Serena Williams has appeared to confirm her intention to take part in this month's Wimbledon after a year out injured.

The 40-year-old has not played competitively since losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round of last year's tournament at SW19 and is now ranked at 1,208 in the world.

Twenty-three time major winner Williams' future was called into question in April when long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou announced he was working with Simona Halep.

However, she hinted around the same time that returning to action at Wimbledon was a possibility, and that news was all but confirmed on social media on Tuesday.

Williams posted an image of her trainers on grass and captioned it: "SW and SW19. It's a date. 2022, see you there."

She also tagged Eastbourne, where a WTA event takes place in the week before Wimbledon, which begins on June 27.

Williams has won seven Wimbledon titles, the most recent of those in 2016, having since lost in the 2018 and 2019 finals.

The American is one major title shy of matching Margaret Court's long-standing record of 24, which has been the case since her most recent triumph at the 2017 Australian Open.

She missed last year's US Open on home soil, as well as this year's Australian Open and French Open.

Former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has been confirmed as the new manager of Burnley following his departure from Anderlecht.

The 36-year-old spent three years in charge of Anderlecht, the first of those as player-manager, prior to stepping aside by mutual consent last month.

He takes over at Turf Moor ahead of Burnley's first season in the Championship since 2015-16 following their relegation from the Premier League.

Sean Dyche was sacked by the Clarets in April after a decade in charge, with interim boss Mike Jackson unable to keep the club in the top flight.

Burnley confirmed the appointment on their official website on Tuesday, though they did not announce the length of the contract signed by the Belgian.

Kompany said: "Burnley Football Club is a truly historic English side and it is an honour to be appointed first-team manager. I'm excited by the challenge ahead.

"I'm looking forward to getting to work with the players and creating a positive, winning team for our fans when we return to Turf Moor.

"I've been impressed by the board's vision for the club which aligns with my own and I look forward to playing my part as we enter an important season."

Kompany finished third in the Belgian First Division last term to guide Anderlecht back into Europe, while also reaching the domestic cup final, where his side lost on penalties to Gent.

Prior to moving into coaching, Kompany enjoyed a 17-year playing career with Anderlecht, Hamburg and City, winning 10 major trophies across 11 seasons with the latter.

"We are absolutely delighted to welcome Vincent to Burnley Football Club," chairman Alan Pace said.

"Vincent is a proven leader and I've been very impressed with his ideas for Burnley Football Club, his appetite to succeed and his focus on leading the club back to the Premier League.

"Vincent has shown impressive credentials in leading one of Belgium's biggest teams back to European football and a cup final last season and we've been excited by his philosophy, approach and ambition for the club."

New Zealand head coach Danny Hay has urged his players to "seize the moment" by producing an upset against Costa Rica to claim the last remaining World Cup finals spot.

The two sides face off at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday for the right to return to Qatar later this year and join Germany, Japan and Spain in Group E.

A total of 31 countries have qualified for the global showpiece following Australia's penalty shoot-out win against Peru on Monday, leaving one place up for grabs.

New Zealand enter the intercontinental play-off clash as underdogs as they sit 101st in the latest FIFA rankings, 70 places below their Central American opponents.

The All Whites cruised through the extended qualifying process, racking up 5-0 and 7-1 wins along the way, but now face undoubtedly their toughest test yet in Costa Rica.

Whereas New Zealand have only ever qualified for two World Cups, and none since 2010, Costa Rica have qualified five times and are seeking a third straight finals appearance.

Hay's side are in a relaxed mood, though, with the 47-year-old glad that all the pressure is on the opposition.

"The world's media have basically written us off, given us no chance," Hay said at his pre-match news conference. "They're 31 in the world playing against 101 in the world. 

"I'm sleeping pretty well. I'm not sure their coach will be, though.

"We've got a great group. They're injury-free, they’re in a good space mentally, that’s why we need to seize the moment now. This really is our moment, this is our time."

New Zealand have been boosted by the return to fitness of captain Winston Reid, who had been struggling with a groin injury.

They have warmed up for Tuesday's match with a 1-0 defeat to Peru and goalless draw against Oman, both of those games being friendlies.

Costa Rica have lost just one of their past nine matches, meanwhile, but head coach Luis Fernandez Suarez is not taking New Zealand for granted.

