Qatar have been invited by UEFA to join a World Cup qualifying group containing European champions Portugal ahead of hosting the tournament in 2022.

The Asian champions' results in Group A, which also contains the Republic of Ireland, Serbia, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg, will not count towards qualification as they are already assured of a place in the finals given their status as hosts.

They will face each side twice, but their 'home' matches will be staged in Europe to allow shorter flight times for their opponents.

It is hoped that Qatar, who are also set to play in the Copa America and Gold Cup next year, will gain further experience from competing against European nations such as Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.

UEFA confirmed the news on Tuesday and announced Qatar would begin their campaign against Luxembourg at a neutral venue yet to be confirmed on March 24, 2021.

Felix Sanchez Bas' side, who are ranked 59th in the world and won their first ever Asian Cup with a 3-1 win over Japan in last year's final, will take on Portugal next September and October.

Wales captain Gareth Bale was concerned he could have contracted coronavirus after discovering two Republic of Ireland players tested positive following their clash on Sunday.

Bale's Tottenham team-mate Matt Doherty and Stoke winger James McClean returned positive COVID-19 tests after a 1-0 Nations League win for Wales at Cardiff City Stadium.

Doherty, who will now miss Spurs’ huge Premier League game at home to Manchester City on Saturday, had an embrace with Bale after the full-time whistle, while the pair reportedly swapped shirts when they talked after leaving the pitch.

No Wales players have tested positive ahead of their match against Finland on Wednesday, but Bale admitted he was worried the virus may have been passed on ahead of a key period of games.

Asked about his contact with Doherty, on-loan Spurs forward Bale said: "It's a slight concern for everyone when you have been playing someone [who has tested positive] and in close contact on the field, but maybe not long enough to catch it.

"Obviously you’re a bit wary, but it is good news that everyone has come back and tested negative and now we can concentrate on the game.

"Me and Ben Davies [Wales and Spurs defender] spoke to him [Doherty] briefly and I think he is doing fine, he’s got mild symptoms.

"Hopefully he recovers fine, doesn't have any problems and will be back playing as soon as possible."

Bale says the Football Association of Wales deserves great credit for the protocols it has put in place.

He said: "There's only three or four to a table, making sure we are socially distanced, going at different times to get food, wearing gloves to serve our food, no sharing rooms anymore.

"They have gone to great measures to make sure we are safe. It is important to take it seriously."

Wales captain Gareth Bale was concerned he could have contracted coronavirus after discovering two Republic of Ireland players tested positive following their clash on Sunday.

Bale's Tottenham team-mate Matt Doherty and Stoke winger James McClean returned positive COVID-19 tests after a 1-0 Nations League win for Wales at Cardiff City Stadium.

No Wales players have tested positive ahead of their match against Finland on Wednesday, but Bale admitted he was worried the virus may have been passed on.

"It's a slight concern for everyone when you have been playing someone [who has tested positive] and in close contact on the field, but maybe not long enough to catch it," said the on-loan Spurs forward.

"Obviously you’re a bit wary, but it is good news that everyone has come back and tested negative and now we can concentrate on the game.

"Me and Ben Davies [Wales and Spurs defender] spoke to him [Doherty] briefly and I think he is doing fine, he’s got mild symptoms."

Bale says the Football Association of Wales deserves great credit for the protocols it has put in place.

He said: "There's only three or four to a table, making sure we are socially distanced, going at different times to get food, wearing gloves to serve our food, no sharing rooms anymore.

"They have gone to great measures to make sure we are safe. It is important to take it seriously."

Tottenham defender Matt Doherty has tested positive for COVID-19 while on duty with the Republic of Ireland, news that will no doubt anger an already frustrated Jose Mourinho.

Doherty featured for his country in both last Thursday's friendly loss to England at Wembley and the 1-0 Nations League reverse against Wales in Cardiff on Sunday.

However, Ireland announced on Monday that Doherty, along with team-mate James McClean, had returned a positive test result before the squad flew back to Dublin.

Neither will be involved in Wednesday's game against Bulgaria, while the self-isolation guidelines imposed during the pandemic will also mean the duo will not be available for their clubs this weekend.

