European champions Italy missed out on automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Northern Ireland on Monday.
The Azzurri went into their final Group C qualification clash knowing they needed to win by enough goals to stay ahead of Switzerland to claim a place at next year’s finals in Qatar.
With the Swiss earning a 4-0 victory over Bulgaria in Lucerne, only a win by a three-goal margin would have been enough for Italy but they could not find a way past a determined Irish side and had to settle for a March playoff spot.
The playoffs do not hold fond memories for Italy, who failed to make the 2018 World Cup after losing to Sweden over two legs. Only three playoff teams out of 12 qualify for the finals.
“We can’t do anything about it now, we have this game in March and will try to give our best,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini told RAI Sport.
“At the moment we are struggling to score goals, despite dominating possession. Northern Ireland put everyone in defence and we struggle to break sides like that down.”
It was clear from the start that it was not going to be an easy task for an injury-hit Italy, who began the match without a recognised striker in the absence of Ciro Immobile.
Northern Ireland had not conceded a goal at home in their previous four qualifiers and set up to frustrate the Italians, despite being unable to qualify for the finals themselves.
Mancini threw on several other forward options as he looked to boost his side’s attacking threat, but the home team, in truth, never looked troubled.
Italy go into the March playoffs despite finishing their World Cup qualification campaign unbeaten — four draws since their Euro 2020 success being their downfall.
Premier League basement boys Norwich City have officially announced the appointment of Dean Smith on a two-and-a-half year deal.
The 50 year-old will now succeed the sacked Daniel Farke, and is saddled with the task of preventing the club from going to relegation – with the Canaries currently bottom of the Premier League, five points adrift of safety. Also, Craig Shakespeare who worked with Smith at Aston Villa, will join him as his assistant at Carrow Road.
Dean Smith is set to make history as the first man to take charge of successive Premier League matches against the same opponent with different teams, after being sacked by Aston Villa following a home defeat to Southampton. Smith’s first game in charge will be at home to Southampton on Saturday, 20 November.
Smith spent three years at Aston Villa and in that time, guided them to promotion from the Championship and reached the Carabao Cup final. But things at the club did not improve this season, with captain Jack Grealish departing for defending champions Manchester City for 100 million pounds. The team also lost five consecutive league games and have only ten points – just two points from the drop zone.
It is left to be seen whether Smith can keep Norwich up, following their terrible start to the season but his experience may just be the difference in the end. Norwich dismissed former boss Daniel Farke on 6th November despite a win away at Brentford, which was the club’s first league victory of the campaign.
Following Dean Smith’s appointment, Canaries sporting director Stuart Webber said: “I have admired his work for some time and he has been a long-term target in the event that we needed to appoint a new head coach.” Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard also held talks with the Canaries, but pulled out of the running.
Xavi’s first signing as manager of Barcelona is his former teammate Dani Alves. Alves joins his former side as a free agent after being out of contract since leaving Sao Paulo in his native Brazil in September 2021.
According to Marca, Xavi approved Barca’s negotiations with the Brazilian on Friday afternoon and within a few hours, there was an update from highly acclaimed journalist Fabrizio Romano that Xavi would join the Catalan giants.
Alves had a trophy-laden first stint at Camp Nou which saw him win a total of 23 trophies between 2008 and 2016. He had 3 Champions League winners medals and 6 La Liga winners medals in the colours of Barcelona.
There are reports that the signing of Xavi is to help add a leader to the Spanish outfit in order to boost their performances. His contract with Barcelona will include a clause to extend the deal until June 2023. Alves would train with the team but would be eligible to play from January 2022.
Alves is the most decorated player in world football, having enjoyed success at a number of clubs. As well as Barcelona and Sao Paulo, he has represented Bahia, Sevilla, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.
Mohamed Salah wins monthly award after an outstanding month that saw him score five Premier League goals, including a hat-trick against Manchester United; Phil Foden, Aaron Ramsdale and Ben Chilwell among the other nominees.