"We'll make sure that the group is strong mentally," he said. "New Zealand are a team that like to make things dangerous. 

"They are a team that from the back with their goalkeeper almost always playing inside, from the beginning to the last third, with one of their advantages being aerial football.

"But for every situation or attack New Zealand present, we have prepared something to respond to it."

Awer Mabil has declared his crucial penalty in Australia's shoot-out victory against Peru was a "thank you" to the nation that took his family in after they fled Sudan.

The 26-year-old gave Australia the lead in sudden death with his side's sixth penalty, then watched on as Andrew Redmayne denied the South Americans as the Socceroos secured a spot in a fifth consecutive World Cup.

That will now signal a remarkable journey for Mabil from a Kenyan refugee camp to the showcase finals in Qatar later this year, and he dedicated his penalty to the nation that took in his family in 2006.

"I knew I was going to score. It was the only way to say thank you to Australia on behalf of my family," he said after Monday's match, which finished 0-0 after extra time.

"I was born in a hut, a little hut. My hotel room here is definitely bigger than the hut, the room we had as a family in that refugee camp.

"For Australia to take us in and resettle us, it gave me and my siblings and my whole family a chance at life.

"That's what I mean by thanking Australia for that chance of life, that chance of opportunity they allowed my family."

Mabil was born in a Kenyan refugee camp after his family fled conflict in Sudan, surviving on one meal a day as a child, but found a distraction in football and hopes his contribution can inspire other refugees.

"I scored, a lot of my team-mates scored, everybody played a part and maybe that refugee kid played a big part," he said.

Australia complete Group D for the World Cup alongside France, Denmark and Tunisia, with their opening game falling on November 22 against Didier Deschamps' defending champions.

Phil Mickelson has expressed his "deepest of sympathy and empathy" for the families of the 9/11 victims amid continued criticism over his decision to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The controversial eight-event Saudi-backed breakaway circuit, which got under way in London last week, has a prize fund of $250million that is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Mickelson and the other American players taking part in the series have been accused by a group representing victims' families and survivors of "sportswashing" – the practice of using sport to improve a tarnished reputation.

Terry Strada, the chair of the 9/11 Families United, said in a statement: "Whether it was the appeal of millions of dollars of hard cash, or just the opportunity to prosecute your professional grievances with the PGA, you have sold us out.

"This is a betrayal not only of us, but of all your countrymen."

Strada cited Saudi Arabia's prominent role in the terror attack 21 years ago, with Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers being Saudi nationals.

In another uncomfortable news conference on Monday ahead of this week's U.S. Open in Massachusetts, Mickelson was asked directly about Strada's comments.

"I would say to the Strada family, I would say to everyone that has lost loved ones, lost friends on 9/11 that I have deep, deep empathy for them. I can't emphasise that enough," he said.

"I have the deepest of sympathy and empathy for them."

Asked if he intended to respond privately to the letter, Mickelson repeated his earlier answer.

Mickelson and the others to have joined up for the series have also faced criticism from their colleagues, with Rory McIlroy – the winner of last week's Canadian Open – among the more vocal of those to speak out against the LIV Series.

"I certainly respect Rory," Mickelson said. "I thought what a great finish on Sunday and a great accomplishment. What a career he has had. I certainly respect him. I respect his ideas. I respect all the players that choose to stay on the PGA Tour.

"I certainly think extremely highly of many of the players on the PGA Tour and their right to their own decisions.

"I gave as much back to the PGA Tour and the game of golf that I could throughout my 30 years here, and through my accomplishments on the course I've earned a lifetime membership. I intend to keep that and then choose going forward which events to play and not."

Stephen Curry has vowed to "keep shooting" in Game 6 after his all-time streak of 233 successive games with a 3-pointer came to an end against the Boston Celtics.

The Golden State Warriors beat the Celtics 104-94 at Chase Center on Monday to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals series.

Curry has played a huge part in the Warriors' drive for a seventh championship, but the 34-year-old endured an off day in Game 5 as he went 0-for-9 from three-point range.

He had 16 points overall and laid on eight assists in what was a below-par showing, with Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson stepping up to help secure the pivotal victory.

Historically, when a seven-game series is tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has gone on to win the series over 82 per cent of the time.

Curry, who scored 43 points in the Game 4 triumph in Boston, is confident he will respond in the best way possible in Thursday's Game 6.

