia (November 26), France (November 30) Manager: Jalel Kadri (Tunisia) World Cup appearances / best performance: 5 / group stage – 1978, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2018 In a nutshell: More unlikely lads but narrow qualifying win over Mali makes it back-to-back finals after successive failures. Casually drop into conversation: Tunisia have failed to keep a clean sheet in 14 of their 15 games at the World Cup, the only exception coming against Germany in 1978.
Luis Enrique’s Spain blends experience with the youthful talents of the likes of Pedri (Photo: Getty Images)
How they qualified: UEFA Group B winners FIFA world ranking: 7 Fixtures: Costa Rica (November 23), Germany (November 27), Japan (December 1) Manager: Luis Enrique (Spain) World Cup appearances / best performance: 15 / Champions – 2010 In a nutshell: Rallied from Russian round-of-16 exit to be denied final place at Euro 2020 by Italy on penalties. An experienced squad has been buoyed by a new influx of talent, namely Pedri and Gavi, the latter’s emergence likened by Luis Enrique to an “erupting volcano”. Their high defensive line might be a risk — but don’t expect it to change. Casually drop into conversation: During the group stage of European qualifying, Spain’s possession average of 76 per cent was the highest of any nation, while they allowed their opponents just 38 shots across their eight matches — the joint-fewest of any side (England also 38).
How they qualified: Intercontinental play-off winners FIFA world ranking: 31 Fixtures: Spain (November 23), Japan (November 27), Germany (December 1) Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez (Colombia) World Cup appearances / best performance: CR – 5 / Quarter-finals – 2014 In a nutshell: Suarez has already led Ecuador and Honduras to World Cups; the man who pinned the draw to his fridge when it was made in April is only the sixth coach to have three tournaments on his CV. Is this a last chance for a run deep into the tournament for Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges? Casually drop into conversation: Costa Rica will be hoping to avoid Brazil at this winter’s tournament. They have lost three times to the South Americans at World Cups, more than any other team.
How they qualified: UEFA Group J winners FIFA world ranking: 12 Fixtures: Japan (November 23), Spain (November 27), Costa Rica (December 1) Manager: Hansi Flick (Germany) World Cup appearances / best performance: 19 / Champions – 1954, 1974, 1990, 2014In a nutshell: Bayern redux? The personnel and hard-pressing system of this new-look Hansi Flick side would suggest so. After disappointing early exits under Joachim Low in 2018 and 2020, the Flick-fuelled machine was ruthless in qualification. Will Jamal Musiala step up with the world watching? Casually drop into conversation: Germany have reached the semi-finals in four of their five World Cup participations this century, the only exception being 2018. That’s more than any other nation in this time.
How they qualified: AFC third round Group B runners-up FIFA world ranking: 23 Fixtures: Germany (November 23), Costa Rica (November 27), Spain (December 1) Manager: Hajime Moriyasu (Japan) World Cup appearances / best performance: 6 / Round of 16 – 2002, 2010, 2014 In a nutshell: Limped in behind Saudi Arabia in their group, despite sitting 26 places above them in FIFA’s rankings. Takumi Minamino and Takehiro Tomiyasu have high-profile club experience but Japan’s task is tough against European heavyweights. Casually drop into conversation: This will be Japan’s seventh consecutive World Cup appearance in a run stretching back to 1998.
One last shot for Belgium’s own ‘Golden Generation’? (Photo: Getty Images)
How they qualified: UEFA Group E winners FIFA world ranking: 2 Fixtures: Canada (November 23), Morocco (November 27), Croatia (December 1) Manager: Roberto Martinez (Spain) World Cup appearances / best performance: 13 / Third – 2018 In a nutshell: Knocked off the FIFA summit by Brazil and the feeling lingers that a stellar squad may have missed its big chance. Still, they eased through qualifying and class acts abound. Casually drop into conversation: Belgium are one of three teams, alongside Brazil and France, to reach the quarter-finals in both of the last two World Cups.