The Egyptian maestro produced an astonishing 9-goal contribution for Klopp’s men. Salah also continued his scoring exploits on the European stage with a brace in a 3-2 Champions League win over Atletico Madrid.
Salah beat off competition from Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet, Manchester City’s Phil Foden, Southampton’s Tino Livramento, Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, and Youri Tielemans of Leicester, to win the accolade.
Liverpool returns to action after the international break with a home game against Arsenal on November 20 – live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event.
Hansi Flick made history as the first Germany coach to win his first six games in charge, with his Covid-affected side thrashing 10-man Liechtenstein in a World Cup qualifier.
Flick had to make numerous changes, with five players out because of defender Niklas Sule’s Covid infection.
Thomas Muller and Leroy Sane both scored twice for the hosts, who have already qualified for Qatar 2022.
Liechtenstein were reduced to 10 men inside the first 10 minutes.
Jens Hofer was sent off for kicking Leon Goretzka with a high challenge in the face, and after a short delay, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan converted the resulting penalty.
It got worse for the visitors, who conceded three goals in three minutes, starting with Daniel Kaufmann turning in an own goal in the 20th.
Sane then slotted in before Marco Reus added another.
With Flick’s predecessor Joachim Low, who received an official farewell before the game, watching from the stands, Germany struck again four minutes after the restart with Sane before late goals from Muller and Ridle Baku.
Muller then scored his second in the 86th before another own goal by Liechtenstein, this time from Max Goppel.
Greece 0-1 Spain
Sarabia penalty puts qualification in La Roja’s hands.
Spain have World Cup qualification in their own hands going into the final round of games after winning 1-0 in Greece.
Luis Enrique’s side took advantage of a surprise slip from previous Group B leaders Sweden, who lost 2-0 in Georgia earlier on Thursday, to leapfrog them into first place.
Spain had never lost away to Greece in four previous meetings, and a first-half penalty from Pablo Sarabia increased that record to four wins and one draw.
They will book their place at Qatar 2022 if they can avoid defeat to Sweden on Sunday in Seville.
The visitors unsurprisingly dominated possession but created little early on against a well-organised Greece.
The home side thought they had taken the lead on 21 minutes as Giorgos Masouras finished well from a Thanasis Androutsos throughball, but the Olympiakos forward was offside.
Just three minutes later, Spain were awarded a penalty after Inigo Martinez was felled in the box by Dimitris Giannoulis following a corner, and Sarabia sent Odisseas Vlachodimos the wrong way to put ‘La Roja’ ahead.
The hosts needed a win to keep alive any hopes of qualification themselves and started to gamble a little more towards the end of the game, but Spain remained relatively calm as they eased to a vital win in Athens.
Republic of Ireland 0-0 Portugal
Selecao held to set up tantalising Serbia decider in Group A
Portugal travelled to the Republic of Ireland for the first time since 2005 but could only muster a draw against Stephen Kenny’s side.
Portugal were held to a goalless draw by the Republic of Ireland to leave Sunday’s clash with Serbia as the decider for top spot in World Cup qualifying Group A.
Fernando Santos’ men had scored 16 goals during their five-game winning streak across all competitions but could only muster two shots on target during a frustrating outing in Dublin.
Cristiano Ronaldo went the closest, though even the all-time leading scorer in men’s international football could not break the deadlock in Thursday’s clash.
The visitors, who saw Pepe dismissed late on for two bookable offences, and Serbia both sit on 17 points with one game remaining as the latter travel to Lisbon for a winner-takes-all decider.
Andre Silva forced the first save of the contest from Gavin Bazunu before Seamus Coleman’s excellent last-ditch block denied Ronaldo as the visitors dominated the early proceedings.
However, the Republic of Ireland responded well and should have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time but Chiedozie Ogbene could only head over from close range.
Stephen Kenny’s men continued industriously after the interval and almost punished Matheus Nunes’ concentration lapse when Josh Cullen curled into Rui Patricio’s hands.
