Newly appointed Reggae Boyz head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson believes his first order of business is to develop a national philosophy on how Jamaican wants to play football.

England have joined a host of other nations in pledging to their allegiance to the OneLove campaign against discrimination ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

The Three Lions will join the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and Wales in supporting an initiative designed to promote inclusion before and during this year's tournament.

Starting with their UEFA Nations League trip to Italy on September 23, captain Harry Kane will wear a distinctive heart-adorned armband to show the team's stand against discriminatory practice.

Kane will be among the skippers who will also have the OneLove armband on in Qatar, where same-sex relationships and promotion of same-sex relationships are criminalised. 

"I am honoured to join my fellow national team captains in supporting the important OneLove campaign," Kane said.

"As captains we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination.

"This is even more relevant at a time when division is common in society. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching."

Sweden and Norway, who have not qualified for the World Cup, will back the campaign during this month's Nations League matches.

Mexico coach Tata Martino has ruled out the possibility of a World Cup recall for veteran striker Javier Hernandez.

Hernandez, who has scored 52 goals in his 109 caps for El Tri, has not featured for his country since 2019.

However, 15 goals in 29 MLS games for the LA Galaxy this season had prompted discussion of a return to the Mexico squad prior to Martino's latest comments.

Ahead of his side's friendly with Peru, Martino explained: "We are simply going with other forwards.

"We will try to choose the 26 players who are closest to our game."

Hernandez, 34, finds himself down the pecking order for El Tri, with Raul Jimenez, Rogelio Funes Mori, Henry Martin and Santiago Gimenez all preferred up front. 

Speaking in greater depth about his attacking options, coach Martino stated three of these four would make up his striking options in Qatar.

And with Jimenez and Funes Mori injured and not expected to feature against Peru, the chance on Sunday will fall to Martin and Gimenez to stake their claim.

"We have two [forwards] who can play and two who can't," Martino stated. "Four forwards are not going to go [to Qatar], but as long as they make it difficult for me to choose, I'm very happy about that.

"Surely there will be talk of who is left out, but the problem will be abundance and not scarcity."

Mexico start their tough World Cup campaign on November 22 against Poland, with games against Argentina and Saudi Arabia to follow.

Both Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka have been withdrawn from the Germany squad ahead of their two upcoming Nations League fixtures.

The Bayern Munich duo tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and have since been in isolation and left the team hotel.

The German Football Association (DFB) stated: "Due to a positive coronavirus test within one of the players' private circles, the medical team conducted a rapid antigen test on the whole nation team.

"All members of the coaching staff and the team are required to test negative before travelling. Confirmed contact of both players will be tested daily."

Germany play Hungary on Friday and England on Monday, and coach Hansi Flick will no doubt feel the strain of missing such vital players from his squad.

Goalkeeper and captain Neuer has been replaced by Hoffenheim's Oliver Baumann, with Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Eintracht Frankfurt's Kevin Trapp counted among Flick's other options in goal.

The DFB was yet to confirm the identity of any additions in Goretzka's place, although Flick still has the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Ilkay Gundogan and Thomas Muller at his disposal.

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."

Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio says he "can't give an answer right now" on the possibility of making a shock move to bitter rivals Barcelona.

The Spain international, whose contract expires at the end of the season, was repeatedly linked with a move away from Santiago Bernabeu during the transfer window.

And with Asensio appearing no nearer to a new deal at Madrid, he was this week said to be a target for Catalan giants Barca.

Asked about whether he could ever see himself playing for the Blaugrana in an interview with El Partidazo de COPE, Asensio replied: "Honestly, I don't know.

"I have not thought about it or weighed it up. I can't give an answer right now."

Should Asensio sign for Barca, he would join a select group of players to turn out for Spain's two biggest clubs, including Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Samuel Eto'o.

Madrid academy graduate Marcos Alonso is the most recent example, having just joined the Camp Nou side from Chelsea. 

"[The speculation] is normal," Asensio added. "In seven months, well, from January, I am free to sign for another club. A lot more will come out.

"I had 200 messages this morning [regarding the Barcelona speculation]. I am in a world where there are a lot of rumours, I can't control that."

Asensio is yet to start a game for Madrid this season, featuring for only 48 minutes across four appearances in all competitions.

He did score against RB Leipzig in the Champions League last week but then featured only as an 86th-minute substitute in Madrid's 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid at the weekend.