"I'll keep on shooting. It's very simple," he said. "I'm not afraid to go 0-for-whatever because I'm going to keep shooting and taking shots that you normally feel like you can make. 

"And I've responded well when I've had games like that from the three-point line. But I don't think I've ever been happier after a 0-for-whatever type of night.

"Knowing the context of the game, the other ways you tried to impact the game and the fact that you had four guys step up in meaningful ways to help us win offensively.

"So all that stuff matters. Yeah, there's a fire burning and I want to make shots, but the rest of it is about how we win the game, and we did that."

 

Curry has made 285 three-pointers this season, 23 more than next best Buddy Hield, with an average of 25.5 per game through his 64 appearances in 2021-22.

And after digging deep as a team to pick up the win, Draymond Green believes team-mate Curry's off-day could work in the Warriors' favour when the teams reconvene.

"Whether Steph gets 43, 10, four, or whether he finishes with 16-for-22 shooting, a win is a win," Green said.

"Obviously, we have spoken about helping him, and I don't think he's been out there helpless, like that's the narrative.

"But everybody's doing their part, and tonight, a night that he didn't have it going, we found offense elsewhere, and that's kind of what it's been.

"On the same token, if he's got it going, we're going to be heavy Steph Curry. That's just what it is. 

"The whole notion of this guy doesn't have help, well, you've got 43, he's going to keep shooting, and we're going to do all that we can to get him shooting it.

"It was huge. Now, that's good for us. He was 0-for-9 from three. He's going to be livid going into Game 6, and that's exactly what we need."

Jayson Tatum has admitted that the Boston Celtics need to 'focus' on their game and avoid refereeing distractions following defeat to Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA finals. 

Andrew Wiggins starred in the victory that put the Warriors 3-2 up in the best-of-seven series, but Tatum outscored him in the game, putting up 27 as the Celtics went down 104-94. 

The Celtics' slow start proved to be costly, with the third quarter their best display, with decisions from the referees clearly irritating the team.

Tatum insisted those distractions must be ignored heading into Thursday's win or go home Game 6, though. 

"I mean, you saw it. I wasn't in all of those conversations. I didn't hear everything that was talked about," Tatum said.

"But in those situations, especially on the road, regardless if we feel like calls are going our way or not, just in those moments we just got to be better not letting distractions, things like that, distract us.  

"Down one going into the fourth quarter, just got to focus on what's important at the time. That's on all of us. We'll regroup and bounce back. I'm sure of it."

Despite the odds being against them, Tatum remains confident the Celtics can salvage the series with two games to play.

"You know, I've said it before: You better be confident, right? We ain't got to win two in one day. We just got to win one game on Thursday," he added.

"We've been in this situation before. So it's not over. Got to win on Thursday. That's all we got to worry about right now."

Draymond Green described Andrew Wiggins as a player you want in the big occasions after his star turn in Game 5 of the NBA Finals put the Golden State Warriors on the cusp of championship glory.

Wiggins contributed 26 points and 13 rebounds, while Klay Thompson had 21 points as the Warriors scored a 104-94 win against the Boston Celtics on home court to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

It was a particularly valuable contribution from Wiggins in the context of an off night for superstar Stephen Curry, who had scored 43 points in the Game 4 triumph in Boston.

Curry had 16 points and laid on eight assists but surprisingly went 0-for-9 from three-point range, ending his record run of at least one three in a postseason game at 132, and ending his streak of regular and post-season combined at 233.

Green concedes Wiggins has had to grow in stature with the Warriors but says he is now the kind of player to excel on the big occasions.

"I think he started to feel it out, but coming into this year, he was an All-Star starter for a reason," Green said.

"He defended very well. He scored the ball very well and really just plugged right in. Like it wasn't like 'oh, you need to call a set for him every time'. He's kind of been getting it. He's continued to do that.

"I think the bigger the challenge has been that we've thrown in front of him, the bigger he's responded. You want a guy like that, when the stage gets big, they respond and play their best basketball, and that's what he's been doing."

Wiggins was able to reflect on a special moment, and said the celebrations from the likes of Klay Thompson at his performance were a sign of the "love" among the roster.

"It's something I dreamt about for sure, being in the league, and this is the ultimate stage. It doesn't get bigger than this. I was out there being aggressive. It was a good game," Wiggins said.