How they qualified: CONCACAF third round winners FIFA world ranking: 38 Fixtures: Belgium (November 23), Croatia (November 27), Morocco (December 1) World Cup appearances / best performance: 1 / Group stage – 1986 Manager: John Herdman (England) In a nutshell: Topped the CONCACAF hexagonal ahead of Mexico and the United States to reach a first World Cup for 36 years. Talented forwards Cyle Larin and Jonathan David scored 22 qualifying goals between them, while Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies is a more familiar threat. Keep an eye on them. Casually drop into conversation: Canada qualified in first place in CONCACAF, scoring the most goals in the final round of qualifying (23) and conceding the fewest (7).
How they qualified: CAF third round winners FIFA world ranking: 24 Fixtures: Canada (November 23), Belgium (November 27), Canada (December 1) Manager: Vahid Halilhodzic (Bosnia) World Cup appearances / best performance: 5 / 1986 round of 16 In a nutshell: Boast a cluster of exciting players but a cloud still hangs over Hakim Ziyech’s premature retirement after a falling-out with Vahid Halilhodzic. Paris Saint-Germain’s Achraf Hakimi provides chief threat down the right. Casually drop into conversation: Morocco have won only one of their last 10 World Cup games, doing so against Scotland in 1998 in the group stage.
How they qualified: UEFA Group H winners FIFA world ranking: 16 Fixtures: Morocco (November 23), Canada (November 27), Belgium (December 1) Manager: Zlatko Dalic (Croatia) World Cup appearances / best performance: 5 / Second – 2018 In a nutshell: The 2018 World Cup finalists should not be underestimated, but Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Andrej Kramaric and Marcelo Brozovic will all be 30 or older by the time the tournament starts. They’ll more grateful than most it’s taking place in November, then. Casually drop into conversation: Only Denmark (8) kept more clean sheets in the group stage of European qualifying than Croatia (7), who conceded only four goals in their 10 group matches
Neymar will be hoping to deliver for Brazil in Qatar (Photo: Getty Images)
How they qualified: CONMEBOL winners FIFA world ranking: 1 Fixtures: Serbia (November 24), Switzerland (November 28), Cameroon (December 2) Manager: Tite (Brazil) World Cup appearances / best performance: 21 / Champions – 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002 In a nutshell: The bookies’ favourites did not lose a game in qualifying but have struggled in the tournament proper in recent years, only progressing beyond the quarter-final stage once since winning Japan 2002. This Tite side is more functional than extravagant but Neymar — involved in 16 goals during qualifying — will be desperate to impress on the big stage. Casually drop into conversation: Brazil have topped their group in round one in every single World Cup since 1982 and last failed to progress past the first round in 1966.
How they qualified: UEFA Group A winners FIFA world ranking: 25 Fixtures: Brazil (November 24), Cameroon (November 28), Switzerland (December 2) Manager: Dragan Stojkovic (Serbia) World Cup appearances / best performance: 2 / Group stage – 2010, 2018 In a nutshell: Failed to qualify for Euro 2020 but won their group to force Portugal through the play-offs. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic, Luka Jovic and Dusan Tadic provide solid attacking options. Casually drop into conversation: Serbia lost none of their eight qualifying matches — the first time they remained unbeaten in a qualifying group for a major tournament (World Cup/Euros) since qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.
How they qualified: UEFA Group C winners FIFA world ranking: 14 Fixtures: Cameroon (November 24), Brazil (November 28), Serbia (December 2) Manager: Murat Yakin (Switzerland) World Cup appearances / best performance: 11 / Quarter-finals – 1934, 1938, 1954 In a nutshell: Undefeated in qualifying, twice holding four-time world champions Italy on way to group summit. Disciplined, organised and usually no pushovers. Casually drop into conversation: Switzerland have reached their fifth finals in a row, setting their longest run of consecutive appearances in the tournament.
