Neymar needs to lift the World Cup with Brazil to etch his name as a Selecao great, so says Mauro Silva, who referenced Lionel Messi's global success with Argentina.

Messi powered Lionel Scaloni's Argentina to their first World Cup triumph in 36 years after lifting the coveted Jules Rimet trophy at the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

Neymar and his Brazil team-mates were eliminated from that edition of the world's top international tournament in a quarter-final defeat to Croatia on penalties.

The Selecao forward equalled Pele's scoring record for Brazil in the Croatia loss, and subsequently broke the landmark with two goals against Bolivia in Friday's World Cup qualifier.

But former Brazil and Deportivo midfielder Silva believes Neymar must achieve glory in the United States and Canada at the 2028 World Cup to fully write his name into national folklore.

The 59-cap Brazil international Silva told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit: "Neymar is among the best. I would say among the five or 10 best in Brazil.

"There are very good footballers in there. Pele, there is Ronaldo, Romario, Bebeto – some very important people. But Neymar is undoubtedly among the best too.

"There is the expectation in Brazil that a player with Neymar's talent is capable of leading Brazil to a World Cup, just as happened with Messi and the Argentina team after so many years.

"Here in Brazil, people hope that a player with Neymar's talent can lead us to this important achievement.

"He is among the most important players in the history of Brazilian football, without a doubt, because of his numbers, for breaking Pele's record, for example.

"But he still has a lot to do.

"I hope he can achieve a World Cup for Brazil and this will undoubtedly consolidate him as one of the greats in the history of Brazilian football."

Since the World Cup Neymar has left Paris Saint-Germain, who he joined from Barcelona, to move to Al Hilal on a lucrative contract in Saudi Arabia.

While the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have made similar transfers to the Saudi Pro League, Silva hopes Neymar can continue to play at his peak in what he feels is a less competitive competition.

Silva added: "It is a challenge because when you are in the best competitions, competing every day, every week with the best teams and players, the demands make you maintain a very high level of performance.

"Now as being in a competition of a level that is not so high, it is a challenge. But let's see what happens.

"Nor can it be said that he will not be able to maintain the level, but I am convinced that this will be a great challenge for Neymar.

"We are in 2023 and the World Cup is in 2026, so there are still three years ahead where despite his age, his years, [Neymar] is in a league that is not as competitive as the European leagues.

"So he will have to maintain this high level to lead Brazil to a conquest. Hopefully he will be able to maintain this level until 2026 at least."

Al Ittihad failed in a late approach for Mohamed Salah, but Al Khaleej winger Fabio Martins believes the Egyptian will be in the Saudi Pro League soon enough.

Liverpool turned down a bid reportedly worth up to £150million for Salah, who Jurgen Klopp was determined not to lose late in the transfer window.

It has been speculated that Al Ittihad – who signed Karim Benzema, Fabinho, Jota, Luiz Felipe and N'Golo Kante – will return with another bid for Salah in the coming 12 months.

Salah is an icon of the Arab world, and Martins hopes to soon go up against the 31-year-old.

"If this transfer happens, it will be another big star arriving here to the country," he told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit.

"Playing against Salah would be very special too. It didn't happen [this time] but I think in the next market in January, they will try for sure again to bring him, and let's see what happens.

"I will be very happy because Salah is a player that I like, he's similar to me, because of the hair, the way he plays. So, I like Salah, and I hope that he comes to Saudi."

Saudi's wealth was not enough to draw Lionel Messi to Al Hilal, with the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner instead electing to join Inter Miami.

Martins, though, has not given up hope of Messi joining Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar in the Pro League.

"Messi is a player that I like so much. But I understand, Messi had a plan in his head about his career, what he wants and he went to Miami," Martins said.

"But for sure, if Messi arrived here in Saudi, the league with big stars like Cristiano and Messi, and now with Benzema and Neymar, it will get to a level that was never seen before.

"Let's see if Salah comes, he's a big player too. I believe that in the next market, they will try to bring some big players and let's see what will happen."

It is not just players that Saudi clubs have attempted to lure from Europe, with coaches also heading to the Gulf state. Those have included former Rangers and Aston Villa boss, and Liverpool great, Steven Gerrard, who has helped Al Ettifaq sign Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Moussa Dembele and Demarai Gray.

Martins added: "You saw Gerrard go to Al Ettifaq and bring good players like Henderson, Gray, Moussa Dembele.

"In Al Shabab now with [Yannick] Carrasco, [Roman] Saiss. I think step by step the league will grow and for sure it's important to bring coaches that have the potential to make the players grow to the next level, and I am sure that the league step by step will grow."

