Eric Dier is "grateful" to be back in the England squad for the World Cup after fearing he may never play for the Three Lions again following his Euro 2020 omission.

Tottenham defender Dier was a notable absentee from Gareth Southgate's side for the coronavirus-delayed European Championship in 2021, where England lost in the final to Italy on penalties.

The likes of Harry Maguire, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady were preferred at the back by Southgate, though Dier has returned to the fold for Qatar.

England face Iran in Monday's Group B opener and Dier acknowledged he thought the chance to represent his country at a major tournament may never come again.

"I'd be lying if I said that didn't cross my mind [that I might not be in England contention again]," the 28-year-old said. 

"When I missed out on the Euro 2020 squad that was one of the worst moments of my career.

"I'm grateful to be here now. I'm very proud of myself how I managed to fight my way back in."

Dier has been ever-present for Tottenham in the Premier League this season, pinpointing his "special" coach Antonio Conte as the reason for his upturn in form.

"Last season after Antonio Conte arrived that was some of the best football I've played – and it has carried into this season," he added.

"I'm enjoying every minute of working with him. He's a special manager."

The 32 nations competing at the 2022 World Cup face an unprecedented situation, with the world's elite leagues pausing for a mid-season break to allow their stars to compete for glory in the Middle East.

"It's a unique situation for us. In some ways it's quite nice. Maybe not for the coaches and managers - it's not ideal [for them]," Dier continued. 

"From a player's point of view, the quick turnaround is nice. We're here and just getting straight into it. I'm quite impatient. There are other aspects that aren't so great with injuries when they wouldn't usually have missed a tournament. I'm very excited to start."

Host nation Qatar has also come under widespread criticism amid concerns over their human rights record in a country where same-sex relationships are prohibited.

England manager Southgate, captain Harry Kane among a host of other senior figures competing at the World Cup have vowed to speak out, though Dier suggested players have been left in a difficult situation.

"It's extremely difficult for us as players. We know these topics are going to be addressed - it's a difficult situation," the centre-back said.

"When the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010, I was 16 at the time. It's difficult for me to talk on it. As players, we have no say on where we play.

"Those decisions are made by people way above us. We're the ones who end up sitting here having to answer these questions.

"I carry the values I've been given by my family and those who educated me. We've been here a very short time. For me, it's important to live this experience. At that point, I'll have a better idea of what to say on it.

"A lot of things that are disappointing have happened. As a team we carry values wherever we go – but we respect everywhere we go."

Bukayo Saka can thrive during England's World Cup campaign after handling the fallout from his penalty miss in the Euro 2020 final "impeccably", according to Aaron Ramsdale.

Saka's spot-kick was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma after England's tense draw with Italy last July, ensuring the Three Lions lost on their first major final appearance since the 1966 World Cup.

The winger then endured further disappointment on the domestic stage as Arsenal failed to secure a top-four finish last term, but he has bounced back in fine fashion this season.

With Arsenal flying high at the top of the Premier League table, only five players have bettered Saka's tally of 10 goal contributions in the competition this campaign (four goals, six assists), and his Gunners team-mate Ramsdale expects him to impress in Qatar.

Asked by ESPN how Saka handled last year's disappointment, Ramsdale said: "[I'm] trying to find the right words, impeccably, probably.

"The kid's a lovely boy, he has time for everyone, he works super hard throughout every week. 

"He very, very rarely misses a training session and he used all that motivation of criticism, but also the love that everyone gave him, [it] gave him an extra boost.

"Don't forget he had the pressure of the whole football club on him last year – him and Emile Smith Rowe were our main guys – and he has dealt with that, he's dealt with everything else. 

"He is thriving and I can't wait to see him thrive over here."

Recalling Arsenal's failure to qualify for the Champions League last season, Ramsdale said Saka blamed himself for the Gunners' inability to get over the line.

"When we missed out on the top four, he felt like it was all his fault because he couldn't provide for us," Ramsdale added.

"I was just able to reflect that the season before they finished eighth, [last] season we finished fifth, and if we go another step again, we will be in the top four. It's a game of football and there's a lot more to it."

Asked whether Saka had become a stronger character in the last year, he added: "Absolutely. There is no doubt about that, off the pitch and on it. He's a more complete person."

UEFA confirmed it received three preliminary bid dossiers to host Euro 2028 and 2032 before Wednesday's deadline.

A joint bid from the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland was submitted for the 2028 tournament, while Turkey also threw its hat in the ring having never hosted a major tournament.

