France boss Didier Deschamps insisted his side are far from "a shipwreck" after losing 2-0 to Denmark in their final game before heading to Qatar 2022.

Les Bleus will head into their World Cup trophy defence in November on the back of a poor Nations League campaign that saw them limp home third in Group A1.

Three losses in competitive matches since March means France have already matched their worst-ever record in that regard for a calendar year.

Having been tipped as strong contenders to be world champions again, France's second loss to the Danes in 2022 – ahead of a Group D battle between the teams in Qatar – has set off alarm bells among supporters.

Deschamps, who guided the team to glory at Russia 2018, has pushed back against suggestions his side are in crisis, pointing to both his decision to field a younger side and comparing France's form to other major rivals struggling for results.

"I don't think it's a shipwreck," he told TF1. "We had a lot of chances. We were weak, we made errors when playing out from the back.

"It is a young French side, which in the most part doesn't have players with experience at the very highest level. It is not a question of systems.

"We mustn't worry. Having the players with international experience back will do us good. There's no worrying. It's difficult for everyone.

"Yesterday, I was watching other games. There are other big teams losing as well. We shouldn't think of ourselves as better than them. We are going to have to fight."

Deschamps added: "I'm not going to darken the situation any further. This is a reminder of what will be waiting for us in two months."

Kylian Mbappe struggled in parts against Denmark, and looked to be nursing a minor knock at one point, but Deschamps was quick to assure that he is unconcerned about the Paris Saint-Germain forward's game.

"Kylian has done a lot of good things. He's also one of the few players to have played 90 minutes twice in three days," Deschamps said.

"He cannot do everything. He was more decisive three days ago, yes, but like the whole team, I am not worried about Kylian."

Serdar Gurler says Turkey can have no excuses after suffering a shock defeat to the Faroe Islands in Sunday's Nations League clash.

Turkey entered the Group C1 contest unbeaten in six matches, winning five of those en route to earning promotion into the second tier of the competition.

However, the country of around 86 million people fell to a 2-1 reverse in Torshavn against a country with a population of under 49,000.

Viljormur Davidsen and Joan Simun Edmundsson gave the hosts, who are ranked 125th in the world – 83 places below their opponents – a two-goal lead early in the second half.

Gurler pulled one back in the final minute, but the Faroe Islands held on to extend their own unbeaten run to four matches.

Reflecting on a chastening loss for the side coached by Stefan Kuntz, Istanbul Basaksehir forward Gurler told reporters: "We are incredibly sad. There is no excuse for this.

"Maybe we didn't want it as much as they did. We didn't fight. We completed the first four matches with very good results."

Quoted by Turkish outlet Aspor, Gurler added: "Maybe we were too comfortable, but we can't make any excuses for this evening. In the dressing room, there's a silence as if you were at a funeral home."

Louis van Gaal praised the Netherlands' discipline in their 1-0 Nations League victory over Belgium on Sunday despite describing his team as having played "very badly". 

Victory over Poland on Thursday meant the Oranje only needed to avoid a heavy defeat to their neighbours at the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam to seal top spot in Group A4 and progress to the Nations League Finals next year.

A result of that nature never looked like materialising, with Virgil van Dijk securing three points for the hosts in the 73rd minute – the centre-back's sixth goal for his country, four of those being headers from a corner.

The result extended Oranje's unbeaten run to 15 games (11 wins, four draws) since Van Gaal was reappointed for the third time in August last year, while it also saw Van Gaal move level with Dick Advocaat as the manager with the most wins in charge of the Netherlands (37). 

"We lost the ball so much and in simple situations," he told NOS. "Just like against Poland, only now even more. 

"That also had to do with Belgium, who put more pressure on the ball, especially in the second half. We certainly didn't play our best game.

"Belgium are very strong in terms of quality. They have a lot of individual quality. [Kevin] De Bruyne and [Eden] Hazard; those are top players. The Belgians did very well from the back. They were the better team today.

"I told the players that we played very badly, but we didn't give away many chances. 

"We also had the greatest opportunities, especially at the end. I think [Steven] Bergwijn and [Davy] Klaassen should have scored.

"This is a disciplined victory and that's nice. Although we were second best for 90 minutes, we still continued playing our game and were disciplined."

Marten de Roon replaced the injured Frenkie de Jong in midfield and Van Gaal was pleased with how the Atalanta man contained De Bruyne.