Uruguay should be the front-runner to host the centennial World Cup in 2030, according to former Uruguayan international Gus Poyet.

The South American country hosted the inaugural edition of the tournament in 1930 and went on to win their first of two World Cups on that occasion.

In 2017, the Uruguayan and Argentine football associations announced their intentions to submit a joint bid to host the 2030 edition, with fellow South American countries Chile and Paraguay subsequently joining the proposal.

Spain, Portugal, Ukraine and Morocco have launched a rival bid to host the tournament but Poyet believes that the tournament’s history should be respected.

"I thought it was natural that Uruguay could be the perfect place to play the World Cup in 2030," Poyet told Stats Perform.

"Do we have the capacity as a country to hold the World Cup? No. So it needs to be shared with someone around – Argentina, Chile or Paraguay. 

"The problem is, I used to remember a long time ago when somebody told me that football without politics has gone; it had died. We depend so much on the politics of the country.

"Until the politicians agree, football is not coming together. So I think it would be a shame if it is not in Uruguay, at least one group, maybe two groups."

A proposal has also been put forward by former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger for the World Cup to be hosted every two years. The plan – backed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino – has received widespread criticism, with Poyet also opposed to the suggestion.

"I would keep it [as four years], I don't want World Cups every two years," Poyet said.

"I think becoming a world champion is difficult, it takes four years and if you don't [win it], you need to wait another four years. It is like the Olympic Games, it is not like you can have another chance in two years' time."

On the pitch, Uruguay continued their unbeaten start under new coach Marcelo Bielsa. Having won two friendlies against Nicaragua and Cuba back in June, La Celeste got their 2026 World Cup qualification campaign up and running with a convincing 3-1 defeat of Chile.

Uruguay last won the World Cup in 1950, recording three fourth-place finishes since then, but Poyet is excited by Bielsa's start and the prospects of the national team under the tutelage of the 68-year-old Argentine.

"In the first game, people went, 'Wow what is going on without the old group of players' and the second game it was a little bit more natural," Poyet said.

"Everybody is desperate to know the 25 players he is going to pick. People think they know but they don't because Marcelo Bielsa is unique and he is different, he is totally a unique case and they're going to be surprises and some deceptions as well, so I think everybody's excited and looking forward to seeing what he's going to bring to the national team."

Max Verstappen can cement his place in the Formula One record books by surpassing Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, so says Jody Scheckter.

Red Bull driver Verstappen broke another record with his victory at the Italian Grand Prix, tallying up a tenth straight race victory, overtaking Sebastian Vettel's previous best of nine.

Verstappen extended his lead in the drivers' championship standings to 145 points and looks on course to win his third title in a row - having triumphed in 2021 and 2022 - and Scheckter sees no reason why the Dutchman's run will end here.

"It really depends on the cars, to a large extent. There's no question he's good enough but has he always got the winning car," he told Stats Perform. 

"To think Lewis [Hamilton] had a dominant car for a long period of time, not to take anything away from him. I also think he's brilliant and smart. You can get in a bad car now and then, doesn't matter how good you are, you're not going to be winning.

"Right now, he's got the car to win. Granted, you can't put anything against it. If he has this dominance all the time, it could be maybe eight drivers' championships."

Verstappen became the youngest driver in F1 when he made his debut aged 17 at the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix, but Scheckter believes that the 25-year-old has had to refine his technique and tactics on the track to fulfil his championship-winning potential.

"He's obviously quick as anything, but he's aggressive. But he's also smart and comes out on the top in these different very difficult situations. At the beginning, he was too aggressive. But now he seems to get it all together and real championship material," Scheckter added.

"I think at the beginning, when you get into Formula One, you just want to prove that you're faster than everybody and so that's what you do. And then you realise you don't win championships like that.

"You tune yourself and he's a smart guy. So he's got it together now and obviously got the car at the moment to do it."

With Verstappen closing in on his third successive title, it has reignited debate surrounding the competitiveness of F1.

Prior to Verstappen's win in 2021, Hamilton had won six titles in the space of seven years, with Vettel also winning four in a row between 2010 and 2013.

According to Scheckter, who won the drivers' championship in 1979 during a nine-year career in which no F1 rival successfully defended their title, changes should be made to try and level the playing field during this era of Red Bull dominance.

He said: "One thing that frustrates me about are these penalties that they mean they have to go back on the grid, and if the gearbox goes, it just doesn't make any sense to me at all.

"It spoils the spectacle of the racing, you want to see people racing on the track. If he breaks down in practice or qualifying he can't get back up to race. Why?

"Everybody wants to see them racing side by side. Just doesn't make any sense from a spectator's point of view that I can see."