Jack Grealish has defended Gareth Southgate following "very harsh" criticism of the England manager.

Southgate led the Three Lions to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and then the Euro 2020 final, but recent results have been scrutinised.

England have not won any of their past four Nations League games, losing to Hungary twice and drawing with Italy and Germany.

Ahead of return fixtures against Italy and Germany, Southgate has also faced some backlash following the announcement of his latest squad.

Two months out from the World Cup, Southgate, who said in 2017 he would "never pick on reputation", has called up Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, despite the pair losing their places at Manchester United.

But winger Grealish has come to his manager's defence, saying: "I think [the criticism] was harsh.

"[There was] the final last year and [then losing] the Hungary game last camp. I think the last time we lost to a team in 90 minutes [before Hungary] was Belgium in November 2020. 

"I think it was very harsh and especially with the World Cup and the Euros how well the team had done. I thought it was harsh, but sometimes that's what you get if you're English, and I've certainly had my fair share."

And Grealish, who is likely to feature as England travel to Milan to take on European champions Italy on Friday, believes the country will unite behind the team again when the World Cup kicks off.

"If you have a few bad results, people are going to jump off the bandwagon a little bit," he added.

"Before that, everyone was saying how good we are and how well we'd been doing. We hadn't been beat over 90 minutes in so long.

"I wouldn't say we're underdogs, and we know what talent we have in our dressing room.

"One thing I love about these tournaments is how everyone comes together, so I'm sure we'll have their full support, and two months can't come quick enough.

"I hope for myself that I'm playing regularly for Man City and performing, and hopefully I'll be on the plane."

The World Cup in Qatar is now just two months away and the first international break of the season is the final opportunity for squads to convene before coming together for the tournament.

In Europe, the Nations League offers competitive action in the build-up to Qatar, while teams elsewhere will face friendlies.

With a mid-season window and just one break before the action commences in November, it presents a challenge for any new faces to establish themselves in their international side before the squad for the World Cup is selected.

Some have been handed glorious opportunities though and Stats Perform has assessed some of the newcomers.

 

Ivan Toney

England's main striker role is nailed down by skipper Harry Kane but the role of understudy is a competitive one with the likes of Callum Wilson, Tammy Abraham and Ollie Watkins having earned opportunities – and Ivan Toney is the latest to join that list.

Quickly settling into life in the Premier League, Toney netted 12 goals for Brentford in their inaugural campaign last season but has hit new heights in 2022, scoring 13 goals this calendar year.

Toney doesn't just offer goals, though, as he has also contributed seven assists since August 2021, totalling 24 goal involvements (17 goals, 7 assists) in that period, with Kane (31) the only English player to have more in the Premier League.

This season, Toney has five goals and two assists for Brentford, with a tally of seven goal involvements only bettered by Erling Haaland (12) in the Premier League.

Nico Williams

Brother of Inaki Williams, capped once by Spain in a friendly before switching allegiances to Ghana, 20-year-old Nico Williams has been handed a chance by Luis Enrique, who insists the decision is not to ensure he doesn't follow in the footsteps of his sibling.

The right-winger has established himself in Athletic Bilbao's first-team and has made a firm impact this season, scoring twice – including in the recent 3-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano, which marked the first time both he and Inaki had scored in the same match.

Williams' role with Athletic will continue to grow, having only recently become a regular starter for the Basque side towards the end of last season and now starting five of Athletic's six LaLiga matches.

Securing a spot on the plane for Qatar will not be easy considering the vast competition, but Williams may get his opportunity due to his age, with a forward line of the future potentially being created alongside Yeremy Pino and Ferran Torres.

Kenneth Taylor

Only earning his first start for Ajax in the Eredivisie last season, Kenneth Taylor has become a mainstay in the side this term with five starts across six league appearances for the Dutch champions, following Ryan Gravenberch's move to Bayern Munich.

The 20-year-old has grabbed his opportunity with both hands, scoring three goals and contributing two assists in the league. His control on the ball has also been impressive, misplacing 41 of 352 passing attempts in the Eredivisie for an accuracy of 88 per cent.

In the Champions League, Taylor has yet find the net or contribute an assist, but he has caught the eye. In the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, he won three tackles, the joint-most in the Ajax side, and completed 92 per cent of his passes.