How they qualified: CAF third round winners FIFA world ranking: 37 Fixtures: Switzerland (November 24), Serbia (November 28), Brazil (December 2) Manager: Rigobert Song (Cameroon) World Cup appearances / best performance: 7 / 1990 quarter-finals In a nutshell: Squeaked past Riyad Mahrez’s Algeria on away goals and capable of springing another surprise somewhere down the line. Toko Ekambi scored 18 goals in all competitions last season, while Andre Onana has talked up his team-mates’ togetherness. Casually drop into conversation: Cameroon have played more matches at the World Cup than any other African nation (23).
Cristiano Ronaldo took his all-time men’s international goal tally to 117 this year. (Photo: Getty Images)
How they qualified: UEFA play-off Path C winners FIFA world ranking: 8 Fixtures: Ghana (November 24), Uruguay (November 28), South Korea (December 2) Manager: Fernando Santos (Portugal) World Cup appearances / best performance: 7 / Third – 1966 In a nutshell: The Euro 2016 winners needed the play-offs to reach Qatar after finishing behind Serbia but a squad that includes Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Diogo Jota and Cristiano Ronaldo is always going to be a threat. Casually drop into conversation: Portugal are one of just five European teams to have made an appearance in every World Cup edition since 2002, alongside England, France, Germany and Spain.
How they qualified: CAF third round winners FIFA world ranking: 60 Fixtures: Portugal (November 24), South Korea (November 28), Uruguay (December 2) Manager: Otto Addo (Ghana) World Cup appearances / best performance: 3 / 2010 quarter-finals In a nutshell: Back on the world stage — at the expense of Nigeria, thanks to Thomas Partey’s goal — after failing to reach Russia. Former Newcastle and Brighton boss Chris Hughton is part of the Black Stars staff as a technical adviser. Casually drop into conversation: Ghana have found the net in each of their last five World Cup games.
How they qualified: CONMEBOL third place FIFA world ranking: 13 Fixtures: South Korea (November 24), Portugal (November 28), Ghana (December 2) Manager: Diego Alonso (Uruguay) World Cup appearances / best performance: 13 / Champions – 1930, 1950 In a nutshell: The 2018 quarter-finalists may still rely heavily on thirty-somethings Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Diego Godin but there is emerging talent in the form of new Liverpool signing Darwin Nunez, Fede Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur. Casually drop into conversation: This is only the second time that Uruguay have participated in four consecutive World Cups after 1962, 1966, 1970 and1974.
How they qualified: AFC third round Group A runners-up FIFA world ranking: 29 Fixtures: Uruguay (November 24), Ghana (November 28), Portugal (December 2) Manager: Paulo Bento (Portugal) World Cup appearances / best performance: 10 / Fourth place – 2002 In a nutshell: Stunned Germany in Russia but failed to get out of group. Son Heung-min might have been snubbed for inclusion in the 2021-22 Premier League Team of the Year but is sure to dictate whether his side are likelier to fly home early or reach an ambitious last-eight target. Casually drop into conversation: This is South Korea’s 11th World Cup tournament — the most of any Asian nation.
Follow Apex Football’s live blog for coverage of this afternoon’s Premier League clashes, including Manchester United vs Newcastle, Aston Villa vs Chelsea, Leeds vs Arsenal and Southampton vs West Ham.
Leeds vs Arsenal Bamford MISSES PENALTY! Arsenal breath a huge sigh of relief as Bamford drags it wide from 12 yards out. The Penalty was awarded after Saliba’s hand-ball.
FT: Aston Villa 0-2 Chelsea Mount fires brace to seal Potter’s 5th consecutive win
FT: Man Utd 0-0 Newcastle United
It finishes goalless at Old Trafford. Howe’s comments in the weeks about Newcastle being the size of United one day look rather fitting now. It was a very even game at Old Trafford. The visitors probably had the best chance of the game when Almiron hit the crossbar in the first half, but United piled on the pressure after the break. Antony was brilliant on the right but was given no room to cut in and his crosses were dealt with well. The result leaves United fifth and Newcastle sixth in the league, still seperated by one point.
Leeds vs Arsenal HALF-TIME at Elland Road The Gunners going into the break with the lead thanks to Bukayo Saka’s 35th minute powerful strike. It’s been an enthralling encounter and Leeds have had chances of their own to get on the scoresheet.