The huge spending of the Saudi Pro League has served as an extra motivation for players plying their trade in the Gulf state, says Fabio Martins.

Four Saudi clubs – Al Ittihad, Al Nassr, Al Hilal and Al Ahli – made huge moves over the course of the transfer window.

Karim Benzema, Neymar, N'Golo Kante, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Marcelo Brozovic, Riyad Mahrez, Franck Kessie and Ruben Neves were among the big names to join Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at the Thinking Football Summit, Martins, a Portuguese winger who first played in Saudi Arabia in 2020 and now plays for Al Khaleej, believes the eyes of the world are now on the Saudi Pro League, and that is only an extra motivation for players who are able to go up against superstar names.

"It's impossible to not be excited to play against Cristiano, Neymar, Benzema, Firmino, Mane, a lot of stars that arrived, and they came with a lot of talent, a lot of quality, but they bring the visibility to the world," Martins told Stats Perform.

"Because I think I'm not afraid to say that the league is in top three or four of visibility because every person is speaking about this.

"Now, every person is excited to see what will happen here in Saudi. So all players here are excited too, are motivated to do the things well because all of us know that the eyes of the world are here right now."

Asked specifically about the impact Ronaldo has had since he joined Al Nassr last season, Martins said: "Oh, for sure, huge impact. He brings quality. He brings the visibility because for Cristiano to arrive in a country like Saudi Arabia, it brings the visibility, and like it or not, the professionalism is growing with Cristiano and now with the arrival of the other big players.

"I believe that is good for everyone here. I believe that it is good for the Saudi football. And I believe that the league and the country have potential to grow step by step for sure.

"Last year, when Cristiano arrives I was very happy because I never thought that I would be able to play against Cristiano, to speak with Cristiano. I was lucky because he gave me his shirt.

"We were there speaking like five or ten minutes about the country, about the things here in Saudi. So, we are lucky the people who are that are here are lucky to play against such big players because from Portugal we have now here Ruben Neves too, Otavio, Jota for example.

"So it's very special to play against these kinds of players and of course we are motivated to do the things."

England must leave everything out on the pitch as they aim to set the tone for their Rugby World Cup campaign against Argentina on Saturday, though Mike Tindall does not see Steve Borthwick's side as being among the favourites.

The 2023 World Cup gets under way in Paris on Friday, with hosts France taking on New Zealand.

England's campaign starts on Saturday, when they face Argentina in Marseille.

The Red Rose – who were runners-up to South Africa in 2019 – head into the tournament ranked eighth in the world, below Fiji and two places below Argentina.

After a disappointing Six Nations, England will be looking to put things right, and Tindall wants to see a fast start on Saturday.

"The first game against Argentina, they can't leave anything out there," he told Stats Perform. "They're not in a place where they can build something, they have to play [well].

"Imagine that is the World Cup final and then deal with the outcome of it and then rebuild to go into quarter-finals and semi-finals.

"Argentina for England is the World Cup final. 

"They have to play the biggest game in their first outing that should get them into a quarter-final and hopefully in that time you build momentum and they can then go on."

Asked if he fancied England's chances of going all the way, Tindall said: "To be honest, at the moment, I don't see them be the favourites.

"I think I think they can muster a challenge, and we are on the right side of the draw. France, New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, they're going to take chunks out of each other, and you don't know what's going to happen injury wise.

"So all you've got to do is try and stay in their strike, manage everything, and ultimately believe and if they can do that, I think they could create a shock. But I don't think that they're going in as anywhere near favourites."

For Tindall, New Zealand or France are the favourites.

He said: "Just from the grouping, I would say the winner coming out of the France, New Zealand group.

"Ireland are number one in the world but the schedule and the draw they're on is terrible. It's terrible for them.

"Even South Africa, who are built for big physical guys, I just think that France and New Zealand have that first big game and then they can sort of relax a little bit.

"Not relax, but they'll be able to manage their players and manage their time. And I feel that the winner could come out with those two."

Jody Scheckter does not believe Lewis Hamilton's recent struggles will impact his Formula 1 legacy, insisting he will be remembered alongside Michael Schumacher as an all-time great.

Hamilton equalled Schumacher's record of seven drivers' championship titles in 2020, but he has failed to surpass the German icon's tally due to the dominance of Max Verstappen.

Having captured the title in controversial circumstances in 2021 and defended it last year, Verstappen has now won 10 successive races to close in on a third championship, which he could seal as early as the Japanese Grand Prix later this month.

Hamilton, meanwhile, sits fourth in the drivers' standings amid another difficult campaign, which has been plagued by suggestions he could soon walk away from the sport.