"That's [the celebrations] love. That's what makes it all work. We all support each other, and we want to see each other do good and succeed. That's why we're here."

Asked how he earned the respect of his team, Wiggins added: "Before I even got here, they have been great.

"You know, things that worked for them. And I feel like I'm pretty easy going, so I just came in here and hoop. I'm playing basketball, and I'm playing hard, and I feel like people respect that. And I'm just trying to win. 

"At the end of the day, no matter what it takes or whatever they need from me, I'm here to help them win."

It was a dominant display from the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday as their stars shone brightly, defeating the Baltimore Orioles 11-1 in front of their home fans.

Blue Jays ace pitcher Alek Manoah never gave the Orioles a chance, allowing just one hit and one walk as he held the Orioles scoreless through six innings, striking out seven.

With the bat, Alejandro Kirk gave Toronto a lead in the first inning with an RBI single, before MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. left his mark.

Guerrero made it 2-0 in the third inning when he drove in a run with a single, and he repeated his efforts in the fifth inning, driving home another run with an infield single to make it 3-0.

With some breathing room, the Blue Jays blew things out in the fifth frame, with Teoscar Hernandez's RBI double, followed by two-run base hits to both Santiago Espinal and Raimel Tapia, capped off by an RBI triple to Cavan Biggio.

Ultimately the Blue Jays scored seven runs from seven hits and a walk in the inning.

Guerrero put the finishing touches on in the eighth, crushing a 432-foot home run for his team-high 15th for the season, while Bo Bichette and George Springer both finished with a pair of hits.

Harper keeps hitting while Phillies keep winning

Reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper's quest to go back-to-back received another boost in the Philadelphia Phillies' 3-2 win against the Miami Marlins.

Harper was walked in the first inning, and then took advantage during his second at-bat, opening the scoring with an RBI double in the third frame.

He was walked again in the eighth inning, putting Rhys Hoskins into scoring position and setting up the tying run, and Hoskins then delivered again in the ninth, sending the Phillies fans home happy with a walk-off RBI double.

It is the 10th Phillies win from their past 11 games, bringing their rapidly improving record to 31-30.

Braves win 12th straight 

The hottest team in baseball kept their streak alive as the Atlanta Braves won their 12th consecutive game, beating the Washington Nationals 9-5.

Dansby Swanson was the star for the Braves, with a two-run RBI base hit in the second inning, before a 423-foot, two-run homer in the sixth inning.

He was one of five Braves players to go deep, as Travis d'Arnaud (373 feet), Marcell Ozuna (410 feet), Adam Duvall (397 feet) and Michael Harris II (388 feet) all hit home runs.

The Golden State Warriors showed their championship pedigree in Monday's 104-94 home win against the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

With the win, the Warriors have taken a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven. Historically, when a seven-game series is tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has gone on to win the series over 82 per cent of the time.

While it has been all Stephen Curry for the Warriors up this point, Game 5 was a true team performance as Curry struggled.

It started on the defensive end for the Warriors, holding the Celtics to just eight points in the first nine minutes of action on the way to a 27-16 opening frame.

Andrew Wiggins had seven points in the first quarter, and backed it up with another nine in the second, clearly the Warriors' best player in the first half as they won the second frame 24-23 to head into half-time leading 51-39.

A classic Warriors third quarter would have put the game to bed, but it was the Celtics' turn to flip the game on its head, starting the second half on a 10-0 run.

The road team would hit six-of-eight three-pointers in the period to pull ahead 74-72 in the closing stages, before a running heave from Jordan Poole banked in off the backboard to beat the buzzer. Replays showed the ball left Poole's fingertips with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock, giving the Warriors a one-point lead.

Poole's launch ignited the crowd, and they carried that momentum in the opening stages of the fourth, starting the quarter on a 10-0 run of their own to take a stranglehold on the contest.

In the biggest moments, Wiggins did not cede the floor to Curry, scoring 10 points in the last quarter, capped off with an emphatic slam dunk.

Wiggins finished with a team-high 26 points on 12-of-23 shooting, backing up his career-high 16 rebounds in Game 4 with another 13 rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.

Averaging 34.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the first four games, Curry went ice cold from long range as the series returned to Golden State, going seven-of-22 from the field and a shocking zero-of-nine from deep for his 16 points and eight assists.

