Brazil head coach Tite said the Selecao are pursuing excellence after booking their ticket to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Lucas Paqueta's second-half strike secured a 1-0 win over Colombia on Thursday and Brazil's Qatar 2022 qualification with five games to spare.

Paqueta broke the deadlock 18 minutes from time in Sao Paulo, where he linked up with Neymar to guide Brazil to their 12th match without defeat in the CONMEBOL section of qualifying.

Brazil have now won their last 11 home games in World Cup qualifying – the longest winning streak of any team in CONMEBOL history.

Despite Brazil's World Cup berth already certain, Tite and the five-time world champions are refusing to rest on their laurels ahead of Tuesday's showdown against bitter rivals Argentina.

"Solidity, having creation, having a goal and winning," Tite told reporters. "That is excellence. Creation and scoring, defensive solidity and triumphs. That is what moves us.

"We have to get as close to that. Tomorrow [Friday] we are going to fraternise a little to celebrate the moment."

Tite added: "My greatest joy is sharing the joy. It is priceless when I look at the technical commission, at the people who work in the selection day by day. It is the way, the dignity with which we do our work."

Since taking charge in 2016, former Corinthians boss Tite has overseen 50 wins from 67 matches, with 12 draws and five defeats to go with 2019 Copa America glory.

"The only thing that moves me is doing a whole cycle, something that was not done at the last opportunity," Tite said, in reference to being appointed during Brazil's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign before losing in the quarter-finals in Russia. "That's what moved me. 

"I didn't volunteer for the selection, my manager didn't go honking in anyone's ear, I worked to get there. I took it halfway through a process, we went all the way, you know the story, I was invited back later for a whole process. Just like I did at Gremio, Corinthians, Caxias.

"Then I thought, I thought, man, maybe my professional trajectory will allow me to do an entire period. That's what moves me."

Paqueta has proved to be an influential member of Tite's Brazil since leaving Serie A giants Milan for Ligue 1's Lyon, where he has rediscovered his best form since the 2020 transfer.

Half of Paqueta's goals for Brazil (three of six) have been assisted by star team-mate Neymar.

"The qualification is the result of work that we have been building back there," Paqueta said. "Our goal was to qualify Brazil for the World Cup, and thank God we managed to do that today."

"I have to adapt to my roles, and that gives me a little more confidence to be fighting for my space," said Paqueta.

"No matter where I play, I hope to do my best. I have to think one step at a time to conquer my space and fulfil my dream of playing the World Cup."

Brazil qualified for the 2022 World Cup after Lucas Paqueta's second-half strike secured a 1-0 victory over Colombia.

Tite's Brazil knew a win on Thursday would book their spot at Qatar 2022 and the Selecao claimed the result they needed in hard-fought fashion on home soil.

Paqueta and Neymar combined for the decisive goal in the 72nd minute as CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying leaders Brazil stayed unbeaten through 12 rounds.

Brazil entered the contest having never lost a game against Colombia in all their previous 13 meetings in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying (W6 D7). However, the Selecao had only won one of their last six games in this fixture.

It was a cagey start in Sao Paulo, where Brazil star Neymar was fortunate to escape punishment after getting into the face of referee Roberto Tobar.

The first half came to life during the closing stages as both teams had chances to open the scoring – Brazil finally got in behind Colombia and Danilo's cross deflected onto the post nine minutes before half-time.

Colombia star Luis Diaz then almost curled a stunning long-range effort into the back of the net three minutes later but it flashed just wide of the post, while Brazil's Marquinhos saw his header narrowly miss the far corner of the net on the stroke of half-time.

Like the opening 45 minutes, there was not much separating the two teams until Paqueta popped up to put Brazil ahead.

After Colombia failed to clear the ball properly, Brazil capitalised with 18 minutes remaining – Neymar playing a one-touch pass through to Paqueta, who managed to find a way past David Ospina in instinctive fashion.

 

What does it mean? Brazil maintain World Cup streak

Brazil have never missed the World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1930 and the five-time champions extended that run thanks to Thursday's win. The South American powerhouse have gone five games without defeat since losing the Copa America final to bitter rivals Argentina in July.

Paqueta continues to star

After a difficult end to his Milan career, Paqueta has returned to form with Lyon in Ligue 1 and it has translated onto the international stage. The 24-year-old has scored four goals for Brazil this year. Half the goals scored by Paqueta for Brazil (three of six) have been assisted by Neymar.

Toothless Colombia

Colombia cannot buy a goal at the moment. La Tricolor have gone four matches without a goal following three consecutive 0-0 draws in qualifying. Colombia last found the back of the net in September's 3-1 win over Chile.