Those performances have earned Taylor a call-up to Louis van Gaal's squad ahead of Gravenberch, who has been capped 10 times by the Netherlands but has found playing time difficult to come by since moving to Bayern.

Enzo Fernandez

Only arriving at Benfica from River Plate ahead of the current season, Enzo Fernandez has quickly made an impression in Portugal, where he was named the Primeira Liga's Midfielder of the Month.

In the third qualifying round of the Champions League, the Argentine struck in both legs against Midtjylland and made a significant impression in the 2-1 group stage win against Juventus – with the most touches (92), pass attempts (71) and accurate passes (68) of his team, as well as the highest pass completion percentage (96%).

He also won 12 duels and won possession on 12 occasions, both tallies that were bettered by none of his team-mates.

His form has already seen him linked with Liverpool, just months after his arrival in European football, and the 21-year-old could be once to watch in Qatar if he secures a seat on the plane.

 

Borja Iglesias

At the age of 29, Borja Iglesias is finally poised to make his international bow with Spain after a sensational calendar year in which he has scored 18 LaLiga goals – with only Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (28) scoring more.

Six of those goals have come in the opening six matches of the 2022-23 season, from which Real Betis have won 15 points to sit behind only Barcelona and Real Madrid in the early-season standings.

Robert Lewandowski (8) is the sole player to score more LaLiga goals than Iglesias this season and he has averaged a goal every 103 minutes, though he is yet to feature in the club's Europa League campaign thus far.

Spain's lack of central striking options may well play into Iglesias' hands in his bid to make the World Cup squad, with the 28-man party for September's Nations League fixtures having only Alvaro Morata as the other natural option through the middle.

Arsenal teenager Ethan Nwaneri has captured the imaginations of England's top clubs after becoming the youngest player in Premier League history, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool all reportedly interested.

Nwaneri broke the record when he came on as a substitute in stoppage time of Arsenal's 3-0 win against Brentford on Sunday, becoming the first 15-year-old to appear in the competition.

His appearance – and subsequent praise from manager Mikel Arteta – did not go unnoticed, and it seems he is set to become one of English football's most talked-about youngsters.

TOP STORY – 15-YEAR-OLD NWANERI CATCHES THE EYE OF CITY, UNITED AND LIVERPOOL

With Nwaneri still classified as a schoolboy and not set to receive a scholarship with Arsenal until he turns 16 in March, The Times says he is being tracked by United, City and Liverpool.

The report suggests the interest being shown towards him by the country's most decorated clubs may have had some bearing on Arsenal's decision to hand him his debut, although Arteta was adamant it was only due to injuries limiting his bench options.

Whether he remains with the first-team set-up when healthy reinforcements return is unknown, and Arteta's messages were mixed. 

As well as saying "we need to create as many scenarios as possible for him to put his talent to the service of the team", Arteta also added Nwaneri should not expect his meteoric rise to continue at the same pace, adding: "After this, maybe he needs three [steps] backwards to go another forward."

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato is reporting Juventus officials will meet on Friday to discuss the future of Massimiliano Allegri, with the club sitting eighth in the Serie A table with two wins from seven matches.

– According to La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Chelsea target Rafael Leao would like to remain with Milan and is working on a contract extension. 

– Marseille loanee Arkadiusz Milik is impressing during his stint with Juventus, who are interested in activating a €7million buy option in his loan agreement, according to Calciomercato.

Nice are hoping to hire Mauricio Pochettino to replace coach Lucien Favre after two wins from their first eight games, per ESPN, although The Telegraph claims Pochettino has no interest in the role.

Everything appeared to be heading towards Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele parting on poor terms after a largely unsatisfactory association.

"Either he renews, or we look for an exit," Xavi said in January, fielding the latest in a series of questions about the winger.

With Dembele failing to agree to a new Barcelona contract at the start of 2022, director of football Mateu Alemany was even more forthright, declaring: "He must leave the club immediately."

Fast forward eight months, and the unpredictable attacker has emerged as a key cog in a revitalised Barca side, one tipped to compete with Real Madrid after making an unbeaten start in LaLiga.

Having been in the cold since Euro 2020, Dembele is also back in the France squad for their upcoming Nations League matches, with his sights set on claiming a spot in Didier Deschamps' party for the World Cup in Qatar.

Football loves a redemption arc, and that of Dembele in 2022 is up there with the very best in recent memory.