Ronaldo, who later fired narrowly off target, then nodded wide following Silva’s cross before the hosts saw Enda Stevens whip over from Ogbene’s inviting delivery.
The visitors, who had Pepe dismissed for a second bookable offence after catching Callum Robinson with his hand, managed to hold on for a point despite the hosts thinking they had found a late winner through Matt Doherty, Will Keane’s foul on Patricio cutting short the celebrations.
Brazil 1-0 Colombia
Paqueta nets from Neymar assist, Brazil claim another win
In a close match with few options, Lucas Paquetá scored the winning goal for the Brazilians, who remain leaders and undefeated in the knockout stage.
The star forward has featured only intermittently for his new employers but it has been a different story on the international stage
It says something about the spell-binding appeal of Lionel Messi that even fans of Argentina’s biggest rivals are hoping he takes the field on Friday.
Despite complaints over the cost of tickets for the World Cup qualifier in Montevideo between Uruguay and the Albiceleste, Penarol’s Estadio Campeon del Siglo will likely be packed to the brim when the two sides walk out.
Indeed, no less a figure than Uruguayan FA chief Ignacio Alonso used the Paris Saint-Germain superstar as justification for the rather elevated prices, telling reporters in the build-up to the game: “They are normal for an important match with world-class players, and this could even be Lionel Messi’s last time playing in Uruguay.”
Whether or not Messi would even be available for Friday’s clash had been up in the air all week but it now seems that he will start against the Uruguayans and, if he remains unscathed, also on Tuesday, for Brazil’s visit to San Juan.
That is great news for his adoring public, not just in Argentina but across the entirety of the South American continent, but less so for PSG, who, with some justification, are beginning to feel short-changed.
Messi has made no secret of the fact that leading his national team to the World Cup in a year’s time is his top priority. According to reports he even has that condition written into his PSG contract, in a clause which states that the club must release him for any international game he wishes, regardless of the circumstance.
Since leaving Barcelona in August, the 34-year-old has racked up 450 minutes for Argentina in qualifying (not including that suspended clash against Brazil), compared to just 325 minutes in Ligue 1.
In that same period he netted four goals in international colours, while he is still waiting for his first strike in the French top flight.
Leo has delivered in the Champions League, hitting three times in as many outings as PSG sit on the verge of last-16 qualification, but he was forced to sit out their last clash with a knee injury and Argentina’s subsequent decision to call him up did not amuse anyone at Parc des Princes.
“We don’t agree with letting a player, who isn’t fit to play for us and is in recovery, join up with his national side,” PSG sporting director Leonardo told Le Parisien.
“It doesn’t make sense and this kind of situation needs to be discussed with FIFA.”
It is not a new topic of complaint for the Brazilian, who at the end of October said of Messi: “In these past two months he has spent more time with his national team than here.”
“I have a good relationship with Leonardo, because Walter [Samuel] was his team-mate and spoke to him recently,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni pointed out to reporters when asked of a possible rift with PSG this week.
“Their thing is understandable, because of what’s going on with the FIFA dates and the Copa America, for clubs there are a lot of trips with the national team and that is what is being discussed with FIFA.
“It is totally understandable from PSG, due to their calendar. But there is also no doubt that we are right to call him up and, if available, play him.”
For years clubs have enjoyed dominance over their international counterparts, withdrawing players at the slightest hint of injury and making clear that, as the ones who pay their wages, the clubs should enjoy a privileged position.
Messi thinks otherwise. At this point in his career he has nothing left to prove at club level, whereas the World Cup still looms as his white whale, the prize that has remained just out of reach.
Perhaps just as importantly, he seems happiest when around his Argentina colleagues, forming a stunning rapport with new faces like midfield general Rodrigo de Paul, which seems to have restored his love for the game.