Football associations from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland put forward a proposal and promised to organise an "unrivalled" tournament.

The bid from the English FA comes after much criticism over its handling of fan disorder at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium, with an independent review describing it as a "day of national shame".

Turkey also bid for the 2032 edition, as well as Italy, which has not been chosen as a sole host of a major tournament since the World Cup in 1990.

The deadline for submitting final dossiers is April 12 2023, before the hosts will be chosen in the European autumn of that year.

Pedri believes last year's near misses in the European Championship and the Nations League will benefit Spain in their quest to win a second World Cup this year.

The Barcelona midfielder was named Young Player of the Tournament as Spain were beaten by Italy in the semi-finals of the delayed Euro 2020, before La Roja suffered a Nations League final defeat to France last October.

While Spain have only reached the World Cup's final four once in their past 13 participations – when they won the tournament in 2010 – Pedri is optimistic about their chances of competing in Qatar.

Asked by Mundo Deportivo whether Luis Enrique's side could win the tournament, the 19-year-old responded: "Why not? 

"You have to focus first on the group stage and then on the following rounds, but we have a team to be able to compete.

"We come from a European Championship and a Nations League where we did very well. In the Euros we reached the semi-finals, and I was sure that if we went to the final, we would win it. 

"In the Nations League I could hardly play, but the team was very good. We are a very good group and it shows on the pitch.

"We don't have a megastar, the group is our best star. When you all run together and everyone knows what they want and what you're playing for, I think you have a lot done and a good chance of winning.

"We are going to the World Cup with everything, with a lot of desire to give the fans happiness, whether they support us from home or from Qatar. Let's give it our all."

Pedri believes two South American sides could represent Spain's main competitors in Qatar, with the form of Paris Saint-Germain star and Barca legend Lionel Messi likely to be crucial to any challenge from Argentina.

"I think that Brazil and Argentina have two great teams," Pedri said. "Brazil because they have incredible quality in their players and Argentina because they have the best player, and I think they are going to really want to win this World Cup."

Spain begin their World Cup campaign against Costa Rica next Wednesday before facing fellow Group E foes Germany and Japan.

Gareth Southgate declared England must improve on their poor record against Italy after the two nations were drawn together in a "tough" Euro 2024 qualification group.

The teams faced each other in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium last year, with Italy emerging victorious on penalties to win their first European Championship trophy since 1968 and deny England their first major title in 55 years.

The sides also met twice in the recent Nations League campaign, playing out a goalless draw at Molineux in June before Giacomo Raspadori gave Italy a 1-0 triumph in the return fixture at San Siro in September.

The Three Lions have not beaten Italy in six attempts since a 2-1 victory in 2012, and Southgate says that run needs to end.

"England's record against Italy generally is not very good," Southgate told Sky Sports. "So we've got to improve that.

"There's not too many surprises, they've changed the team a lot for all of those different matches.

"We know the quality they have, we know the depth that they have."

England and Italy have been drawn in Group C alongside Ukraine, Malta and North Macedonia, the latter of whom knocked the Azzurri out of the World Cup play-offs earlier this year, preventing the European champions from making it to Qatar.

Southgate acknowledged the overall difficulty of the group, adding: "It's clearly a tough draw, given the quality of the opposition.

"But we've had draws in qualification that have probably been a little bit more comfortable than that, although I'd have to say Poland and Hungary in the last qualifying group was particularly tough as well, so we're used to that.

"The draws are what they are, it's how you perform on the day."

England have the opportunity to gain a measure of revenge on Italy for their Euro 2020 final defeat after the two nations were drawn together in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley in London on July 11, 2021 to win their first European Championship title since 1968.

Gareth Southgate's Three Lions had opened the scoring through Luke Shaw, but the Azzurri levelled via Leonardo Bonucci.

And spot-kick misses by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka proved costly for England, who had hoped to win a first major title in 55 years.

The two will tussle again – twice – on the road to Germany 2024 after being drawn together in qualifying Group C in Sunday's ceremony, which was held in Frankfurt.

Nevertheless, both teams will still expect to reach the finals given the top two in each group progress to the tournament - joining them will be Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta.

It was North Macedonia who knocked Italy out of the World Cup qualifying play-offs earlier this year.

Group B is another standout after the Netherlands were drawn alongside reigning world champions France in a pool that also contains Republic of Ireland, Greece and Gibraltar.