Mourinho will therefore have to do without Doherty when Spurs host Manchester City in Premier League action on Saturday.

The Portuguese seemingly made clear his feelings about the November international break in an Instagram post that showed him working out after a training session that saw just six players involved.

"Amazing week of football. Great emotions in the national team matches, superb friendlies and total safety," Mourinho wrote. 

"Covid test results after matches been played, randomers running on the pitch while team sessions are taking place and much more.

"After another training session with only 6 players, it is now time to take care of myself."

Doherty has started six times in the league this season since arriving from Wolves, helping his new club sit second in the table.

After hosting Pep Guardiola's City, Spurs have a Europa League group game against Ludogorets on November 26, followed by a trip to face London rivals Chelsea less than 72 hours later.

Republic of Ireland midfielder Alan Browne has tested positive for coronavirus after playing the full 90 minutes against England on Thursday.

Browne was part of the Ireland team beaten 3-0 at Wembley after goals from Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Testing since that match has revealed the Preston North End man has contracted COVID-19, however.

Browne, who contested a game-high 13 duels, has had "no close contacts", FA Ireland reported on Friday.

"The rest of the staff and squad tested negative ahead of Sunday's UEFA Nations League [game] against Wales in Cardiff," a short statement read on Twitter.

While Ireland visit Wales then host Bulgaria in the Nations League, England go to Belgium before playing Iceland at Wembley.

The Iceland fixture had been in some doubt due to the visitors' prior match in Denmark, where a latest coronavirus outbreak has led to tightening of travel restrictions.

But Iceland were granted exemption on Thursday, allowing the game to go ahead.

Gareth Southgate paid tribute to an inexperienced England side after they claimed a 3-0 friendly win over the Republic of Ireland.

With a Nations League double-header against Belgium and Iceland on the horizon, the Three Lions boss left out the likes of Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane at Wembley on Thursday evening.

Southgate instead went with a youthful team, with goalkeeper Nick Pope the oldest player at 28, while Jude Bellingham came on to make his England bow – becoming the third youngest debutant for the men's team, after Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney.

He was nevertheless treated to an impressive showing from his fringe players, whose march to victory never looked in doubt.

Southgate told ITV: "I was really pleased with the way the boys played. 

"[With] a lot of young players, a lot of inexperienced players, we used the ball very well, created a lot of chances [and] it could have been more comfortable if we'd taken some of those chances. But overall, very pleased. 

"I think we were a bit slow at the start but that's understandable, it's not a team that has had a lot of time to work together. 

"The longer they went on, some of the interplay, some of the play between our attacking 10s and our wing-backs in particular was very good, especially down this left side: Bukayo [Saka], Jack [Grealish] and then Mason [Mount]. I was very pleased."

Grealish followed up an assist on his England debut with another on his second outing to take his tally to five goals and seven assists in 11 appearances for club and country this term.

It had been suggested that the 25-year-old was in a straight shootout with Mason Mount for a starting place in attacking midfield for the Three Lions but, after using both in the same team, Southgate dismissed that notion.

He added: "There are a lot of other players in the squad as well, so we've got great competition for places. 

"You saw them in two different roles today, they can both play in a few different roles, but I was pleased with the way we moved the ball."

As for Grealish himself, he is hoping that his withdrawal just past the hour mark bodes well for involvement against Belgium next up.

"Who knows? That's what I want to do, I want to play as much as possible and all I've got to do is try and impress the manager as much as I can," the Aston Villa captain said. 

"Since I've come in he's been brilliant with me on and off the pitch, speaking to me all the time, telling me what he wants me to do. 

"That's what I've tried to do and fingers crossed."

Grealish completed 89.7 per cent of 39 attempted passes, with 36 of those coming in Ireland's half, while he combined with Mount on 17 occasions in total.

He continued: "I think coming here and training with these guys day in, day out for two weeks, it just steps up everything about your game, it especially has with mine. 

"Just watching the way Harry [Kane], Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling are day to day and how they train. 

"In training you learn off these guys as well, so that's what I've been trying to do. I'm trying to take as much as I can from them and I think it's helped me."