Aston Villa vs Chelsea 65′ – GOAL! Mount Chelsea’s lead What a free-kick that is! Mount steps up from 30 yards or so and finds the top right corner. Martinez should be doing better there but the Chelsea midfielder will not care one bit.
Leeds vs Arsenal back underway! 35′ – GOAL! Saka puts Arsenal ahead Just how did he get that in? Rodrygo’s attempted switch is intercepted by Saka who finds Odegaard. The Norwegian returns the favour and Saka smashes it in from the tightest of angles.
Leeds vs Arsenal back underway! After a long 38 minute delay, the match resumes with a Leeds throw
Aston Villa vs Chelsea 31′ – Incredible save by Kepa Arrizabalaga!! It’s probably the best save you will see all weekend. Bailey delivers a superb cross and it’s headed by Ings, but the Chelsea goalkeeper denies him with a pointblank save.
Leeds vs Arsenal update Referee Chris Kavanagh has come out with the ball and he bounces it on the line of one of the goals to check if the technology works. A few players are out and going through warm ups.
Man Utd vs Newcastle 27′ CHANCE FOR RONALDO Ronaldo makes a good run and is played in behind the defence. He looks to lift the ball over the keeper but doesn’t quite it right and it goes over.
Aston Villa vs Chelsea Quiet Villa Park Mount’s early goal looks to have stunned the home crowd. You could almost hear a pen drop at Villa Park! Chelsea are well on top and they are enjoying the lion share of possession.
Man Utd vs Newcastle 24′ CHANCE FOR NEWCASTLE Trippier’s free kick hits the wall but it falls nicely for Joelinton, who volleys it against the crossbar. He then hits the rebound goalwards and De Gea makes a good save. The resulting corner is whipped into a good area but comes to nothing.
Man Utd vs Newcastle 23′ Newcastle free kick Newcastle win a free kick in a dangerous area just outside the box. Trippier stands over it.
Man Utd vs Newcastle 17′ Newcastle providing an aerial threat The visitors have looked dangerous from headers in the box. Something for United to watch out for.
Leeds vs Arsenal suspended After a long seven-minute delay, the game is suspended as communication issues between the referees continue. It’s quiet bizarre situation.
Aston Villa vs Chelsea 6′ GOAL!!! – Mount gives Chelsea the lead It’s a goal Mings will want to forget about. With the ball falling down from the sky, the Villa defender bizarrely heads it back towards his own goal and Mount is there to take advantage.
Man Utd vs Newcastle 6′ Schar looks hurt Fabian Schar looks hurt after colliding with the advertising hoardings. Newcastle are forced to defend a corner with ten men as re receives treatment. The defender then rejoins play, he looks OK>
Leeds United vs Arsenal 3′ – Delay at Elland road There’s a communication issue with VAR and the game is momentarily paused. Both managers are doing a team talk…
Man Utd vs Newcastle 3′ Chance for Fred Bright move from United as Sancho comes forward down the left.
His initial cross is dangerous but can’t find anyone, but the ball eventually falls to Fred outside the box, who hits it wide.
First chance of the game.
Aston Villa vs Chelsea 2′ – Fast start by Villa Ings delivers a cross that goes beyond Kepa’s grasp before being cleared away by Kovacic. It eventually comes out to Luiz, whose effort is easily held by the Chelsea keeper.
All four games are now underway. We’re in for an intriguing afternoon to say the least…
Man Utd kick off comes after Sir Alex Ferguson presents awards to David De Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo. Two of his wiser investments.
United get things underway in this half.
500 Manchester United games for David De Gea
It’s been a rollercoaster for the Spanish goalkeeper.
He could play an important role this evening.
15 minutes to go
We’re closing in on kick off now in Manchester.
The players are starting to warm up.
Man Utd starting XI vs Newcastle
Ronaldo parts with Sancho in lead Man Utd starting XI as Rashford benched. Eriksen left out due to illness.
Ronaldo makes first Premier League start since August as Portuguese forward returns to Ten Hag’s XI .