However, Hamilton opted to extend his F1 career until at least 2025 by penning a new contract with Mercedes last week, and Scheckter is pleased to see him still enjoying his time on the grid.

"I retired at 30 years old. He wants to carry on," the 1979 world champion told Stats Perform. "That's such a personal decision. He's got to do what he wants to do, if he's enjoying it.

"He's doing a good job, too. I thought [team-mate George] Russell would be quicker. But you know, Lewis is quick, he's doing a good job.

"If he gets a team-mate that beats him all the time… it's going to come, there's no question about it, it will come sooner or later. But people will still remember.

"You can't win that many world championships and not be recognised as an all-time great. 

"Some people get off at the wrong time, they carry on and want to hold onto it until they lose that, and people forget some of the other stuff that happened before."

Asked how Hamilton's achievements compare to those of Schumacher, the former Ferrari driver added: "I put them all in the same category. You know, there's the car there. 

"I think Lewis was a cleaner driver than Schumacher. In his tactics and stuff, he was more like a gentleman on the track than Schumacher was, so I commend him for that."

Sitting above Hamilton in the 2023 standings is his former McLaren team-mate and long-term rival Fernando Alonso, with the 42-year-old enjoying something of a renaissance with Aston Martin.

Alonso has racked up seven podium finishes in 2023 after finishing ninth in the drivers' championship while representing Alpine last year, and though Scheckter has not always been the Spaniard's biggest fan, he respects his longevity.

Reflecting on his own decision to retire in 1980, just one year after being crowned world champion, Scheckter said: "Some people say they enjoy it. I used to say if I'm enjoying it, I'm not trying hard enough.

"But if you're enjoying it, you're going to carry on longer and longer, you know? Maybe I pushed too hard to try and do it, so it's just a personal thing.

"Fernando's obviously very good. I didn't like some of the stuff he did earlier in his career, I didn't like it very much at all, actually. 

"But he's good, he's aggressive. I don't think he's as good as some of the press think he is, but he's doing a good job. Now, he's doing a really great job."

Sarina Wiegman is an outstanding coach and could succeed Gareth Southgate as manager of the England men's national team, says former Spain captain Veronica Boquete.

With reports suggesting Southgate may depart after he leads the Three Lions to his fourth major tournament at Euro 2024, various coaches have been touted as potential successors.  

Manchester City's Pep Guardiola is a reported target for the Football Association, but Wiegman's name has also been mentioned after she led the Lionesses to Euro 2022 glory last year.

Wiegman was denied another trophy as England were beaten by Spain in last month's Women's World Cup final, but Boquete remains convinced by her work with the Lionesses.  

The 36-year-old midfielder – who captained her country at the 2015 World Cup – feels Wiegman's name should be in the conversation.

"I think this is going to arrive, there is going to be a moment where a woman will be coaching a high-level [men's] team or national team," Boquete told Stats Perform. "She has already showed that she is a fantastic coach, that she has the knowledge, that she is a leader. So why not? 

"What are they going to say? 'Oh, no, she cannot be the coach of the men's national team' – Why not? She has already proved that she is great. 

"For me, it's about capacities and knowledge and if the players want to be coached by the best. If she is the best, they should give her the chance. 

"Everyone would be supporting her because it would be something fantastic for football but also for society."

Spain's first Women's World Cup win was overshadowed by the behaviour of Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] president Luis Rubiales, who has been provisionally suspended by FIFA after grabbing Jennifer Hermoso and kissing the forward on the lips.

A group of 81 players have refused to represent La Roja if Rubiales remains in post, while head coach Jorge Vilda – who was the subject of a player revolt previously – was sacked a little over two weeks after lifting the World Cup.

Wiegman was praised for speaking out in support of Spain's players upon receiving the UEFA Women's Coach of the Year award in Monaco last week, and her comments further convinced Boquete of her leadership skills. 

"I think her speech was fantastic and it gave hope to so many people to really believe in change," she added.

"It's crazy that the coach of the team that loses the final offered her moment to those players that are in this crazy situation, to defend something in such a strong way. I already had so much respect for her on the sporting side, but obviously now also on the personal side. 

"I consider her a leader, globally, and her words were just fantastic. I think we need to say thanks so many times because it was her moment and we kind of stole it, so we really appreciate it."

Asked about the controversy engulfing women's football in Spain, Boquete claimed her nation had enough talent to win previous World Cups, only to be held back by the RFEF's poor leadership. 

"It is not easy to explain to other countries all the things that are going on behind the scenes," she said. "Everyone will say 'yeah, but you're winning, how is that possible?' 