On the eve of his France return, Stats Perform looks at Dembele's journey from €105million flop to the creative hub of Xavi's side, asking whether a World Cup flourish is next for the winger.

Injury woes and the long shadow of Neymar

Barcelona's failings following Neymar's 2017 move to Paris Saint-Germain have been well-documented, with Dembele long viewed as the ultimate personification of the shambolic recruitment policy during Josep Maria Bartomeu's tenure.

The Blaugrana parted with an initial €105m for Dembele, who recorded 30 goal contributions (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances in his lone season with Borussia Dortmund.

That substantial fee saw Dembele, a talented yet raw 20-year-old, touted as a replacement for Neymar, a pressure that appeared to weigh heavily on the Frenchman; he needed over seven months to score his first goal in LaLiga, finally finding the net at Celta Vigo in April 2018.

While Ernesto Valverde led Barca to a domestic double in 2017-18, Dembele's own contribution was limited by a series of injury setbacks, which represented a sign of things to come.

 

Dembele made just 17 league appearances and 12 starts in his debut campaign, having been ruled out until January 2018 after suffering a serious hamstring injury within a month of his arrival.

In three of Dembele's first five campaigns at Barca, injuries ruled him out for 100 days or more. Between the beginning of 2017-18 and the end of 2020-21, meanwhile, he started just 36 per cent of the club's league games.

On the rare occasions Dembele did stay fit, meanwhile, his output was negligible in a side increasingly reliant on Lionel Messi's brilliance. Dembele's tally of 17 league goals and 14 assists in his first four seasons hardly represented value for Barcelona's mammoth investment, meaning the winger was considered ripe for a sale as the club's economic position worsened.

From contract rebel to key man: Spearheading the Xavi revival 

Even LaLiga's casual observers must have grown tired of discussions over the economic "levers" being pulled by Joan Laporta's regime. But before the sales of future TV rights and production companies, shifting Dembele was touted as a means by which to balance the books after the January arrival of Ferran Torres.

With a loan move for Adama Traore leaving Barcelona's forward line well-stocked, the message could not have been clearer; if Dembele would not agree to fresh terms, he was surplus to requirements.

But with Traore struggling on his return to Spain and Torres regularly deployed centrally, Xavi decided to utilise Dembele once the January transfer window closed. He was richly rewarded after reinstating him on the right of Barca's attack.

Since Xavi took charge in November 2021, Dembele's 17 assists in all competitions is bettered only by Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time is a team-high.

Dembele also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga, finally combining his menacing dribbling ability with genuine threat and creativity.

 

And Dembele's 68 dribbles completed in that time – also a team-high – show he has not sacrificed the individual skill that attracted Barcelona's attentions five years ago. 

Three months on from Dembele being booed by his own supporters during a Europa League clash with Napoli, Xavi said: "When he has not been involved, we have noticed."

The former midfield maestro was right. Barcelona won two-thirds of the league games Dembele started last season, and 47.8 per cent of those he didn't.

That impact meant Dembele's belated contract renewal, finalised in July, was received with enthusiasm by everyone at Camp Nou, with the winger subsequently going from strength to strength.

The tonic to Deschamps' blues?

If some thought the arrival of Raphinha might threaten Dembele's place in Xavi's side, he has made them eat their words at the start of the new campaign.

Having tallied the most assists (13) and expected assists (9.2 xA) in LaLiga last season, Dembele has recorded four league goal contributions since the August restart (two goals, two assists), forcing his way back into Deschamps' thoughts.

By the end of August, Dembele had been involved in more shots (15) as a consequence of ball carries than any other player in LaLiga, and his dynamic, unpredictable style may be just what Les Bleus require.

 

Dembele was used sparingly at Euro 2020, with Antoine Griezmann preferred alongside Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe as France won just once in four outings. However, it's easy to see why Dembele's ability to hug either touchline might appeal to Deschamps, offering him tactical flexibility when several other options appear compromised. 

Griezmann's lack of game-time at Atletico Madrid has been subject to much debate in recent weeks, while Kingsley Coman is out of France's latest squad through injury. Benzema's own injury scare, meanwhile, will no doubt have sharpened Deschamps' mind on the need for a plan B.

With France failing to win any of their first four Nations League games this time around, Dembele's Barcelona revival may have come at the perfect time.

Should Dembele carry his club form onto the international stage, potentially contributing to the first successful World Cup defence since Brazil's 1962 win, his 2022 will surely go down as one of football's most emphatic comebacks. 

Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake has once again been named to Major League Soccer’s Team of the Week.

The 31-year-old shot-stopper has been in inspired form for Major League Soccer (MLS) club Philadelphia Union so far this season and claimed his spot in goal for week 32’s best selection, with another inspired performance.

The custodian was at his very best in a draw at Atlanta United FC on the weekend and made at least 5 big saves to earn his team a share of the spoils.  In truth, the Union found themselves on the back foot for most of the encounter.

Perhaps his biggest and most important save came in second-half stoppage time as Atlanta found its all-time leading goalscorer alone at the back post but Blake was there for the close-range reaction stop to keep Josef Martinez from unlocking the tie.

On the back of another outstanding season, the Jamaican is firmly in the running for the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honours, an award that he won in both 2016 and 2020.  Earlier this month, the player achieved another significant milestone for the Philadelphia Union after reaching 200 appearances.

Tottenham centre-back Eric Dier heaped praise on coach Antonio Conte for helping to resurrect his international career ahead of the World Cup.

Dier, 28, has 45 senior caps for England since debuting in 2015, but it has been almost two years since he last represented his country in a UEFA Nations League win against Iceland in November 2020.

However, after tallying 35 Premier League appearances this past campaign, Dier has become a crucial part of Conte's three centre-back lineup, playing every minute of Tottenham's seven unbeaten matches this season (5W, 2D).

Speaking to the media about how he feels he has evolved since his last national call-up, Dier gave plenty of credit to Conte for changing the way he approaches his game.

"I don’t want to sound like a teacher’s pet but [Conte] has done a lot for me," he said. "In every way he has done a lot for me. 

"He has had a great effect on me in every aspect. Tactically, physically, mentally. My approach.

"Not just the manager but all his staff. He is very demanding, but I really enjoy that. Ever since he arrived, I have never learnt so much in this year. I don’t think I have learnt as much before as I have now with him.

"He is the godfather of that system so I feel like with him you’re constantly learning and evolving within that system, constantly adding new things – once we learn one thing we’re onto the next. 

"I think he probably gave me my belief back a little bit as well."

Dier took things a step further and said he does not just feel he has recaptured his previous form, but he has now reached a new level.

"I think it was my most difficult season when I did miss out on the Euros, [but] I don’t think it was as bad a season as it is made out to be," he said. "Nowhere near.

"But now I think I’ve reached my best level in my career, not just this season but last season as well. I think I’m getting better and I think I can get better."

With five matches required to bring up his half-century in an England shirt, Dier said he would be lying if it was not on his mind.

"I’ve seen they’ve got a board up now in the reception of the hotel of all the people who have made 50 and 100," he said. "It’s a dream to be able to reach that.

"It would mean a lot. It’s something that when I wasn’t in the squad it was playing on my mind that I was so close to it. That did annoy me. I would love to be able to get to that kind of milestone.

"I’m very happy… I’m very proud of making it back, I just don’t like dramatising it too much. I play football, you know?"

Pedri revealed Luis Enrique's Spain view themselves among the favourites to win the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. 

La Roja have endured two disappointing World Cup campaigns since winning the trophy in 2010, being dumped out in 2014's group stage before suffering a last-16 penalty shoot-out loss to hosts Russia four years later.

However, the emergence of several young talents – including Pedri and fellow Barcelona midfielder Gavi – has enabled Luis Enrique to reintroduce a possession-based style of play Spain became renowned for under Vicente del Bosque.

With Spain set to begin their World Cup campaign against Costa Rica in just over two months' time, Pedri sees no reason why the class of 2022 cannot deliver a second World Cup win.

"Perhaps people don't expect so much from us, they don't see us as favourites, but inside we do see ourselves as favourites," he told Sport.

"We will not wear the medal without doing anything. If we work as we should, the opportunity will come.

"There is always pressure at Barca and the national team. You have to try to escape, be calm and enjoy. 

"Here and at Barca we have a team for everything. We work so that at the end of the season we can win everything we play."

Pedri, who does not turn 20 until November, has already won 12 senior international caps and established himself as a key player for Barcelona.

Now, he is setting his sights on competing for football's greatest individual honour.  

Asked whether he saw himself as a future Ballon d'Or winner, Pedri said: "I hope I have the opportunity to be, it is a very complicated prize. 