Newcastle starting XI vs Man Utd
Bruno Guimaraes starts for Newcastle tonight after a stunning start to the season for the midfielder.
Howe said of him earlier this week: ‘We desperately want Bruno to be happy here, to enjoy his football and see a long term vision.
‘We want to build a team. We’re in the very early stages of that so we don’t want to disrupt the group we have, we want to add quality – that’s the aim.’
Chelsea team news
Graham Potter makes three changes from the last outing against AC Milan.
Cucurella, Loftus-Cheek and Havertz replace James, Jorginho and Koulibaly.
Leeds team news
Luis Sinisterra returns from his one-match suspension and he replaces Patrick Bamford.
Southampton team news
Stuart Armstrong and Ibrahima Diallo make way for Mohamed Elyounoussi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Arsenal team news
Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Aaron Ramsdale all return to the starting line-up after being rested in the Europa League victory over Bodo/Glimt.
The big man starts
Cristiano Ronaldo starts this afternoon after scoring his 700th club goal in his last Premier League outing.
He made a stirring homecoming against Newcastle a year ago.
‘All successful teams have strong home records’
Erik ten Hag: ‘All successful teams have very strong home records and we absolutely have to build that at Old Trafford.
‘Already this season we’ve produced impressive displays against Liverpool and Arsenal to get important victories.
‘Visiting teams know they will be in for tough 90 mins.’
Reece James’ injury
One man who will not feature for the Blues this afternoon is Reece James, who is set to be sidelined for eight weeks after picking up a knee injury in the win over AC Milan.
FA staff are understood to have queried why the defender was allowed to stay in Milan given the potentially serious nature of the injury…
Man City striker wins award after record-breaking start to his Premier League career
Erling Haaland has been voted the EA SPORTS Player of the Month for August 2022.
Haaland wins the award after an historic first month with Manchester City in the Premier League.
The summer signing scored against West Ham United, Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest, and got an assist in his other appearance, against AFC Bournemouth.
His nine goals in his first five appearances were the most in the competition’s history, breaking the record of eight previously held by Mick Quinn and Sergio Aguero.
He also become only the sixth player to score hat-tricks in consecutive Premier League appearances, doing so against Palace and Nott’m Forest to be the first to achieve the feat since Harry Kane in 2017.
Haaland is the first player to win the award in his first month in the competition since Bruno Fernandes did so for Manchester United in February 2020.
The 22-year-old topped an eight-man shortlist also including Pascal Gross, Gabriel Jesus, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Martin Odegaard, Nick Pope, Rodrigo and Wilfried Zaha.
He won after the public’s votes on the EA SPORTS website were combined with those of a panel of football experts.
Chelsea have made their latest blockbuster signing official as Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana joins the Blues on a £75m deal
Chelsea announce the signing of Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana have emerged after agreeing a £75million deal. Fofana will become Thomas Tuchel’s seventh summer signing, totalling the Blues’ transfer window expenditure at around £191m with five days remaining.
After drawn-out negotiations and multiple rejected bids, Chelsea finally found a breakthrough in their pursuit of the 21-year-old centre-back earlier this week. And supporters won’t have to wait long to watch the club officially unveil their latest big-money arrival.
According to L’Equipe, Fofana is set to undergo his Chelsea medical on Sunday, one day after Tuchel’s 10-man side defeated Leicester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. The France U21 international unsurprisingly didn’t feature for the Foxes after spending the week training away from Brendan Rodgers’ first team.
Fofana is one of the most expensive defender in football history alongside Liverpool general Virgil van Dijk and behind £80m Manchester United captain Harry Maguire. He also only trails Romelu Lukaku, who returned in a £97.5m deal last summer, in the list of Chelsea’s biggest-ever signings.
Tuchel will be delighted to get the signing over the line after his eagerness to sufficiently replace Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, who left Chelsea on free transfers this summer. Fofana and fellow new boy Kalidou Koulibaly join Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Trevoh Chalobah as centre-back options.