"I say, yeah, we win because we have a lot of talent. Normally with their clubs, they have better conditioning so they develop and that's great, but can you imagine if everyone was working in the right way a long time ago? We could have been world champions 10 years ago. 

"We were missing a lot of chances. We just want change so that it doesn't happen again and Spain can always be at the top.

"We already had the talent before, we had amazing players that didn't win anything because the people in charge didn't help them develop. So we just want the [right] people on top, so everyone can just be focused on being the best."

Monaco's sporting director Thiago Scuro believes the Ligue 1 club is the perfect place for Folarin Balogun to "reach the next level".

Balogun joined Monaco in a move potentially worth £34.4million in August, with Arsenal electing to cash in on the United States forward.

Speaking to Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit in Porto, Scuro outlined his confidence that Balogun and Monaco will be the perfect match.

"He's a young and top-talented striker, who had a very strong season in Ligue 1 last season," Scuro said.

"So he's fully adapted to the league, and [we are] fully confident about what he can do in the league. Now it's our job to help him reach the next level in his career, as he is recently an international for the US.

"He's a young player with an Arsenal academy profile, which [means] he brings very, very good and strong skills with him."

Balogun, who came on from the bench to make his Monaco debut in a 3-0 win over Lens on Saturday, is set to compete with Wissam Ben Yedder for a starting spot.

"We are excited to have him on board competing now with Ben Yedder, who is a legend at the club and the top scorer," Scuro added.

"Internal competition is one of the concepts that I truly believe [is key] for success."

Balogun netted 21 goals in 37 Ligue 1 appearances while on loan at Reims last season. Only Kylian Mbappe (29), Alexandre Lacazette (27) and Jonathan David (24) scored more times in France's top flight.

Monaco have enjoyed a flying start to the new season, winning three of their four Ligue 1 games. No team in Europe's top five leagues has scored more goals than the 13 managed by Adi Hutter's side.

"I think the playing idea and Adi Hutter's playing style, which is very offensive, very aggressive when we don't have the ball, very aggressive when we have the ball, and the players' commitment to this, is, of course, also very key," Scuro said.

"Considering the quality of our players, we are going to score. The challenge is also that this model also drives you to be very exposed [defensively]. That's why defending together and working hard is important."

Despite Monaco's strong start, Scuro is not getting carried away.

"Of course, it is good to start in a good place and in a good position, because it brings confidence and brings good energy to the daily routine," he added.

"But it's only the beginning. What matters in football is how you finish, not how you start. So we are very happy to have a good start, but we also know that it's a long journey, with a lot to do, and we still have to improve our performance in so many areas.

"This is our focus. It has to be. Taking care of the details, which is going to make us stronger for the next stage."

England is "the most important" place for women's football, according to new London City Lionesses coach Carolina Morace.

After time out from the game following a short stint at Lazio, former Italy, Milan and Canada coach Morace joined London City in July.

The Lionesses play in the Women's Championship, the second tier of women's football in England.

And though London City compete in the second tier, Morace believes England is the place to be when it comes to the women's game.

"Women's football, the best women's football, the most important women's football is here is in England," Morace told Stats Perform.

"The project that they did to develop women's football is amazing and was global and you can see the result [England] won the European Championship and they [finished] second in the World Cup.

"That was the first motivation and why I want to be here."

Morace scored over 100 goals in her international career, and coached the Italian national team for five years, but she believes there are notable differences now between the game in England and her homeland.

"I think that here the level is higher than in Italy, the players are more ready to play," she said.

"Also, physically, all of them are of some strength. In Italy, you have to build up the player instead. I think that is the culture in England, also because they used to playing the sport at school, that is something that [in Italy], we don't do.

"That made them become more alert, they want to learn and you can see that immediately. They ask many, many questions, much more than Italian players."

London City are an entirely independent professional women's club, after their split from Millwall in 2019.

"I think that to be the only independent club is something that is special, it is a young club and the ambition is very high," Morace added.

"That is also one of the motivators that caused me to choose this team, and it would be amazing to achieve something.

"We will try, we want to try, and the players are working hard to achieve something important.

"We want to do our best and, of course, the aim is to win something. We recruited some very good players, the young players that we have are the players that we chose."

Pep Guardiola or Roberto De Zerbi would struggle to succeed with Italy's women's team, given the country's "embarrassing" attitude towards the women's game. 

That is the view of former Azzurre coach Carolina Morace, who has called for the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) to enact a "serious project" after their disappointing World Cup campaign.

Italy slumped to an early exit in Australia and New Zealand, finishing third in Group G following a dramatic loss to South Africa in their third match, with the Banyana Banyana advancing in second.