What's next?

Brazil will be back in action against Argentina on Tuesday, while fifth-placed Colombia host Paraguay on the same day.

Hansi Flick believes everyone is clamouring to play for Germany after he continued his fine start to life as head coach with a crushing 9-0 win over 10-man Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

Germany were in cruise control following Jens Hofer's early red card, with Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane and Marco Reus adding to a Daniel Kaufmann own goal to put Die Mannschaft 4-0 up at half-time.

Sane added a fifth early in the second period, while a brace from Thomas Muller, a fine Ridle Baku strike and an own goal from Maximilian Goppel sealed the rout late on.

The result meant Flick became the first Germany head coach to win his first six matches in charge, taking the record outright from former boss Joachim Low.

And former Bayern Munich coach Flick said his job is made easier by the desire of Germany's stars to secure a spot in his first-choice XI.

"Of course I'm satisfied," he told RTL. "The atmosphere was just fantastic. That was the third home game we had like that. The team and the fans, that's a good combination.

"We are happy about the quality, everyone wants to join this team, that makes it easy for us.

"It is extremely important that everyone goes along with the way we want to play, and that's the impression we have."

Germany, whose progress to next year's World Cup in Qatar had already been secured before the game in Wolfsburg, wrap up their Group J campaign against Armenia on Sunday.

It has been a routine qualification for the 2014 winners, with eight victories from their nine games so far.

Muller, though, said it is important to not get carried away until they have tested themselves against tougher opposition.

"Of course, you always have to put into perspective the fact that we don't have any extremely difficult opponents in our group," he said. "But we always wanted the next and the next goal so it was a great evening."

Reus shared his team-mate's sentiments, adding: "It was just nice, but you can't say how close we are to the top of the world as the opponents weren't at the level we will be challenged at.

"These games are still good because you are able to practice important things. It was fun."

Luis Enrique insisted Spain will be going for the win against Sweden on Sunday even though a draw would be sufficient for his team to win Group B and qualify for next year's World Cup in Qatar.

Spain moved top of the group after beating Greece 1-0 in Athens, taking advantage of Sweden surprisingly losing 2-0 in Georgia earlier on Thursday.

A first-half penalty from Pablo Sarabia was enough to secure victory for La Roja and means Spain now have their fate in their own hands, but Luis Enrique said they will still go for the three points when they host Sweden in Seville in their final group game.

"On Sunday we will go out to win as we do every game against a very difficult opponent, but one that we know very well," Spain head coach Luis Enrique told reporters.

"I hope that the fans will be the 12th player for us."

Luis Enrique was happy with how his team played in Greece and said that he saw improvements from the home side from their first meeting in the group, despite the fact that the reverse game in March finished 1-1.

"Greece has improved a lot since the first game we played in Spain," he added. "Thanks to the attitude and effort of my players, we have taken the game forward against a very hard-working team.

"I think we could have played better. We had a first part of control in which we neutralised their attack.

"I was happy with the attitude of the team. They have not been gripped, which in these games is not easy.

"The players have done a great job, they have overcome difficulties and are ambitious.

"We have a positive dynamic. There are always things to improve, but that we receive support is due to the effort of the team."

Luis Enrique allayed fears about Gavi after the teenage midfielder came off in the second half with what appeared to be a facial injury, saying that he is "fine". The Barcelona starlet was impressive once again, completing 100 per cent of his 43 passes, including 32 in the opposition half.

Spain's game against Sweden will be played at Estadio La Cartuja in Seville, and Luis Enrique emphasised again he wants the fans to roar his team over the line on Sunday.

"In my time as a player we qualified for a World Cup against Denmark in Seville. I don't remember a similar game in my career in which the fans carried us like that day," he said, recalling the qualifier for the 1994 World Cup against Denmark, which Spain won 1-0.

"La Cartuja has to bounce."

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos insisted there was little difference between a win and a draw against the Republic of Ireland as World Cup qualifying would still be decided against Serbia.

Santos' side were held to a goalless draw in Thursday's clash with Ireland, who have just one win to their name in World Cup qualifying.

The Euro 2016 winners had previously embarked on a five-game winning run across all competitions, scoring 16 times, but could manage just three shots on target in Dublin.

The stalemate leaves Portugal and Serbia both on 17 points with one game remaining and the top two will meet in Lisbon on Sunday in Group A's winner-takes-all decider.

Asked if he was happy with the result, Santos told RT3: "Naturally. In terms of qualification, winning 5-0 or drawing here was the same thing.

"Of course, I would have preferred to win 5-0, but the result is positive. Serbia have to play in our stadium to win the game.