Spain will be confident of plotting a way through Group A, which also contains Scotland, Norway, Georgia and Cyprus, though Belgium may face a slightly sterner examination after being grouped with Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan and Estonia.

Qualifying is set to begin in March 2023 and conclude eight months later, with the winners and runners-up of each group going straight through to the tournament.

The remaining three teams will be decided in March 2024 via a play-off section, which will be made up of 12 group winners from the 2022-23 Nations League.

If a Nations League section winner has already qualified for Euro 2024, their play-off place will pass to the next best-ranked country from the same league.


Draw in full:

Group A: Spain, Scotland, Norway, Georgia, Cyprus
Group B: Netherlands, France, Republic of Ireland, Greece, Gibraltar
Group C: Italy, England, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Malta
Group D: Croatia, Wales, Armenia, Turkey, Latvia
Group E: Poland, Czech Republic, Albania, Faroe Islands, Moldova
Group F: Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Estonia
Group G: Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Lithuania
Group H: Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, San Marino
Group I: Switzerland, Israel, Romania, Kosovo, Belarus, Andorra
Group J: Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Liechtenstein

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says the organisation will not repeat a pan-continental staging of the European Championship following Euro 2020, but has not ruled out further successful joint bids in the future.

Last year's rescheduled tournament, intended to celebrate its 60th anniversary, was beset by logistical difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2024 tournament will revert to a single nation host in Germany, but the 2028 edition could once again see multiple hosts, with a British Isles bid up against Turkey for duties.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Ceferin confirmed there will be no continent-spanning events in future, but he is not opposed to shared hosting between smaller neighbour nations.

"We are not considering such Euro tournaments in 10-11 countries, that was complicated enough," he stated. "With [the pandemic], it was even more complicated.

"With respect to sporting considerations, Switzerland played one game in Rome and then in Baku, and some teams played at home all the time.

"Those who did not travel and played at home ended up in the final. We don't like that concept at all.

"It was a good idea. It was the 60th anniversary of the Euros, some Pan-European friendship... These were the elements of that idea.

"I'm not saying that the idea was bad. But my feeling is that Euros should take place in one or two countries if we're talking about smaller countries."

Toni Kroos intends to finish his career at Real Madrid, while the former Germany international says he will not reverse his decision to retire from the national team ahead of Qatar 2022.

The veteran playmaker has completed a clean sweep of major honours with the LaLiga giants since arriving from Bayern Munich in 2014, shortly after helping Die Mannschaft to World Cup glory in Brazil.

Yet having hung up his boots for the national side following last year's Euro 2020 last-16 exit at the hands of England, Kroos admits he may well follow suit at domestic level sooner rather than later.

However, he will not be looking to wrap up his time on the pitch anywhere other than Santiago Bernabeu, regardless of time frame.

"I believe that the year 2023 is appropriate [to retire]," Kroos told Bild. "I will be 33 years old.

"I will decide whether I will renew for a season or two. That is still open for discussion, but I am completely sure that I will retire at Real Madrid."

Kroos will not walk back his decision to depart the national team, however, with the 106-cap veteran having no intention of making himself available for Hansi Flick's squad.

"The decision I made at that time stands," he added.

 

Gareth Southgate has the full support of the Football Association after chair Debbie Hewitt provided an impassioned defence of the "high IQ" and emotionally intelligent England manager.

England have made it to the World Cup semi-finals and Euro 2020 showpiece under Southgate, the latter of which the Three Lions' first final appearance at a major tournament in 55 years.

But pressure has mounted after a dismal start to their Nations League campaign in June, losing to Hungary twice either side of draws with Germany and Italy to leave England in danger of relegation.

The most recent 4-0 thrashing to Hungary was the first time England have lost a home match by four or more goals since March 1928, when they lost 5-1 to Scotland.

Hungary also became the first team to score four goals in an away match against England since the Hungarians themselves won 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953.

Frustrated supporters could be heard chanting "you don't know what you're doing" at Molineux towards Southgate, who later vowed to not out-stay his welcome in charge.

With the World Cup in Qatar just five months away, Hewitt was quick to outline her support for the 51-year-old despite ongoing questions over his tactics.

"My personal opinion on Gareth is that he is, by the facts on the pitch, the most successful England manager we've had for 55 years," Hewitt told reporters at a news conference.

"The bit people don't see as much is the Gareth at camp and the culture he's created.

"Certainly prior to Gareth being the manager of England, there was not the pride of wearing the England shirt. There were the club rivalries we'd read about. The players not getting on.