"I thought [De Roon] was one of the better players," he added. "He gave few balls to the opposition and defensively picked up De Bruyne, who walked a little further away from our pit bulls. He did that very well."

One of those "pit bulls", substitute Tyrell Malacia, also received praise from Van Gaal, who said the Manchester United man also did well in shackling De Bruyne.

"I put him on the left of the central defence because De Bruyne played a lot on that side," Van Gaal explained. "It's better to have a pit bull like that instead of someone like [Daley] Blind who tries to solve it tactically. 

"I had already discussed this with him the day before yesterday. The defensive work he did very well."

Denmark threw down a gauntlet for the Qatar 2022 World Cup with a 2-0 win over France, only to narrowly miss out on the Nations League Finals.

First-half goals for Kasper Dolberg and Andreas Skov Olsen put the Danes firmly in the frame to reach next year's final four, only for rivals Croatia to net twice in the second half to beat Austria and finish top of Group A1.

Nevertheless, an assured victory over World Cup holders France in Copenhagen offered a sharp reminder of Denmark's dark horse credentials for Qatar, after also reaching the Euro 2020 semi-finals.

Austria's defeat ensured Les Bleus dodged relegation to the second tier, but for Didier Deschamps, alarm bells may be ringing after a lacklustre campaign.

With the risk of the drop breathing down their necks, it was the visitors who started sharpest, with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann delivering early tests for Kasper Schmeichel.

Yet Denmark steadily gained ground, and when Dolberg lunged by the left post to meet Mikkel Damsgaard's cross and bobble a finish over Alphonse Areola in the 34th minute, their lead was not an unworthy one.

Olsen's rocket of a volley through a crowded box after a poorly fielded corner was a fine finish too, five minutes later, and it was France who went into the sheds on the back foot.

Attempts to fight back after the interval were frequent, if speculative, with Mbappe almost catching Schmeichel out twice, but Denmark's game management proved too shrewd to be broken, seeing them through for a famous win.

The Netherlands booked their place in the Nations League Finals as Virgil van Dijk's second-half header sealed a 1-0 win over Belgium on Sunday.

Victory over Poland on Thursday meant the Oranje only needed to avoid a heavy defeat to their neighbours at the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam to seal top spot in Group A4.

Belgium never looked like they had the firepower to pull off such a result, with Liverpool defender Van Dijk securing three points for the hosts by scoring in the 73rd minute.

The result meant the Netherlands topped their group with 16 points, with Roberto Martinez's Red Devils six points behind in second.

Belgium looked bright in the early stages, with Eden Hazard blazing over from a promising position and Michy Batshuayi firing at Remko Pasveer after being played in by Kevin De Bruyne.

At the other end, Denzel Dumfries cracked wide from 12 yards after fine work down the left from Vincent Janssen, which was the closest the hosts came in a first half that saw them fail to have an attempt on target.

Dumfries again went close at the start of the second period, while Belgium's Amadou Onana was denied by a smart stop from Pasveer shortly after the hour mark. 

Steven Bergwijn powered a shot straight at Thibaut Courtois as the Netherlands cranked up the pressure, before Van Dijk handed the hosts victory with a close-range header from Cody Gakpo's corner.

Courtois did well to deny Davy Klaassen and Bergwijn in the closing stages, while Belgium substitute Dodi Lukebakio struck the post with a sensational overhead kick with almost the last kick of the game.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini says he is "pleased" to see Hungary thriving under former team-mate Marco Rossi, as the pair face off for a winner-takes-all Nations League clash.

The two sides meet in their final match in Group A3 on Monday, with the Azzurri needing victory in order to leapfrog their hosts into next year's finals in Budapest.

In a group that also included 2014 World Cup winners Germany and Euro 2020 finalists England, Hungary had been written off as easy pickings for relegation from the A tier of the Nations League.

But wins over both nations has catapulted them to top spot, and Mancini said he is delighted to see former Sampdoria team-mate Rossi showcasing his skill, stating that he is under no illusion of the task at hand.

"Playing in Hungary is never easy, but I am pleased that they have done so well in the Nations League, especially as their coach is my former team-mate," he stated.

"I see it as 50-50, because they can also count on a draw to go through. The fact we are here challenging for first place with 90 minutes to go is already pleasing, so we'll give it our all."

Italy will be without Ciro Immobile for the trip despite the striker making the journey to the airport, only to be left behind when the squad flew to Hungary.