It was the first of Curry's 133 career playoff games that he has not made a three-pointer, and breaks a streak of 233 consecutive total games without hitting one, and a streak of 38 straight playoff games with multiple makes.

Incredibly, Curry and Wiggins combined to shoot zero-of-15 from long range, but they received some crucial shooting performances from Klay Thompson (five-of-11 from three, 21 points) and Jordan Poole (three-of-six from deep, 14 points in 14 minutes).

Gary Payton II also played a big part in the win, coming off the bench to score 15 points on six-of-eight shooting, ripping away three steals and providing a game-changing presence on the defensive end of the floor.

Ultimately, the Warriors played playoff-proven, winning basketball. They finished with six combined turnovers as a team, with just four coming from the starters, and hit 86 per cent of their free throws (13-of-15).

For the Celtics, their big three of Jayson Tatum (four turnovers), Jaylen Brown (five) and Marcus Smart (four) combined for 13 of their side's 18 total turnovers, while they shot 67 per cent from the free throw line (21-of-31).

Tatum was the visiting side's top performer, finishing with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting, going five-of-nine from long range, adding 10 rebounds and four assists, although he did miss four of his six free throws.

The Warriors now have a chance to close out the series – and secure their fourth championship in eight seasons – when they head to Boston for Game 6. If the Celtics are able to win Game 6, Game 7 will head back to Golden State.

Justin Thomas called it "sad" that LIV Golf continues to dominate the headlines in the lead-up to the U.S. Open.

LIV Golf's first event took place this past weekend, with South Africa's Charl Schwartzel pocketing $4.75million as the inaugural winner.

Made possible through Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, the upstart tour has thrown exorbitant sums of money at PGA Tour players to poach them away, including Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson.

Speaking to the media after opting to not play in Monday's U.S. Open practice round, Thomas said the ubiquitous LIV Golf discussion during one of the great weeks on the golfing calendar was "sad".

"I grew up my entire life wanting to play the PGA Tour," he said. "Wanting to break records, make history, play Presidents Cups, play Ryder Cups.

"The fact that things like that could potentially get hurt because of some of the people that are leaving, and if more go, it's just sad. 

"It's really no other way to say it. It just makes me sad, because like I said, I've grown up my entire life wanting to do that, and I don't want to do anything else.

"The people that have gone, like I said, they have the decision that they're entitled to make. Not necessarily that I agree with it one way or the other, but everything has got a price, I guess."

He later added: "You can't go anywhere without somebody bringing it up.

"It's sad. This is the U.S. Open, and this is an unbelievable venue, a place with so much history, an unbelievable field, so many storylines, and yet that seems to be what all the questions are about.

"That's unfortunate. That's not right to the USGA. That's not right for the U.S. Open. That's not right for us players. But that's, unfortunately, where we're at right now."

Thomas was not done there, going on to discuss why he does not think the money is worth it, but also why it is not fair to make character assessments on the players who decided to make the move.

"There's no amount of money that you could get that [can make you happy doing something] you don't love or enjoy," he said. 

"You're still going to be miserable. You're still not going to enjoy it. Although you might be miserable in a bigger house or a nicer car, that doesn't necessarily mean that your life is going to be any better.

He added: "I'm the first to admit that there's times where people do something, and I bash them – obviously not externally – maybe internally with friends or whatever it is. It's not necessary.

"You can disagree with the decision. You can maybe wish that they did something differently… being in the media as a writer, you have to write about it. I understand that. 

"But for people at home to necessarily say that Dustin Johnson is now a bad person, that's not fair. That's just not right.

"Now, again, I said it last week, I'll say it again, do I wish he wouldn't have done it, and am I a little sad about it? Yeah – but it is what it is."

Bryson DeChambeau called his decision to join the LIV Golf series "very difficult", but the promise of a massive payday made the difference in the end.  

The first LIV Golf event took place this past weekend in London, with South Africa's Charl Schwartzel pocketing $4.75million as the inaugural winner.

Criticism has followed the Saudi-backed tour every step of the way, with its motivations being questioned due to the fact that it appears unlikely to turn a profit.

Speaking to the media for the first time since making the jump away from the PGA Tour, DeChambeau admitted his priorities were financial.

"It was a business decision, first and foremost," he said. "That’s all there was to it.