Chelsea have been busy this summer, with new owner Todd Boehly aiming to make a splash in his first transfer window at the helm. The Blues have also sanctioned deals for Marc Cucurella (£63m), Raheem Sterling (£50m), Koulibaly (£34m), Carney Chukwuemeka (£20m), Gabriel Slonina and Cesare Casadei (both £12m).
Tuchel still wants to add a forward to his ranks, with talks ongoing for Barcelona forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Chelsea are also linked with Frenkie de Jong, but a midfielder isn’t at the top of the German boss’ priorities in what promises to be a hectic final five days of the summer across the Premier League.
Manchester United have landed their latest summer recruit, after a sensational €100m deal to buy Brazilian winger Antony from Ajax Amsterdam.
Last week the Dutch club rejected an offer of €90m – United’s third bid for the 22-year-old – but talks have continued in recent days and United made a breakthrough on Sunday after a smooth series of discussions. Antony has put pen to paper on a five-year deal which will see him remain at Old Trafford until the summer of 2027, and there is an option to extend for a further year.
The final part of negotiations focused on the structure of the deal, with Ajax settling for a guaranteed €95m plus €5m in add-ons. Antony will become Erik ten Hag’s fifth summer signing and the second-most expensive transfer in United’s history behind Paul Pogba. It will be the largest fee received by a Dutch club.
Antony was once again left out of the Ajax squad for Sunday’s game at Utrecht as talks between the clubs continued.
What has Antony said?
On Friday, in an interview with Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano on YouTube, Antony said: “Since February of this year, my agents came to Amsterdam to inform Ajax of my desire to leave the club to face a new challenge and that some interested clubs would arrive and, with them, certainly a great offer.
“During the window months, meetings concluded including a proposal from Ajax for contract renewal. I made it clear once again I want to leave the club.
“Today in a meeting with the board I expressed my interest in leaving the club, this time with a considerable offer on the table. Others have already arrived [but] Ajax always refuses with the argument it only has five days to replace (me).
“I’m not asking [for Ajax] to release me, I am asking Ajax to sell me as the highest bid received by a player who plays in the Eredivisie.”
A move to United would see Antony reunited with ex-Ajax boss Erik ten Hag, who has already recruited defender Lisandro Martinez from his former club.
“I was very happy in Amsterdam, I won titles at Ajax, made friends and built part of my career, but now I reinforce that I am ready and full of motivation to follow my story and my dreams,” Antony added.
“People need to listen to me and understand that my motivation moves me towards happiness. I need this to continue performing at a high level. Ajax will always be in my heart.”
Why Antony is Ten Hag’s man
“For sure, we hope he will be the next star of Ajax.” It was July 2020 and Erik ten Hag, Ajax’s manager at the time, was introducing Antony, the club’s new £20m signing from Sao Paulo.
“We at Ajax are always trying to strive for the top,” added Ten Hag. “So I expect he will do his best to reach that level of expectation. The rest, we will see in the future.”
Ten Hag was right to expect big things of Antony – the Brazilian, only 19 when he agreed his move to Amsterdam, swiftly established himself as one of Ajax’s key players – but even he could not have predicted he might one day take him to Manchester United too.
Right down to his F-bomb post-match interview, Monday night at Old Trafford was the occasion when Erik ten Hag’s bold choices acted as jump leads to his reign as Manchester United manager.
Sky Sports host Dave Jones may have needed to apologise to viewers for ten Hag insisting his team can “fucking play good football”, proposing a possible translation issue, but the smart money is on the Dutchman meaning exactly what he said. Swearing on live television represents a forceful expression of his underlying faith in his players, in a week when he has criticised their application, and you can be confident the clip will make its way round the squad.
More significantly, the courage of Ten Hag’s selections paid off. To the bench he sent Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, to varying degrees of shock, and played Anthony Elanga, Raphael Varane and Tyrell Malacia.
Dropping United’s captain is a major call, but Ronaldo brings a global scrutiny and, more so, is the pivotal figure in Ten Hag’s battle to implement his style.