Nobody, furthermore, can accuse the legendary No.10 of not deserving the odd break. In 2020-21, he played exactly 60 games between club and country – completing the 90 minutes in all but three – including that scintillating Copa America campaign, in which he played every single minute for his country.
That would be a heavy workload for any player, let alone a man who is looked to constantly as a match-winner, treated as such by opposing defenders and fouled more often than almost any other footballer on the planet.
That takes a huge physical toll, and yet year upon year Messi has continued to push himself to incredible extremes that defy all logic.
Now, it seems, it is time to take a breather. With 11 wins in 13 games and a 10-point lead PSG are not exactly missing his talents in Ligue 1, and even if he just uses the domestic game to keep sharp, Mauricio Pochettino’s men should by all rights win the title at a canter.
That leaves the Champions League and World Cup as the two crowns the Argentine must really work for, freed of the gruelling need to dig Barcelona out of a hole every week.
He should be in better shape than ever, both physically and psychologically, to do just that.
Seeing a player pick country over club might take some getting used to for PSG, then, but if they can accommodate their star and keep him content with this more limited, well-rested role then both they and Argentina are perfectly placed to reap the benefits, making everyone a winner.
The next season of Premier League is to begin on 6 August and will be adjusted to accommodate FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – there will be a mid-season break between 14 November and 26 December to accommodate the FIFA World Cup
The Premier League 2022/23 season dates have been confirmed.
The season has been adjusted to accommodate the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which will take place in the middle of the domestic calendar.
The Premier League season will start on 6 August 2022.
Match round 16 will be the last set of matches played over the weekend of 12-13 November ahead of the call-up period for the tournament beginning on Monday 14 November.
The League will resume on Boxing Day following the FIFA World Cup Final, which takes place on Sunday 18 December 2022.
The final match round of the campaign will be played on 28 May 2023, when all games will kick off simultaneously as usual.
New Barcelona boss Xavi has wasted no time in stamping his authority at the club, implementing a list of 10 strict new rules in a bid to return the Catalans to the top of the table.
The club legend has replaced Ronald Koeman at the helm and will be under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of him, with Barca languishing down in ninth in the LaLiga table.
In a bid to get the Nou Camp giants back to the top, Xavi has reportedly put forward a list of ‘ten commandments’ this week, as revealed by AS, which the players will have to follow with no exceptions.
The 41-year-old is used to winning titles with Barcelona and is bringing back some of the methods used while he was a player, beginning with the squad’s arrival time for training.
Under Koeman, the players only had to arrive for training around half an hour before the session, but Xavi is now insisting that the squad be at the facilities 90 minutes before they head out to the pitches – while staff must arrive two hours before.
Previously it was also at the players’ discretion whether they ate lunch at the training ground or went home immediately after the session to eat – but now Xavi is insistent that all players eat together at the Cuitat Esportiva.
Diet is hugely important to Xavi and he believes that by eating the right things, his squad can prevent injuries and improve their physical preparations for matches.
Fourth on his list of 10 commandments is the return of fines, something the players have not been subjected to since the exit of Luis Enrique.
What’s more, the fines will increase exponentially for repeat offenders – if you are late to training once, you will pay just 100 euros, but it doubles every time, meaning players could incur huge penalties if they are consistently breaking the rules.
Xavi’s players will also have to limit their non-footballing activities, with number six on the list detailing another ‘non-negotiable requirement’.
Stars have been told that when there are less than 48 hours until a game, they must not arrive home later than midnight, to ensure that they arrive for kick-off in the best possible condition.
They have also been asked to exert ‘control over extra-sports activities’, and have been threatened with the punishment of being escorted by a member of the coaching staff if any non-footballing activity begins to impact their performance.
After coming into force this week, club legend Gerard Pique has already cancelled a planned TV interview in a bid to ‘focus on football’.
Some ‘risky’ activities have also been banned completely, with players told they are now not allowed to surf or ride electric bikes, for fear of injury.
If any player is found guilty of that, it will be passed straight to the club’s legal department and is considered a ‘flagrant breach of contract’.