"It’s given me a lot more opportunities outside of the game of golf and given me more time with my family and my future family. So for me, that was the decision."

The 2020 U.S. Open champion said less than two weeks ago that joining LIV Golf would be a "risk" for him, but DeChambeau was reportedly offered a total of $100 million to participate in the series’ seven remaining events.  

"There was a lot of financials to it, and a lot of time," he said. "I get to have a life outside of the game of golf as well." 

While some players – notably Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na – have resigned entirely from the PGA Tour, DeChambeau has not surrendered his tour card. The PGA suspended 17 players for participating in the rival circuit, which resumes on June 30 at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland, Oregon.  

PGA commissioner Jay Monahan said any future LIV players will receive the same punishment. 

DeChambeau largely avoided addressing the controversial nature of LIV Golf, which is funded through Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, but he did make his first comments about concerns many fans have about the series’ connection to the Saudi government’s human rights violations.  

"What’s gone on has not been great," he said, “But they’re moving in the right decision from what I can see and what we’ve had conversations about." 

DeChambeau told the Golf Channel that he wants to play some PGA Tour events in the future.  

"I want to play where people can see great entertainment. I want to deliver that anywhere I'm at." 

Fresh off one of the best seasons in franchise history, the Memphis Grizzlies and head coach Taylor Jenkins have agreed to a multi-year contract extension, the team announced Monday.  

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.  

In his third season as a head coach, Jenkins led the 2021-22 Grizzlies to a 56-26 record, including a franchise-record 26 road wins, leading to the Western Conference’s two-seed seed, and a playoff series win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He finished second in Coach of the Year voting.  

Memphis finished their season with a second-round playoff loss to the eventual West champions, the Golden State Warriors.  

The Grizzlies' head of basketball operations, Zach Kleiman, called the extension well-deserved in a statement.  

"The year-over-year progress under Taylor speaks for itself, but his growth-oriented, selfless and competitive approach has been a driving force in the establishment of a sustainable culture," Kleiman said.  

"We have full confidence that Taylor will steer us to Memphis’ first championship." 

Jenkins, 37, is 128-99 in three seasons coaching the Grizzlies and led Memphis to playoff appearances in each of the past two seasons.  

German goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer looked forward to ending a string of mediocre results when his side face Italy on Tuesday, saying "a win would taste good".

Saturday's 1-1 draw against Hungary was Germany's fourth consecutive 1-1 draw, with the same result against England and Italy this month, and the Netherlands back in March.

In that last meeting with Italy, Germany controlled 65 per cent of the possession, completing over double the amount of passes (613-302), but they had to come from behind and settle for the draw thanks to Joshua Kimmich's equaliser.

Speaking to the media ahead of the contest, Neuer said his side played with the "right attitude" against Hungary, and he hopes Germany can get back on track with a strong result when the Italians travel to Borussia-Park.

"The disappointment has already prevailed, but we don't have to bury our heads in the sand either," he said. "Our hunger and our motivation are there. 

"We may have lacked creativity and vigour, but we showed the right attitude in every game.

"A win would taste good for us. We want to get the three points against Italy and the sense of achievement at the end.

"You can't just drop a game. We want to be as well-rehearsed as possible on the defensive for the World Cup. 

"That will be crucial for me, and that's why it's good to play against such good opponents in the Nations League."

Germany head coach Hansi Flick also looked on the bright side, and acknowledged he is still very much in data-gathering mode.

"The team has made good progress – we haven't lost a game yet," he said. "But in the last four games – against quite strong opponents – we've only drawn four times. 

"We were hoping for more, and I also thought that we'd made a bit more progress in development. As I said before, the four games are used for analysis, which we have to fine-tune in September. And that is our task now."

While all focus seems to be on the World Cup, Flick admitted he is desperate to get that winning feeling back in the group.

"I just don't like the four draws because I want to win, and the team feels the same way," he said. "We want to win games.

"Victories are always important for the team. We have to give everything again against Italy, with a win the conviction that you have good quality is much higher.

"Italy are doing very well. They have a broad squad and always bring freshness to the pitch. 

"We want to stress the opponent, put him under pressure. Our transition game has to get better, that's where our focus is.

"Our offensive doesn't lack direction, but rather the determination and the absolute will to finish. This requires conviction, but also freshness – and after such a long season that is not always available."

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