Reports that Lazio's president Claudio Loitio ordered him to remain behind owing to a slight thigh issue were not commented on by Mancini, though he admitted the forward was not worth the risk.

"We tried and Immobile did everything right in trying to stay with us, but this morning we decided it wasn’t worth the risk," he added.

"It was disappointing for him and for us. Ciro would happily have stayed, and he did during the first game, but it was too dangerous to risk it.

"He wasn't in awful shape, but hasn't trained with us for three days. We met up when arriving in Milan, but his absence had already been discussed."

Jamal Musiala has no regrets and is "very happy" with his decision to represent Germany over England ahead of Monday's Nations League clash at Wembley.

Born in Stuttgart, Musiala spent a significant part of his childhood in England and was with Chelsea from 2011 until 2019, while he also captained the Three Lions at youth level.

However, he returned to Germany in 2019 to join Bayern Munich and elected to represent Hansi Flick's side last year.

Musiala will now face off against the side he could have represented on Monday and made it clear he has no regrets about the decision on his international allegiance.

"I feel good to be here in England. I am very motivated. England are a very strong team and my past makes me want to play even more," he said.

"I don't know exactly how many times I've played at Wembley. I've been to school tournaments here before and made it to a final there twice. The atmosphere at Wembley is always great.

"It wasn't an easy decision and I thought about it for a long time. In the end it was a decision I made with my family and I'm very happy with. Some England fans are definitely not happy with my decision but that shows that I play well."

Flick has confirmed Musiala will start for Germany in their Nations League dead rubber at Wembley and heaped praise upon the 19-year-old.

"When he trained for the first time, you immediately noticed what a talent he is. His development is fantastic," he declared.

"He can hold his own well in a small space and has a strong feeling for the space. He is also very strong at dribbling, which is why he can solve situations for us.

"In addition, he is very skilled defensively and has many ball wins. I'm glad he's playing for Germany."

Bayern Munich defender Benjamin Pavard has opened up on how he experienced depression during the coronavirus lockdown.

The France international explained in an interview with newspaper Le Parisien that isolation became a heavy burden and he sorely missed normal social contact.

Pavard, now 26, was in his first season with Bayern when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, having joined from Bundesliga rivals Stuttgart.

When players went into isolation in late March of 2020, Pavard said it became a challenge to stay positive.

He said: "It was difficult for everyone, for me too. To be alone, in a country other than mine, I was really not well. In my head, something was wrong.

"At the beginning, you tell yourself that it's nothing, that it will pass, but when you see that it persists, that you go to training and that you don't have a smile on your face, you have to react."

The Bundesliga became the first major league in Europe to resume, as it started up again in mid-May 2020, albeit behind closed doors.

Pavard sought and found support to help him through the trying times.

He said: "I am human like everyone else, and even if I have a super nice house with a weight room, I needed contact with others.

"I got up, I had no appetite. I tried to keep busy, to cook, to watch series. But Netflix is ​​fine for two minutes… I don't like the word depressive, but that was the case."

The former Lille player explained that he turned a corner and now feels "much better".

“I came out of all this as a man, it changed me," he said. "I was on my own like many football players and I had to surround myself well to raise my head. I managed to bounce back from difficult times."

Raheem Sterling says England have shown what Gareth Southgate brings to them and insists it is not "time to panic" following their UEFA Nations League relegation.

The Three Lions were condemned to bottom spot in Group A3 after a 1-0 loss to Italy on Friday, marking their fifth consecutive match without a win, their worst competitive run since 1992.

With the World Cup in Qatar looming, expectations for another successful tournament run following a semi-final appearance at Russia 2018 and finishing runners-up at Euro 2020 look to have plummeted for Southgate's side.

Despite his achievements, form under the 52-year-old has come under increasing criticism, but, speaking ahead of Monday's dead rubber with Germany, Sterling has defended his efforts and says he remains the right man.

"[We've made it to] a semi-final and a final," he stated. "We should be trying to put positive messages out there to try and spur the boys on again. With the performances, I get why we're not thinking like this at the minute.

"But I don't think it is time to panic. We've shown over the last couple of years what [Southgate] brings to this team. He's someone that all the boys trust and someone that we want to follow in his direction.

"I don't think these last games change that narrative. I think the narrative needs to be can we go that one step ahead and how we can do it - to try and build positives."