"He's changed that beyond recognition and I've seen that first hand.

"I'd also say that I don't just work in football, I work in business and I've worked with a lot of chief executives and Gareth's skills — his high IQ and high EQ — would make him a chief exec in any sphere.

"That resilience and accountability [are] the two qualities I admire most. There are no slopy shoulders, he doesn't huff, he's resilient and that's what you want in an England manager."

While offering her support publicly, Hewitt says the reaction of Southgate to private conversations expressing the FA's backing also highlighted his credible demeanour.

"Gareth's reaction, as in everything with that sort of conversation, was that it is his accountability, there's always something to learn," she continued.

"That's why it's refreshing working with somebody like that because that openness to learn is quite remarkable and quite unusual in any sphere."

Southgate took charge, initially as caretaker manager, in 2016 and impressed after Sam Allardyce's one-game tenure, with the former Middlesbrough manager earning the permanent job.

After England qualified for the World Cup in Qatar with victory over San Marino in November 2021, Southgate was handed a three-year extension, keeping him as Three Lions' manager until December 2024.

The World Cup will start just one year after he signed the long-term extension and debate has been sparked over whether conducting negotiations was sensible before the results and performances in that tournament are known, but Hewitt assures the correct decision was made.

"I don't think we would be discussing [the contract] had we not had the recent series of games. Clearly, we did that [agreed the new deal] with proper discussion and thought," she added.

"The fact that there's been a stumble does not make us automatically say 'should we have given him a contract?' It is a red herring.

"We have confidence in Gareth for all the reasons I described and I think that's the important thing. And it's particularly important going into the biggest tournament."

Kylian Mbappe denied he almost quit France duty due to criticism of his Euro 2020 displays, revealing it was racist abuse that almost pushed him to retire from Les Bleus.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet told Le Journal du Dimanche that Mbappe was angry and did not want to play for his country again after facing flak from angry fans.

The 23-year-old failed to score in any of his four outings in last year's competition, with France surprisingly eliminated by Switzerland in the last 16.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe missed the decisive spot-kick as the reigning world champions suffered a shock defeat on penalties following a 3-3 draw after extra time.

Mbappe responded to Le Graet's comments by saying on Twitter: "Yes, however, I explained to him clearly that it was in relation to racism and NOT to the penalty. But he considered that there had been no racism..."

As the young figurehead of the France team, Mbappe faced stiff criticism as he struggled to make an impact on the tournament.

Le Graet said in Sunday's newspaper interview: "I met with him after the Euros. He felt that the federation had not defended him after his missed penalty and the criticism he faced on the networks.

"We met for five minutes in my office. He was angry, he didn't want to play for the French team any more – which he obviously didn't mean.

"You know how it is; he's a winner, he was very frustrated, like all of us, by the elimination. He's so media-friendly. He's a great guy."

Mbappe has gone on to play a further nine times for France since last year's disappointing Euro 2020 showing, helping his country to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He has scored 27 goals in 57 senior appearances for his country.

Kylian Mbappe considered retiring from France duty after being criticised for his displays at Euro 2020, according to French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet.

The 23-year-old failed to score in any of his four outings in last year's competition, with France surprisingly being eliminated by Switzerland in the last 16.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe missed the decisive spot-kick as the reigning world champions suffered a shock defeat on penalties following a 3-3 draw after extra time.

Mbappe was subjected to much of the criticism at the time, and FFF chief Le Graet has revealed just how much that affected the former Monaco star.

"I met with him after the Euros. He felt that the Federation had not defended him after his missed penalty and the criticism he faced," Le Graet told Le Journal du Dimanche.

"We met for five minutes in my office. He was angry, he didn't want to play for the French team any more – which he obviously didn't mean.

"You know how it is; he's a winner, he was very frustrated, like all of us, by the elimination. He's so media-friendly. He's a great guy, much more collective than people think."

 

Mbappe has gone on to play a further nine times for France since last year's disappointing Euro 2020 showing, helping his country to qualify for this year's World Cup in Qatar.

He has scored 27 goals in 57 senior caps, placing him 11th on Les Blues' all-time record goalscorers, a list topped by Thierry Henry (51 goals).

A study has shown that over 55 per cent of players who featured in the finals of Euro 2020 and this year's Africa Cup of Nations were abused online.

The independent report, released by FIFA five months prior to the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, identified that homophobic and racist comments were the two main areas of concern.