England warmed up for their upcoming Nations League double-header by cruising to a 3-0 friendly win over the Republic of Ireland at Wembley.

Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho were on target in the first half of Thursday's encounter, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin's emphatic penalty completing a routine outing after the break.

Manager Gareth Southgate will now have plenty to think about after a strong showing from a number of England's fringe players prior to matches with Belgium and Iceland.

The visitors' hopes of earning a first ever Wembley win were dealt a blow when John Egan was forced off early on after taking a bang to the head.

Ireland probed with a couple of dangerous low crosses but England hit the front from a corner that resulted from Darren Randolph saving smartly from Bukayo Saka following an initial poor punch.

Harry Winks picked up the first clearance and stood up a cross for Maguire to power home with his head.

Calvert-Lewin then went close at the end of a slick move and Randolph saved from Maguire before the lively Jack Grealish fed Sancho, who lashed home England's second through the legs of Jeff Hendrick.

England picked up where they left off in the second half, pressing Ireland high before Saka was tripped in the box by Cyrus Christie.

And Calvert-Lewin made no mistake from the spot, hammering the ball into the top corner for the second goal of his short international career.

With the hosts in complete control late on, Southgate introduced Jude Bellingham from the bench, making him the third youngest England player of all-time.

What does it mean? Southgate given headache

The wisdom of playing these international friendlies has been questioned in recent weeks, but there is no doubt that Southgate learned more about the depth at his disposal this evening.

There is nothing better for a manager than to see fringe players stepping up in the absence of key men and that is exactly what happened for England here. Southgate is facing a very welcome headache.

Grealish makes case once again

It once felt like there was nothing Grealish could do to get into the England squad, but just two caps in he already looks a dead cert for inclusion in the Euros squad next summer. 

The Aston Villa man was influential again here, taking 50 touches, completing 88.9% of passes in the opposition half, and making two key passes - including the assist for Sancho's goal.

Idah isolated up top

Starting up front for the visitors at Wembley, Adam Idah would have hoped to make much more of an impact before his withdrawal in the 71st minute.

The 19-year-old touched the ball just 18 times, and won only one of his five duels.

What's next?

England travel to Belgium for a Nations League fixture on Sunday, while Ireland's next outing in the same competition sees them face Wales away from home.

Jack Grealish may still be some way off living up to the outlandish Paul Gascoigne comparisons unloaded on him recently, but there can be little doubt of the Aston Villa star's supreme abilities.

Few players in elite football possess the grace and effortlessness on the ball of Grealish, who has come to establish himself as one of the Premier League's finest technicians.

But there is even more to his game than just simply looking graceful – his influence on high-flying Villa has been phenomenal.

It seems remarkable that his first call-up was as recent as August – even then, he was not included in the initial list, only getting his break after the withdrawals of Marcus Rashford and Harry Winks.

It was not until October that Grealish was handed his full debut, impressing in the 3-0 friendly win over Wales as he offered the kind of off-the-cuff creativity that has so often been missing from England's largely monotonous style of play under Gareth Southgate.

Yet Southgate's trepidation seemed to remain – Grealish did not play a single minute in their next two games against Belgium and Denmark.

But the man who Rio Ferdinand believes is the Premier League's most influential player respective to their own team is showing the kind of form that would make him virtually undroppable for any other manager.


The problem with Grealish – and one must assume this is at least partly why Southgate has been holding him back – is that his defensive output is pretty poor, and he is particularly ineffective with regards to winning possession back as a consequence of pressing.

But sometimes you have to accept a player's deficiencies because of his other abilities. Similarly, Grealish is not in the Villa team to win possession back, so why should we judge him too harshly on this?

The fact is, Villa have been one of the revelations of the season in the Premier League, winning five of their seven matches, and Grealish has been central to so much of what they do.

First of all, his haul of four goals and five assists from seven games is truly excellent, but we can delve much deeper to understand the extent of his influence.

Grealish has been involved in 10 goal-ending sequences this term, second to only Harry Kane and Son Heung-min (both 13), while he also ranks third in the division for involvement in sequences that end with a shot (51).

This shows his importance to Villa going forward, with Grealish routinely involved in their most rewarding moves.