Sterling acknowledged performances have been below par as of late, with England struggling to find a satisfactory formation to prevent defensive fragilities, but remained adamant they can turn the corner.

"In football, there's ups and downs," he said. "I think over the last couple of years, we've been in good form. The game tomorrow is a great opportunity to go out there and take a step in the right direction."

Didier Deschamps has called on Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier to let Kylian Mbappe "breathe a little bit" by resting the forward ahead of France's World Cup bid.

Mbappe has started all nine of PSG's Ligue 1 and Champions League matches this season, scoring 10 times.

The 23-year-old also played 90 minutes of France's 2-0 Nations League win over Austria on Thursday when opening the scoring before Olivier Giroud killed off the contest.

PSG have 11 matches to play before France head to Qatar, but Deschamps is hoping Mbappe is not used in all of those games.

"I know [Galtier] still wants to play Kylian. But from time to time, he needs to be able to breathe a little bit," Deschamps told Telefoot. 

"He needs to play a few minutes less. It won't hurt him – quite the contrary."

Mbappe led the way for shots (seven), shots on target (three) and touches in the opposition box (10) against Austria, while no player created more chances (three).

After registering his 28th international goal in 58 caps, Mbappe admitted he felt "a lot more freedom" playing alongside fellow scorer Giroud than he does for club side PSG.

While Mbappe's World Cup spot is all but guaranteed, Giroud faces uncertainty over his position in the squad once Karim Benzema is back from injury.

Asked if he plans on naming Giroud in his travelling party for the World Cup, Deschamps said: "If I knew that... All I know is he is doing everything he can to be there."

Clarence Seedorf was disheartened by a lack of job offers in Italy after his stint in charge of Milan as he highlighted how few black coaches are working in professional football.

Netherlands great Seedorf spent 14 years of his playing career in Italy, representing Sampdoria, Inter and Milan, the latter of whom he enjoyed a decade with.

He ended his playing days in January 2014 and became Milan's new head coach but was dismissed less than five months later.

Between January 2014 and the end of the season, Milan collected 35 points – the fourth-most in Serie A – and Seedorf won exactly half of his 22 matches in charge across all competitions.

Prior to Seedorf's arrival that season, Milan's haul of 22 points from 19 games was only the 11th best in Serie A. Similarly, the only Milan coaches to better his win rate in a single season since then have been Vincenzo Montella and Stefano Pioli.

Seedorf did return to coaching two years later with Shenzhen, before also having spells with Deportivo La Coruna and Cameroon, but it still troubles him how few opportunities in Italy have come his way.

"I wondered why I have not had other opportunities in Italy, I have two children born here," he said at the Turin Sports Festival, according to Pianeta Milan.

"I don't think it's a racist country, I've always supported this and I think I understand how it is. There are racists, but [the country] isn't.

"If one looks at what happened, there is little basis to understand that those who arrived [as head coach] after me at Milan immediately found a team [after then leaving Milan], and I didn't even have one proposal. After 20 years in Italy... or they told me they didn't want to offend me with a proposal.

"Send me a proposal, then I decide whether to be offended or not. It's not only in Italy, there are few black coaches anywhere.

"I got my first serious proposal in China, I took it because I like to travel and I make every project an important thing.

"However, it is disappointing to see that after the experience at Milan, in which you do well, you do not receive a call.

"Football reflects society. I make it a life mission to create equality and inclusion. It should be the strength of the company.

"The world is now connected, there is no longer any way to keep people out. You are next to someone who does not resemble you, but who is more of your country than yourself, knows more... It was a difficult moment, I was aware of it, but I didn't think it would happen with me."

Bayern Munich's honorary president Uli Hoeness has hit out at criticism of the World Cup being staged in Qatar.

Conditions for migrant workers are among the human rights issues that have been in the spotlight long before the tournament starts in November.

Hoeness is insistent that workers are "better and not worse off" with the country hosting the World Cup, however, and argues things are getting better in the nation compared to other Gulf states.

"The World Cup will lead to better working conditions for the people," he told Sport1.

"One thing is also clear, the workers in Qatar are better and not worse off through the World Cup. You should finally accept that and not constantly hit out at people on it.

"When the problem was in Afghanistan, the people were only flown out via Qatar. The World Cup, the commitment of Bayern and other sports activities in the Gulf region will lead to better working conditions for the people there.