Over 400,000 social media posts were examined, spread across Twitter and Instagram, and 541 cases of direct discrimination or other forms of abuse were discovered.

The majority of hate comments were found to have originated from the home countries of targeted players, with 38 per cent having been made in the United Kingdom.

The study showed that 40 per cent of abusive messages contained homophobic content, and 38 per cent were racist. A further three per cent were categorised as containing a threat, while 58 per cent of the racist remarks were found to be still visible online in April 2022, with 87 per cent of non-racist abuse also still live.

The report comes after England players Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford received racist abuse online after missing in the Euro 2020 final penalty shoot-out against Italy, which England ultimately lost.

It was revealed that 78 per cent of the abuse aimed at players involved in that game contained racist remarks.

Such abuse was heavily condemned by England manager Gareth Southgate as well as UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who vowed to take action against racist trolls. 

For the AFCON final between Senegal and Egypt, the abuse was found to be 26 per cent racist in tone, and 62 per cent homophobic.

FIFA said it would collaborate with global players' union FIFPRO to start a moderation service to monitor hate speech during upcoming tournaments, in the hope it will stop the messages being seen by the intended targets.

"Our duty is to protect football, and that starts with the players who bring so much joy and happiness to all of us by their exploits on the field of play," FIFA president Gianni Infantino said.

"We want our actions to speak louder than our words and that is why we are taking concrete measures to tackle the problem directly."

As well as the moderation tool, educational and mental health advice will be offered to players at FIFA tournaments in 2022 and 2023 to help them deal with online abuse.

England manager Gareth Southgate has labelled Germany as one of the benchmarks in international football due to their continued presence in the latter stages of major tournaments.

The Three Lions head to Munich on Tuesday for their second Nations League game, having suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Hungary on Saturday in their first League A Group 3 game.

Meanwhile, Germany shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Italy as preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are stepped up.

England and Germany met only last June at Euro 2020, with Southgate's side 2-0 victors at the last-16 stage in front of a buoyant Wembley crowd.

Germany have failed to score in their past two matches against England, as many as in their previous 16 games combined.

But Southgate still views Hansi Flick's side as a force to be reckoned with looking forward to the clash at the Allianz Arena and further ahead to the World Cup in November.

"You can see elements of what he did with Bayern Munich, I think seven either current or had just left Bayern, a lot of have cohesion and experience working with him," Southgate said of Flick on Monday.

"You can see the counter-pressing and the general pressing of the forwards, we have to be prepared for that. With the ball, they have some talented players.

"We saw that in summer, I think in some respects the result in summer was overlooked, I'm not sure why. The quality of the team was still very high, World Cup winners everywhere, Champions League winners.

"Real experience of those big occasions. For me, I think Brazil and Germany are still the benchmarks for teams who have regularly won tournaments, regularly making finals, even when you look at the 5-1 here [in 2001], they ended up in the World Cup final.

"You have to respect what they are and where they are as a footballing country, we have to try and replicate that and instil that mentality.

"We have to keep getting to the latter stages of competitions and games like tomorrow are exactly what we need. I think it's a great measure for us, this will be a brilliant test of what we're about and where we're at.

"It won't define where we're at in six months' time, if we win tomorrow, it doesn't mean we are going to win the whole thing in five, six months.

"One of the challenges before was can we beat the bigger teams, we've beat Belgium, Germany and Spain, we're starting to do that so now it is can we continue to do that."

England have not come out on top in consecutive games against Germany since a seven-game winning run between 1935 and 1966, the last game of which was the World Cup final.

Southgate vowed to rotate once again after offering the likes of Jarrod Bowen and James Justin starts in Budapest.

"We are going to push. We want to perform well. We will manage their load. Everyone of them wants to play tomorrow night," he continued. 

"There is huge motivation in the group. I don't think the long season was the cause of the result the other day. The heat was a huge factor.

"To talk about the season is a psychological thing. It is no different to going into the Euros or the World Cup.

"It varies slightly from game to game, you are always trying to win. You always pick a team strong enough to win a game of football. We are trying to manage players coming back.

"To play Saturday and Tuesday is very challenging. Always trying to learn things, there's the performance and result. We go trying to win and the learnings after it is how you develop and improve as a team.

"James [Justin] won't be ready for tomorrow but we are hopeful he will be back for the next game if not the one after. Marc [Guehi] should be ready for tomorrow. Fikayo [Tomori] we could probably put him in the squad but given it's a hamstring we will give him a bit longer."