The final two rules on Xavi’s ‘ten commandments’ are about ‘image’ and ‘meritocracy’.
The former tells the players they must set a good example, always showing empathy with fans complying with the rules of conduct, while the final rule is that the squad must train as though it were a match.
‘Only those who train the best and have the most commitment at work will have options to be starters [on a matchday],’ the rules state – with the threat of being dropped from the squad entirely a very real possibility under the new boss.
Xavi will hope his new rules can help stop the rot at Barcelona, with the team stuck in mid-table and also struggling in the Champions League.
As a player, the Spaniard won eight LaLiga titles and a remarkable four Champions Leagues, but the level has dropped considerably since his exit in 2015.
Since then, he has been playing – and then managing – Al Sadd in Qatar, leaving last week to return to his boyhood club.
Steven Gerrard has been confirmed as Aston Villa’s manager after leaving Rangers. The former Liverpool and England midfielder replaces Dean Smith, who was sacked after five consecutive defeats.
Gerrard has been Rangers manager since June 2018 and won the Scottish Premiership last season. He leaves with the club top and as they prepare for the League Cup semi-final against Hibernian on Sunday week.
Villa made Gerrard their top target as they attempt to climb away from 16th place, two points above the relegation zone, after finishing 11th last season. Gerrard’s first game will be at home to Brighton a week on Saturday.
The former Liverpool captain is due to take Villa to Anfield on 11 December. He has a connection at Villa to Christian Purslow, the chief executive, who worked as Liverpool’s managing director for a number of years while Gerrard was at the club.
Gerrard said: “Aston Villa is a club with a rich history and tradition in English football and I am immensely proud to become its new head coach.
“In my conversations with [the owners] Nassef, Wes and the rest of the board, it was apparent how ambitious their plans are for the club and I am looking forward to helping them achieve their aims.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everybody associated with Glasgow Rangers for giving me the opportunity to manage such an iconic football club. Helping them secure a record-breaking 55th league title will always hold a special place in my heart. I would like to wish the players, staff and supporters the very best for the future.”
Purslow referenced the time Gerrard spent working with young players at Liverpool as he welcomed him to Villa, describing that as “experience we value highly”.
Purslow said: “He then took the brave decision to test himself in the intense and high-pressured environment of the Scottish Old Firm. His subsequent achievement in winning the Premiership title with Glasgow Rangers really caught our eye as did his experience in Europe.
“It has been very clear in our discussions with him that Steven’s coaching ambitions, philosophy and values entirely match those of Aston Villa. We are excited he has agreed to lead us in the next phase of our ambitious plans as we look to build on the progress made since Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens took over the club in 2018.”
PSG confirm women’s midfielder Aminata Diallo was taken into police custody today ‘following an attack on the club’s players.’
Midfielders Diallo, 26, and Hamraoui, 31, vie for the same spot in the PSG starting XI.
And stunning reports claim Diallo hired two masked men to physically attack Hamraoui in a bid to injure her so she could take her position in the team.
French outlet L’Equipe say two masked men dragged Hamraoui out of her car before punching and hitting her legs in an attempt to hurt her.
An iron bar was used repeatedly to attack Hamraoui’s legs during the shocking ordeal which occurred last Thursday.
PSG have since released a statement on the incident.
“Paris Saint-Germain take note of Aminata Diallo’s police custody this morning by the Versailles SRPJ as part of the proceedings initiated following an assault last Thursday evening against Club players,” the statement reads.
“Paris Saint-Germain strongly condemns the violence committed. Since Thursday evening November 4, the Club has taken all the necessary measures to guarantee the health, well-being and safety of its players.
“Paris Saint-Germain is working with the Versailles SRPJ to shed light on the facts.
“The Club is attentive to the progress of the procedure and will study the follow-up to be given to it.”
Diallo started in PSG’s UWCL match vs. Real Madrid yesterday, while Hamraoui was not in the squad.