While Italy have long been a powerhouse in the men's game, winning four World Cups and two European Championships, the women's team have never clinched a major title.

They are yet to progress beyond the quarter-finals of a World Cup, failing to qualify for four of the last six editions, and have struggled at the Euros since finishing as runners-up during Morace's playing career in 1993 and 1997.

Asked about Italy's lack of success, Morace told Stats Perform: "People have always been curious. I remember my generation winning against Spain, against England, against France. 

"In fact, my generation has been runners-up in Europe twice. From there the other countries started. Our country didn't start with the projects because nobody believed in women's football. 

"Unfortunately, today there are still the same bosses as when I played and if they weren't in favour of women's football then, they still remain against it. 

"Even today, some Italian executives talk about a smaller field, bigger goals. These things are embarrassing because it means they have never seen a women's match. 

"Unfortunately in Italy, women's football is still seen as a waste of money rather than a resource. England is a country that has shown women's football can be a resource if you make the right projects and the right investments. You have to start planning." 

Reflecting on Italy's showing at the World Cup, Morace added: "I believe that ours was a failed World Cup in terms of the game.

"Surely even if Guardiola or De Zerbi were to coach the women's national team, the results would be the same. We need to broaden the base. The Federation must start a serious project. 

"The first problem is that you can't compete with 35,000 players against over 100,000 players in Spain, Germany, France, England. 

"It's impossible for me to criticise the players and the coach. In my opinion, it's not fair. What I'm sorry about in this World Cup is that no one has taken responsibility for what happened." 

Milena Bertolini left her role as Italy coach after the World Cup, and a successor is yet to be appointed ahead of September's Women's Nations League meetings with Switzerland and Sweden, the latter of whom took bronze in Australia and New Zealand.

Morace is concerned by the situation, particularly given suggestions the FIGC may appoint a male coach without experience in women's football. 

"In September we have some important matches in an important group, we have to play against Sweden and against Switzerland and we don't have a coach yet," Morace added.

"I have now heard that the Federation wants a man. Very good, there are some competent men who have been in our world for many years and who have done well, but I haven't heard the names of these coaches yet. 

"They have names of people who have never won a women's match, who don't know what women's football is. 

"We saw the Saudi Arabia men's coach who now coaches France [Herve Renard] and he couldn't possibly do what he thought he could, because it's not that simple when you don't know the environment."

Sarina Wiegman's success with England shows female coaches are deserving of further opportunities, says former Italy boss Carolina Morace.

Wiegman led the Lionesses to their first major tournament triumph at Euro 2022 before overseeing this year's run to the World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand, where they were beaten 1-0 by Spain.

She has earned plenty of plaudits since succeeding Phil Neville in the role in 2021, only losing two of her 39 matches at the helm (30 wins, seven draws) and overseeing a positive World Cup campaign despite injuries to key players including Leah Williamson and Beth Mead.

While the 2023 World Cup featured 32 teams for the first time, Wiegman was one of just 12 female head coaches present at the tournament. 

Morace wants to see football associations judge potential bosses on their competence rather than their gender, acknowledging the dominance of men at governing bodies is an issue.

Asked about the number of promising female coaches in the game, Morace told Stats Perform: "I'll answer you one way. Sarina Weigman inherited the [England] team from Phil Neville with the same players who had unfortunately achieved nothing under Phil Neville. 

"With her, they have reached the maximum. There are good, excellent female coaches and excellent male coaches. 

"You need to have the intellectual honesty to choose based on competence, to choose coaches who have not always been sent away from men's teams and who don't know the world of women's football. It is obvious they will also fail in women's football.

"I believe there are many good coaches who must be valued. Unfortunately, it is always men who choose, for whom it takes a little bit of effort [to recruit women]."

Morace is one of few female coaches with notable experience in the men's game, having led Italian third-tier outfit Viterbese at the start of her coaching career in 1999 – albeit for just two games.

She felt a higher turnover of coaches in the men's game made players more receptive to her methods, adding: "Coaching men is easier. When you coach a men's team, you coach boys who come from an early age and played in all the youth teams and have changed a lot of coaches. 

"You find them more ready [for change] than a girl who may have had two coaches or three coaches in her career.

"Perhaps today we can say that the little girls start from the same point as the boys. Before, it wasn't like that."

While Morace does not have an issue with male coaches working in women's football, she maintains the best candidates must be given chances regardless of their gender.

"It is one thing is to coach a national team," she said. "When you arrive in the national team, you have the World Cup, the Olympics which absolutely have another value [in the women's game]. 

"But now the men who are unable to enter the men's game look to the women, but they do it after seeing the stadiums full at the World Cup, it becomes very desired by them too. 