The Athletic has reported how Ronaldo has cut an isolated figure at Carrington in his quest to leave the club and pushed back against pressing drills in training. His return to the starting line-up at Brentford coincided with United running 95.6km and making 65 sprints, 13.8km and 25 sprints less than their opponents. Ronaldo was not entirely responsible for that, of course, but a high-energy tempo requires buy-in from every player. If one domino falls they all scatter.
Against Liverpool, United covered 113.8km and made 155 sprints, bettering Jurgen Klopp’s side on both measures. Far from alienating his players by cancelling a day off and demanding a running session following the Brentford loss, these numbers show an instant reaction.
Even though Anthony Martial was fit enough only to begin on the bench, Ten Hag still did not turn to Ronaldo, instead selecting Elanga for his undoubted commitment to the instructions.
Elanga hit the post and drew a booking for Trent Alexander-Arnold through his direct running, a key component to what Klopp called United’s “aggressive” start.
Martial came on at the break and set-up Marcus Rashford’s goal.
Ronaldo got the final four minutes but by then Ten Hag had made his point; United can win without the 37-year-old. To feature more, whatever his supreme scoring prowess, Ronaldo must adapt. “I think he can,” said Ten Hag. “The whole of his career under several managers he did several styles and systems. He always performed, so why can’t he do this? His age is not an issue.”
On a general theme, Ten Hag argued: “Sometimes you think strikers cannot do it (press) because they have to save the energy for offensive actions. Now it is football, both are a demand.”
Ten Hag’s defensive changes after that 4-0 calamity in London also worked.
Varane replaced Maguire and enjoyed one of his best games for United. Lisandro Martinez, the subject of much debate since joining, was United’s best player, flinging himself in front of a Mohamed Salah shot, stopping a Bruno Fernandes own goal on the line, and generally playing with a feverish intent that generates a connection with fans.
He riled James Milner by digging his fingers into his head, what Ten Hag described as a South Amerian “grinta”. “An absolute will to win, controlled emotion,” said Ten Hag, who is also absolutely convinced Martinez’s 5ft 9in height is not an issue in the Premier League.
Malacia is three inches shorter but has a touch of “grinta” too. He provoked another wave of noise from the stands in the second period by tackling Alexander-Arnold twice in quick succession by the corner flag, thundering into his second challenge.
For all Ten Hag’s doubling down on his demands out of possession, he was pragmatic in one crucial aspect. David de Gea did not once take a short goalkick. The welcome mat rolled out to Brentford was stored away for Liverpool. Instead De Gea bypassed Liverpool’s high press.
At one stage in the first half Ten Hag rushed from his dugout to beckon Rashford over from centre-forward to ring wing, so he pulled onto Andrew Robertson (as shown below). Jadon Sancho moved to the middle and Ten Hag pointed to De Gea where to send the ball. The same happened again minutes later.
That may have contributed to Liverpool regaining the ball more frequently, leading to a 70 percent possession advantage, so long-term Ten Hag will want to develop his side for playing out from the back. But for a tailored game when the pressure was on Ten Hag wisely modified.
Bringing in Casemiro should encourage that strategy. United players are said to consider his arrival a “blessing”, whatever about his transfer fee and wages, and the idea is his calmness at picking the ball off defenders and passing forwards will help retain purposeful possession.
Ten Hag started all three of his completed new signings in what felt like a statement about his eye for new recruits with the window still open. Sources close to Ajax expect United to make another bid for Antony, who watched the Liverpool game on television, with some placing the potential offer at €94 million. Cody Gakpo is another target.
As for the wingers already in place, the finishes by Sancho and Rashford bore the confidence they built on pre-season. The both contributed defensively as well. Even after 71 minutes Rashford sprinted to close down Joe Gomez then slid in on Alexander-Arnold to recharge the electricity in the stadium.
The protests against the Glazers fed into the atmosphere inside Old Trafford, anger fuelling joy and back round again. Each goal was greeted with chants against United’s owners. Maintaining this performance level at Southampton, when the temperature has turned to a simmer, will be the real litmus test.
Ten Hag seemed to want to soak up his first competitive win. He stayed beyond midnight and spent several minutes signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans who had waited patiently. More than anyone’s it was his occasion to savour.