"You must be the best in the world, I have a lot to learn and improve so that this day can come.

"I worked a lot on the physical side, I still have to improve, but little by little I am adding small things. You can't put so much day by day because of the busy schedule, but you can always improve."

At club level, Pedri has struck up a fine understanding with Barcelona's new signing Robert Lewandowski, whose return of eight goals in six matches has helped Xavi's side to an unbeaten start in LaLiga. 

"It's crazy, he contributes a lot of goals, assists, he's a machine in the area," Pedri said of the Poland international.

"It is spectacular to work with him, he helps young players, those who enter now or have been there for more years. He suits us very well."

Spain face Switzerland and Portugal in their final two matches in Group A2 of the Nations League this month, having built a one-point lead over Fernando Santos' men ahead of those fixtures.

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski will wear the colours of Ukraine at the World Cup in Qatar, after receiving a special armband from Andriy Shevchenko.

The Barcelona forward met Shevchenko at Warsaw's national stadium to collect the yellow and blue armband, which he will wear at the World Cup to represent Ukraine, who did not qualify.

Ukraine has been ravaged by Russia following February's invasion, with millions of citizens forced to flee the country and many have travelled to Poland, which has also hosted the Champions League matches of Shakhtar Donetsk this season.

While Ukraine will not play in Qatar, Lewandowski has pledged to display their colours when he takes to the field in a show of solidarity with those who are suffering, having met Shevchenko with Laureus Sport For Good.

"I will carry the colours of Ukraine to the World Cup. As a player and a man, I support peace and I believe such symbolic gestures matter," he said.

"I believe that as athletes we should use the power of sport for good. I'm going to take Andriy’s armband with me to the World Cup in November as a reminder that Ukrainian people are not alone and are not forgotten.

"It means a lot to me to stand here with Andriy, a footballer and a man who has used his voice and platform to influence positive change."

Shevchenko thanked Lewandowski for his pledge, saying: "For me, the captain’s armband is a symbol of leadership, strength and passion for your country. I want to pass this armband to Robert to thank him for his support, voice and platform in supporting my country and calling for peace."

Poland begin their World Cup campaign on November 18 against Mexico, then tackling Argentina and Saudi Arabia in Group C.

Atletico Madrid have condemned the racist abuse directed at Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior by supporters, promising the "immediate expulsion" of any members who were involved.

Sunday's LaLiga derby between the two capital clubs was marred by pre-match scenes of Atletico fans singing racist chants about the Brazilian forward.

The chants came less than a week after football agent Pedro Bravo urged the Real Madrid winger to "stop playing the monkey" in relation to the forward's customary dancing celebration. Bravo later apologised, insisting he did not mean to cause offence with the comments made on TV show El Chiringuito.

Vinicius vowed to continue celebrating in such a way and was met with a wave of support, including from compatriots Neymar, Pele and Gabriel Jesus, but he was still targeted by some Atletico fans ahead of Sunday's match.

Atletico have belatedly spoken out against the abuse suffered by the forward and offered their cooperation to the police.

"Our club has always been known for being an open and inclusive space for fans of different nationalities, cultures, races, and social classes, and a few cannot tarnish the image of thousands and thousands of Atleti fans who support their team with passion and respect for their opponents," the statement read.

"These chants provoke enormous repulsion and indignation. We will not allow any individual to hide behind our colours to utter insults of a racist or xenophobic nature. At Atletico Madrid, we have zero tolerance for racism, our commitment to the fight against this social scourge is total, and we will not stop until we eliminate it.

"To this end, we have contacted the authorities to offer them our full cooperation in the investigation of the events that took place outside the stadium. We ask them to identify the people who participated [and] to proceed with the immediate expulsion of those who are members of the club.

"We would also like to invite all professionals involved in the world of football to reflect deeply. Making clear once again our strongest condemnation of these events, which have no justification whatsoever, we believe that what has happened in the days leading up to the derby is unacceptable.

"Fans are asked for sanity and rationality, and during the week, professionals from different fields generated an artificial campaign, lighting the fuse of controversy without measuring the repercussions of their actions and manifestations.

"The pain felt by the red and white family for this event is enormous. We cannot allow anyone to link our fans with this behaviour and question our values because of a minority that does not represent us.

"Our decision is firm and emphatic. We will not stop until we expel those involved from the red and white family because they cannot be part of it."

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