Panache and productivity

Still require evidence of Grealish's impact? There is plenty more to come, and this gives us the chance to highlight his ability on the ball but also how he is using that to Villa's advantage.

Ball carriers or players who like to dribble can be among the most frustrating on a pitch – you can become accustomed to expecting them to succeed every time, but in reality holding on to the ball, particularly when under pressure, is one of the toughest parts of the game.

It is normal to see centre-backs and full-backs rank well with regards to ball carries as they are often the players with the most space when in possession, yet Grealish bucks the trend.

The Villa virtuoso has performed 149 carries this season, making him the only non-defender in the top five, an impressive feat as it show he carries the ball frequently despite operating in – theoretically – the most congested area of the pitch.

His ball carries equate to 1,980 metres, second only to Adam Webster (2,032m) despite 48 fewer attempts than the Brighton and Hove Albion defender. However, Grealish comes out at the top with respect to progressive carry distance (1,269m) and 15 of them have included a take-on, a tally bettered by just five players.

But most importantly, Grealish is actually making an impact at the end of them as well. A league-high nine of his carries have resulted in a key pass, another nine have led to a shot (ranked third) and three of those produced a goal (ranked second).

The form and focus Grealish has been showing in the Premier League – in which he is the fourth most creative player this term with 19 key passes – should ensure he is one of the first picks in this England side, a team that is too often overly cautious.

But it remains to be seen if he has done enough to eradicate Southgate's caution.

A likely start in Thursday's friendly with the Republic of Ireland, whom Grealish represented at youth level, might be a relatively meaningless contest on the face of it, but for Villa's captain it could provide the opportunity to induce a long-awaited epiphany in the mind of Southgate.

Five Republic of Ireland players will miss Sunday's Nations League clash with Wales after an unnamed player tested positive for coronavirus.

Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah were forced to miss the Euro 2020 playoff encounter with Slovakia on Thursday as they were deemed to have been in close contact with a member of staff who tested positive for COVID-19.

The FAI announced ahead of the Group B4 showdown with Wales that a member of Stephen Kenny's squad returned a positive test on Friday.

Another four players will not face Ryan Giggs' side due to having close contact with the individual who tested positive.

The FAI also revealed that the member of the backroom team who tested positive for COVID-19 in Bratislava on Wednesday may have received a 'false positive' result.

Two further tests carried out on that individual came back as negative and the FAI will discuss the issue with UEFA.

Ireland boss Kenny will review his options for a Nations League match against Finland on Wednesday following the meeting with Wales.

The Republic of Ireland's opening Nations League matches against Bulgaria and Finland gave Stephen Kenny "some food for thought" as he looks ahead to the "bigger picture" of their Euro 2020 play-off.

In Kenny's first two games as manager, Ireland drew in Bulgaria with a late Shane Duffy equaliser on Thursday and then lost 1-0 at home to Finland on Sunday.

But while frustrated not to take the three points in Dublin after a series of misses in the closing stages - including another Duffy header - Kenny's focus was already on a vital meeting with Slovakia.

Ireland must come through that fixture next month and then a subsequent play-off final to qualify for the European Championship in 2021.

For that reason, the Ireland boss was willing to name experimental line-ups – he changed his entire midfield for the meeting with Finland – in a bid to find his best side.

"We wanted to win - my first game at home, of course we wanted to win - but, for us, there's a bigger picture. That's Slovakia." Kenny explained to Sky Sports.

"We were a bit experimental in the games, I think that's evident. We want players to really put their hands up and put themselves in the picture for Slovakia.

"We need to increase our attacking options, for sure, for the game against Slovakia.

"We wanted to do that and some players did quite well. That gives us some food for thought for the game next month."

Having struggled to break Finland down before the break, Ireland preyed on the visitors' sloppiness at the back to muster big second-half chances.

They could not take their opportunities, however, and Kenny reflected: "We probably had four or five really good chances today.

"When you get them, you have to take them. It's as simple as that. We're disappointed, obviously, to lose the game."

Stephen Kenny's wait for a first win as Republic of Ireland manager went on as they suffered a 1-0 home Nations League loss to Finland.