"Competence is much more important. I coached the Italian national team, the Canadian national team. For me, it was much more important than coaching the professional men's team in the third division."

The United States fell short tactically at the Women's World Cup and must now look to their European rivals for inspiration.

That is the view of former Italy striker and head coach Carolina Morace, who believes the USA's previous dominance of the women's game owed largely to their players' physical attributes.

The four-time winners recorded their worst-ever World Cup performance in Australia and New Zealand, losing to Sweden in a last-16 penalty shoot-out after narrowly avoiding a humiliating group-stage elimination in a goalless draw with Portugal.

Vlatko Andonovski resigned as head coach in the aftermath of their exit, with the USA having failed to score in back-to-back World Cup games for the first time in the tournament's history. 

Morace, who scored over 100 goals for Italy before coaching Le Azzurre between 2000 and 2005, believes the USA paid the price for falling behind their more astute rivals.

"They dominated the scene for years because physically the players were stronger, more trained than all the others," Morace told Stats Perform. "[Now] all the teams have physically grown. 

"They had to improve tactically. I coached Canada for a couple of years [between 2009 and 2011]. European football does not arrive there. 

"The innovations are in Europe, so the innovations that have been in Europe have not been [happening] in America. I don't know. 

"I am referring to occupying the empty spaces rather than passing between the lines, wanting to dominate the game, starting from the goalkeeper and pressing offensively. These are things they aren't used to doing, because it's a different kind of football there.

"In Australia and New Zealand, rugby is the national sport, so innovations come from there. Football is from Europe and innovations certainly come from here. 

"Maybe they thought that on a physical level they could still make up for the gaps they may have tactically, and it wasn't like this."

The USA scored just four times from 9.14 expected goals (xG) in their four games at the tournament, with star striker Alex Morgan failing to net from 17 attempts totalling 2.96 xG.

The World Cup – eventually won by Spain following Olga Carmona's final strike against England – was defined by upsets, with Germany and Brazil suffering group-stage eliminations.

Jamaica, South Africa, Morocco and Colombia earned plaudits by reaching the knockout stages, and Morace believes a sense of unpredictability contributed to the tournament's success. 

"It was an absolutely special World Cup because teams like Germany, the United States and Brazil immediately left the competition. It is clear that this has shocked everyone," she said.

"This certainly means that, on one hand, some teams have grown a lot, but it also means that teams like the USA or Germany or Brazil had to do better. 

"It was a very, very special World Cup. In the end, however, the final was played between the two best teams. Spain and England were the two teams absolutely on a tactical level and also on a technical level. They expressed the best football. 

"I wouldn't say that from a tactical point of view this was the best World Cup ever, because we saw that many teams had little possession, especially teams like South Africa, like Nigeria.

"The big teams probably didn't expect to find teams that played a different kind of football, more physical and more vertical. Then, in the end, the World Cup was won by the team that had the most possession in the whole championship."

Victors Spain managed more build-up attacks (23) than any other team at the World Cup, ahead of runners-up England (20). Meanwhile, the Lionesses were the only side to better Spain's 92 sequences of 10 or more passes, recording 100.

Claressa Shields believes Savannah Marshall's move into mixed martial arts is good for women's sport and wishes her rival well, despite the "love-hate" relationship between the duo.

Unified middleweight champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist Shields, one of the biggest names in women's boxing, made her MMA debut in 2021 after signing with the Professional Fighters League (PFL), where she has a 1-1 record.

British boxer Marshall, Shields' long-term rival who beat the American as an amateur in 2012 before losing by unanimous decision when they met last year, signed with the PFL last week.

Marshall then declared her intention to face Shields in her new discipline, saying: "It doesn't look like a rematch in the ring is coming off, so I've had to chase her into another sport."

There has been no love lost between the fighters in the past, with Shields calling Marshall "delusional" and "disrespectful" after the Brit called for a rematch earlier this year.

While Shields initially had misgivings over Marshall's MMA switch, she believes the move will benefit the sport and even claims to have offered her rival tips to aid her transition. 

"Any time I fight Savannah Marshall is a good time for me," Shields told Stats Perform. "Whether it's in boxing for the rematch or in MMA. I mean, if she wanted to go the track and race, I am down for it!

"The satisfaction of beating her makes me very happy. I have a love-hate relationship with Savannah. I love that she's a competitor. I love that we had our experiences together. 

"She keeps mentioning the amateur loss, but it was, what, 11 years ago? Other than that, I think it was very clever and very inspiring for her to come and sign with the PFL. 

"When I heard about it, [I thought], 'man, she is just obsessed with me'. But [then] I asked her, 'why are you here?' 