"I have never heard criticism of Dubai, Kuwait etc. Only Qatar is being talked about. The only country where things are really getting better because this discussion is taking place is Qatar."

Bayern's own links with Qatar have been a source of frustration for many fans, leading to a hostile atmosphere in the team's AGM in November.

The Bundesliga champions signed a five-year sponsorship with Qatar Airways in 2018 and have often travelled to the nation for training during their winter break.

Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhalo Mudryk believes football is "more than a game" for the people of Ukraine amid the war with Russia, while adding he is open to a move to England in the future.

The 21-year-old has caught the eye in the Champions League, scoring twice in as many matches to help his side defeat RB Leipzig 4-1 and draw with Celtic in Glasgow.

Shakhtar's matches in the Champions League are being played in Poland following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, with the nation also playing host to Ukraine's Nations League clash against Scotland on Tuesday.

Mudryk believes these fixtures are important to those who remain affected by the war and that football can make people smile.

"We must adapt because we don't have a choice. We must play because it is our work, but every day we're thinking about our Ukrainian soldiers and our Ukrainian people," he told The Times.

"I am very proud to be Ukrainian. The spirit of our country is high because in this war we can always see the great spirit of Ukraine. I feel that football is more than a game at the moment for the people of Ukraine.

"In this situation, we have a lot of sad moments, and football is one of the things that make Ukrainian people smile. We play to bring a smile on our people's faces."

On the prospect of moving to the Premier League in the future, Mudryk admitted it is something that may be on the agenda.

"Yes, yes, it is possible. The Premier League is the best league in the world and everyone wants to play in this league," he added.

Rafael Leao has plenty of admirers, having scored three goals in six Serie A appearances for Milan this term.

The 23-year-old provided an assist for Portugal's first goal in Saturday's 4-0 win in the Czech Republic.

The forward was voted the Serie A Most Valuable Player last season as the Rossoneri won the Scudetto.


TOP STORY – MILAN EAGER TO EXTEND RAFAEL LEAO DEAL

Milan have put forward an offer to tie down Manchester City and Chelsea target Rafael Leao on a new contract, reports Calciomercato.

The report claims that the Rossoneri are willing to increase his salary beyond the €2million he currently receives, up to €6.5m, as they look to fend off rival interest.

Milan understand that it may be difficult to convince the Portuguese to stay at the San Siro, although he is contracted until 2024.


ROUND-UP 

Barcelona will cut their losses with Antoine Griezmann on a deal to sell him back to Atletico Madrid, according to Mundo Deportivo. The initial agreement included a purchase clause of €35-40m but Atletico have avoided triggering that, creating a stand-off. The Blaugrana are now prepared to lower their asking price with Atletico set to offer €25m in January.

– The Mirror claims Atletico are considering a move to sign Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez as Jan Oblak's successor, with the Slovenian out of contract at the end of this season.

– The race for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham's signature continues, with The Sun claiming Manchester City are confident they will beat Liverpool and Manchester United to him. It is understood Dortmund are willing to sell the 19-year-old for £83m.

– Manchester United are weighing up whether to move to extend goalkeeper David de Gea's contract another year, reports the Sunday Telegraph. The Spaniard is out of contract at the end of this season.

Javier Hernandez netted a double to silence the San Jose Earthquakes crowd as LA Galaxy triumphed 3-2 to boost their playoffs aspirations on Saturday.

The former Mexico international took his season tally to 17 goals, mimicking a clown when celebrating both his goals in retaliation to a pre-game San Jose tifo that read: "The LA circus – same clowns, different costumes".

The result moves Galaxy up two places into fifth in the Western Conference on 46 points from 32 games, having secured back-to-back wins for the first time in MLS since April.

Julian Araujo's right-side ball for Hernandez led to the opener in the 12th minute, with the ex-Manchester United forward poking home.

Gaston Brugman doubled Galaxy's lead in the 42nd minute, capitalizing on a sloppy turnover to rifle in a rocket in off the underside of the bar.

Hernandez added their third in the 69th minute, producing a classy finish after Efrain Alvarez threaded an excellent ball into the box for him.

Cristian Espinoza pulled a goal back in the 74th minute, converting a penalty he won after before brought down by Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond before Hernandez fizzed a chance for his hat-trick wide.

The Earthquakes grabbed another goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Nathan's deflected header went in from Miguel Trauco's bouncing volley but it was mere consolation for the west's bottom side.

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