Italy will become the laughing stock of international football if they continue to hypothesise routes into the World Cup, federation president Gabriele Gravina said on Saturday.

The Azzurri failed to qualify for Qatar 2022 after losing to North Macedonia in a play-off semi-final in March, a stunning result that has caused much upset.

Former Juventus star Roberto Baggio said this week it was "shameful" that Italy were not automatically allocated a World Cup place on the basis of their Euro 2020 triumph.

There has been speculation Italy could get in through the back door if Ecuador are thrown out, after FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings into allegations the South American team fielded an ineligible player in their successful qualifying campaign.

According to Gravina, head of the FIGC, now is the time for Italy to accept their fate, however painful it might be.

"A few weeks ago we launched a new way of working," Gravina told Italy's Sky Sport. "We said that we must work trying to be, all together, focused on regaining credibility.

"We know very well that it is not easy, and we know that there are critical issues, but credibility is linked to a very delicate phase, that is to eliminate everything that makes us not very credible.

"Allow me also to clarify the issue of World Cup repechage, which is making us not very credible. Football has winners and losers. Italy was eliminated and did not qualify, Italy does not participate in the World Cup.

"If we have to work because we believe that the rules must be changed, we will do it later. Today, Italy's out of the World Cup.

"Let's take it for granted because otherwise we continue to say things that honestly put everyone, even internationally, in a position to make fun of us."

Speaking on Friday, Italy head coach Roberto Mancini spoke of his desire for new beginnings with Italy, whose European Championship success at last year's delayed tournament has been dampened by the failure to reach two consecutive World Cups.

"The victory of the European Championship is part of the magic that are part of those tournaments. Now we have to start again and go back to that magic," said Mancini, whose team were due in action against Germany in a Nations League game on Saturday.

"I have never had this type of problem. In football, however, when you win everyone is with you and when you lose almost everyone against you. That's how it is. The restart is from now."

Roberto Mancini vowed to start a new era with Italy as the Azzurri look to rediscover their Euro 2020 magic, but warned not to expect instant fixes as he cannot "invent players".

Italy lifted the European Championship last July, their first since 1968, with a penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley.

The Azzurri followed that up by failing to make a second straight World Cup, following play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March, which led to questions over coach Mancini's tenure.

Development problems were also cited with the Italian system, which was bemoaned for struggling to produce younger players for the national team with Serie A coaches reluctant to trust the youth.

Italy were 3-0 losers to Argentina in the 'Finalissima' on Wednesday, a meeting between the Euro 2020 winners and Copa America champions, and Mancini promised change after that game.

The former Manchester City coach reiterated his desire for new beginnings with Italy, although he does not expect quick solutions ahead of the Nations League opener at home to Germany on Saturday.

"The victory of the European Championship is part of the magic that are part of those tournaments. Now we have to start again and go back to that magic," he told reporters on Friday.

"I have never had this type of problem. In football, however, when you win everyone is with you and when you lose almost everyone against you. That's how it is.

"Against Argentina we paid for the loss of players, one after the other. We weren't such a huge group and the injuries affected us: Argentina were better than us, they had fresher players and maybe it's the first game in three and a half years where we find a team that has put us under pressure, even if we made two mistakes on goals in the first half.

"It takes time, we cannot invent players and we know that we will have to suffer enough.

"The restart is from now. The new cycle starts again from tomorrow.

"The common thread is the same: looking for players with quality, speed, who they will not be like [Marco] Verratti and Jorginho who played in certain teams and therefore it will take a little longer.

"If we can give some minutes to these guys who have never played in the national team, and see them integrated well, it would be better."

Italy host Germany and Hungary before visiting England on June 11, with a return trip to Hansi Flick's side three days later capping off the internationals for this month.

Mancini believes that England and Germany pose two of the toughest tasks in international football at the moment, and cited Brazil, France and Argentina among the favourites for the World Cup in Qatar.

"We face the two strongest teams at the moment, Germany and England," he added. "They are among the best, they have great players and we take a lot of risks by changing a lot, it could be a good start.

"The most important thing will be to defend well and attack better. We face one of the strongest teams in the world along with Brazil, Argentina, France...

"Germany are technical, very fast when they counter-attack and come to press. They will be among the favourites for the World Cup victory in Qatar.

"We must defend all together and attack and press as we did for three and a half years: we did it for three and a half years with players who didn't seem able to do it, yet they have done."

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