Only a late header from captain Shane Duffy rescued a point in Bulgaria on Thursday, and there was to be no Irish hero back in Dublin.

Fredrik Jensen made an instant impact from the bench with the only goal of the game in the 63rd minute, while Kenny's men failed to test Lukas Hradecky for much of a tight contest.

Defeat leaves Ireland already five points off the pace and in need of a lift for their crucial Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia.

Ireland struggled to break Finland down in a frustrating first half and were grateful for a big early stop from Darren Randolph at the other end.

Robert Taylor's superb pass sent Teemu Pukki clear, but the Norwich City striker could not beat Randolph, who saved smartly with his left boot.

Although the hosts initially improved following the restart, the opener then came at the other end, courtesy of Jensen, just 19 seconds after his arrival in place of Joel Pohjanpalo.

Pukki fed Taylor on the left and a measured pass across the face of goal evaded both Randolph and his defenders, and the lunging substitute slammed into the net.

David McGoldrick might have had a similarly swift impact for Ireland but dallied in front of goal, before Hradecky blocked brilliantly from Callum Robinson.

Finland came on strong again as Taylor worked Randolph at his near post and, after Pukki dragged just wide, the Ireland goalkeeper made an outstanding fingertip save from Nikolai Alho.

Those stops meant Duffy could have again earned a draw as he rose to meet a Robbie Brady corner, but his header looped over as Finland held on.

What does it mean? Ireland lacking spark

Having required a late set-piece goal against Bulgaria, it was all change in the Ireland midfield. But chances were still scarce back in Dublin, with Adam Idah - a debutant earlier in the week - again starved of service.

This was just Ireland's second defeat in their past 14 matches, but they must offer more in attack to settle these hard-fought affairs in their favour.

Taylor pulls the strings

Jensen might have got the goal, but he would not have been in a position to score without the inspired involvement of Taylor. The midfielder's finely weighted passes teed up Pukki in the first half and then the substitute after the break just as Ireland were taking control.

Ireland fail to capitalise

Given the lack of creativity in midfield, Ireland needed to make the most of any chances Finland gifted them. Twice Hradecky put a team-mate in trouble playing out from the back, but Aaron Connolly's poor touch drove him wide, while McGoldrick hesitated at the key moment.

What's next?

Ireland return to action next month with a mammoth Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Slovakia. Meanwhile, Finland can look ahead to their friendly at Poland.

Stephen Kenny acknowledged his Republic of Ireland side have plenty to improve upon after an indifferent showing in the Nations League clash with Bulgaria.

Shane Duffy's last-gasp header secured a 1-1 draw in Sofia on Thursday, with Bozhidar Kraev having opened the scoring for the hosts.

It was Kenny's first match in charge, with the former Dundalk manager – who took over from Mick McCarthy as planned earlier this year – naming an inexperienced line-up.

And though Kenny took the positives from a performance which came after just three days of training, he understands his side have lots of work ahead of them.

"Certainly it was a match we'd have liked to win, for sure," Kenny said in an interview posted to Ireland's official Twitter account.

"There was some good play, no doubt, but there's room for improvement still. We learned quite a few things and we hope to improve. We showed resilience but plenty to work on.

"There was a lot of good play in the game, we couldn't capitalise on the chances we had. We knew Bulgaria are difficult to break down and they're a good counter-attacking team.

"With the late equaliser, you're hoping it's a point gained. It's a great goal, a terrific header from Shane Duffy and Robbie Brady's brilliant delivery from the corner kick.

"There's no way we deserved to lose the game and we were well capable of winning it. It was our first game after just three days training, so it's important we get ourselves ready for Finland on Sunday.

"The players gave everything tonight. A lot of them are still in pre-season, Bulgaria have played eight games already. 

"It's a quick turnaround but we’re not complaining, it's a good opportunity. There were a lot of good points and some areas to improve."

Duffy – who captained Ireland with Seamus Coleman left on the bench – echoed his manager's sentiments.

"Disappointed, probably. Being realistic, it's most of our lads' first games, it's been a couple of days under the new manager trying to get used to it," he said.

"A few sloppy moments, personally for the goal as well. The positives – never-give-up attitude and going until the end. It's important we didn't lose it but there's lots to improve.