"She was like, 'I want to fight you in a cage, and I want to be bigger in boxing too. I want to build my brand'. 

"Hearing her say those things… It's like, now you're on the same mental that I'm on, because I've been doing this and I've been saying this.

"We both agree that women's boxing is big but it's not as big as women's MMA and we get paid more in MMA, [with] equal TV time, equal fight time, equal promotion. 

"There's just way more eyes on us and we can get the bang for our buck. So, the fact that she came over here, I thought it was a good move. 

"We can still do our fight in boxing for the rematch, and we can still fight in the cage. When we're done, they're going to writing like documentaries and stuff about our beef! 

"But I don't have beef with her right now. I will save that for when she's my opponent again. Right now, I just wish her well. I even gave her some tips. Boxing and MMA, they are like apples and oranges. I just gave her a few tips on what I think she should do."

Asked about the development of women's sport in recent years, Shields hailed the progress already made but called for more female representation across sport's governing bodies.  

"Well women's sports right now are being viewed more than ever in today's time," She added. "I think we need the CEOs, the CFOs, the people in charge to just be equal and whatever you want to do, do it for the women. It's not that hard. 

"But people saying, 'the women need to do this or do that'… We're already doing everything that we're doing. It is the same as the men. 

"It's really about the people in charge making those financial decisions with their budgets and just being fair. We are working our way up there. 

"I'm a fan of the Olympics because I went and I just liked to see how women are represented on track and field, represented in boxing, represented in MMA, represented in soccer. 

"We are putting in our time, and Coco Gauff just won the [Cincinnati Open] trophy in tennis. Women's sports right now are really on an up and up and it's going to get better."

Former UFC champion Francis Ngannou is "crazy" for agreeing to switch to boxing for October's bout with Tyson Fury, according to unified middleweight champion Claressa Shields.

Ngannou, who relinquished his UFC Heavyweight title as part of his move to the Professional Fighters League (PFL) earlier this year, will make his professional boxing debut against the WBC Heavyweight champion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 28.

Fury's decision to face the unranked Ngannou has been criticised by many boxing fans after the Gypsy King failed to reach an agreement on a unification bout with Oleksandr Usyk earlier this year.

Shields made the opposite switch from boxing to mixed martial arts in 2021 and has a 1-1 PFL record, meaning she is well-versed in the differences between the disciplines. 

Ngannou will be a huge underdog when he steps into the ring for the first time, and while Shields is excited to see him in such a high-profile fight, she knows he is at a major disadvantage.

"It's going to be very interesting fight," Shields told Stats Perform. "Francis left UFC because of low pay. He wasn't being paid properly as a champion, which I felt terrible for – he had a couple of injuries and everything. 

"I think him coming to the PFL, they can offer him a nice cheque and really honour that he was a UFC champion and that he's going to work hard to be PFL champion. 

"I'm happy that Francis is getting his just [reward], fighting against Tyson Fury in boxing. I think he's just so crazy. 

"All the girls in MMA, I think, are very, very smart. If they were to come to box me inside the ring, I would destroy them, truth be told." 

Ngannou is, however, known for his punching power and is being trained for the bout by Mike Tyson, which Shields hopes may help the Cameroon-born fighter keep things interesting. 

"Francis has great hands, but in boxing and in MMA, distancing and everything is completely different," she added.

"I just feel like I just want to see it. I'm excited about it, and Francis is training with Mike Tyson, so we may see some things we weren't expecting to see. 

"I just know that Tyson Fury is a really great boxer. He's strong and I believe Tyson's going to win the fight, but I can't wait to see what Francis does to move from the cage."

Fury has previously discussed the idea of competing in MMA, but Shields is sceptical, adding: "I heard Tyson talking about it, but I don't think he would get inside the cage. 

"Inside the cage, under MMA rules, he gets kicked, [opponents] take you down to the ground and knee you and things like that. I just don't see Fury doing it. But he's crazy, so you never know."

Elsewhere, Anthony Joshua says "positive" talks have taken place over a heavyweight meeting with Deontay Wilder following the Brit's one-punch knockout of Robert Helenius earlier this month.

While Shields is fond of both fighters, she feels compelled to back fellow American Wilder if the bout is made.

"I am a fan of both," she said. "Deontay Wilder's like a big brother to me and Anthony Joshua's the heavyweight I have a crush on because he is so gorgeous! 

"But it has to be the American Deontay. Even though I think Joshua has better skill, I think Deontay Wilder has just got dynamite in both hands and we've seen Joshua get knocked out before. 

"I know I'm going to be cheering for Deontay Wilder, he's like my brother."

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