"They were dangerous when we were sloppy, they punished us. We've only had a couple of days training, it's like a pre-season game for most of us. It was tough."

Stephen Kenny's first game in charge of the Republic of Ireland ended in dramatic fashion as Shane Duffy salvaged a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria in the Nations League.

Having replaced Mick McCarthy, former Dundalk boss Kenny insisted his side would set out to implement a new style in Sofia in their opening Nations League Group B4 match, though Bozhidar Kraev's effort looked set to prove decisive.

Kraev's goal came shortly after Ireland had registered their first shot on target through Aaron Connolly in the 52nd minute.

Yet some late pressure finally told in the third minute of added time – Duffy, wearing the captain's armband with Seamus Coleman on the bench, powering in an excellent header from Robbie Brady's corner to snatch a point.

Geoff Hurst said the football world has "lost one of the greats " as tributes poured in for Jack Charlton after the World Cup winner died aged 85 on Friday.

It was announced on Saturday that the Leeds United and England great had passed away following a long battle with ill health.

Charlton won 35 caps for England and was part of the squad that lifted the World Cup on home soil in 1966.

The inspirational centre-back made a record 773 appearances during 23 years with Leeds, winning the league title in 1969 as well as the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Fairs Cup twice.

Charlton went on to become a manager and led the Republic of Ireland to their first major tournament at the 1988 European Championship before masterminding a run to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals.

Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in England's World Cup final win over West Germany, said Charlton will be hugely missed.

"Another sad day for football. Jack was the type of player and person that you need in a team to win a World Cup," he tweeted.

"He was a great and loveable character and he will be greatly missed. The world of football and the world beyond football has lost one of the greats. RIP old friend."

Paul McGrath and John Aldridge were key members of Charlton's Ireland squad and they expressed their sadness at his passing.

Former centre-back McGrath tweeted: "Absolutely gutted. Father figure to me for 10 years, thanks for having faith in me. Sleep well Jack, Love ya."

Aldridge, the prolific ex-Liverpool striker, posted on Twitter: "Absolutely gutted that BIG JACK has passed away! What a football man. Loved and adored, specially [sic] in Ireland.

"The best manager I was lucky to play for. The times we had on and off the pitch was priceless! My thoughts are with Pat and the family! RIP my good friend Never Forgotten !!"

A message on the Football Association of Ireland's Twitter account said: "The FAI is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jack Charlton, the manager who changed Irish football forever."

A post from the England national teams on the same platform said: "We are devastated by the news that Jack Charlton, a member of our World Cup-winning team of 1966, has passed away. Our deepest sympathies are with Jack's family, friends and former clubs."

Tony Cascarino, who also played under Charlton for Ireland, also paid tribute.

"A very funny man, a very sensitive man, a very loyal man, a family man," Cascarino told talkSPORT.

"I knew he was bed-ridden over the past 19 days. It's very sad and I'd like to think I'd remember Jack for very happy reasons."

He added: "He was fabulous. It feels like I've lost a family member. Out of all the years I knew Jack, he never talked about winning the World Cup once; he never mentioned it."

Former Republic of Ireland and Liverpool forward Michael Robinson has died aged 61 following a battle with skin cancer.

Robinson also represented Preston North End, Manchester City, Brighton and Hove Albion and Queens Park Rangers before moving to Osasuna for the final two and a half years of his playing career.

That paved the way for a move into punditry and broadcasting in Spain, where Robinson established himself as an authoritative and respected voice on the country's national sport.

He won 24 caps for Ireland, while a sole campaign at Anfield in 1983-84 saw him play a part in Division One, European Cup and League Cup glory.

"With tremendous sadness we inform you of Michael's death," a tweet posted to Robinson's official Twitter account on Tuesday read.

"It leaves us with a great emptiness, but also countless memories, full of the same love that you have shown him.

"We will be eternally grateful to you for making this man SO HAPPY, he never walked alone."

Robinson's standing within the Spanish football fraternity was quickly underlined as Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos offered "my love to your family and friends", while Barcelona paid tribute to "a person who loved football and who knew how to explain it with knowledge and ingenuity".

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