"Obviously we wanted to win, we didn't want to draw, that's not what we came here for. They're a very aggressive and very physical opponent.

"In the attacking organisation, we let them create danger. The players tried but we always had difficulties – they were quick to close spaces."

Santos, who insisted he was "convinced" Portugal would still qualify, left out the likes of Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo for the visit to the Republic of Ireland.

He will also be without Pepe against Serbia after the centre-back was dismissed late on for two bookable offences.

Asked for clarification whether he had spared players to avoid yellow-card accumulated suspensions, Santos added: "I saved them because you never know if the players are conditioned or not.

"I wanted to have Pepe for the game, but I'm going to sleep well. We'll find the right players [for the Serbia game]."

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Aminata Diallo was released from police custody on Thursday, having been detained in connection with an alleged attack on one of her team-mates.

Versaille Police had arrested Diallo, 26, following an alleged incident last Thursday. The French club did not name the player who was said to have been attacked and are assisting police to "clarify the facts."

In their latest statement, PSG said: "Paris Saint-Germain notes the release of Aminata Diallo from police custody.

"The club continues to support its players to allow them to overcome this ordeal as soon as possible.

"Paris Saint-Germain reiterates its confidence in the justice system to shed full light on the events.

"The club would like to thank everyone for showing restraint and respecting the presumption of innocence as well as the privacy of the team."

Hansi Flick became the first Germany head coach to win his first six matches in charge after his side crushed Liechtenstein 9-0 in World Cup qualifying Group J on Thursday. 

The former Bayern Munich boss kicked off his reign with a 2-0 win over these opponents in September and always looked like taking the outright record from Joachim Low following Ilkay Gundogan's early penalty, given for a foul which saw a red card issued to Jens Hofer.

Die Mannschaft, whose progress to next year's World Cup in Qatar had already been secured before the game in Wolfsburg, took full advantage of their numerical superiority, racing into a 4-0 half-time lead thanks to a Daniel Kaufmann own goal and strikes from Leroy Sane and Marco Reus. 

Sane added a fifth early in the second period, while a brace from Thomas Muller, a fine Ridle Baku strike and an own goal from Maximilian Goppel sealed a resounding win late on.

Gundogan stroked home from the penalty spot in the 11th minute after Hofer had kicked Leon Goretzka in the throat – an eye-watering challenge that resulted in the defender's dismissal.

Kaufmann prodded into his own net from Christian Gunter's low cross nine minutes later to double Germany's advantage, before Sane coolly slid past Benjamin Buchel after being played in by Goretzka.

Reus then scored a third goal in the space of just three minutes and 31 seconds, the Borussia Dortmund man slotting in after Buchel had made a mess of a deep cross.

Germany picked up where they left off at the start of the second period, Sane claiming his second with a scuffed shot from 10 yards in the 49th minute.

Muller scored with two close-range finishes either side of a superb Baku effort, while the unfortunate Goppel headed into his own net to wrap up the scoring in the 89th minute.

 

Portugal were held to a goalless draw by the Republic of Ireland to leave Sunday's clash with Serbia as the decider for top spot in World Cup qualifying Group A.

Fernando Santos' men had scored 16 goals during their five-game winning streak across all competitions but could only muster two shots on target during a frustrating outing in Dublin.

Cristiano Ronaldo went the closest, though even the all-time leading scorer in men's international football could not break the deadlock in Thursday's clash.

The visitors, who saw Pepe dismissed late on for two bookable offences, and Serbia both sit on 17 points with one game remaining as the latter travel to Lisbon for a winner-takes-all decider.

Andre Silva forced the first save of the contest from Gavin Bazunu before Seamus Coleman's excellent last-ditch block denied Ronaldo as the visitors dominated the early proceedings.

However, the Republic of Ireland responded well and should have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time but Chiedozie Ogbene could only head over from close range.

Stephen Kenny's men continued industriously after the interval and almost punished Matheus Nunes' concentration lapse when Josh Cullen curled into Rui Patricio's hands.

Ronaldo, who later fired narrowly off target, then nodded wide following Silva's cross before the hosts saw Enda Stevens whip over from Ogbene's inviting delivery.

The visitors, who had Pepe dismissed for a second bookable offence after catching Callum Robinson with his hand, managed to hold on for a point despite the hosts thinking they had found a late winner through Matt Doherty, Will Keane's foul on Patricio cutting short the celebrations.

Spain have World Cup qualification in their own hands going into the final round of games after winning 1-0 in Greece.

Luis Enrique's side took advantage of a surprise slip from previous Group B leaders Sweden, who lost 2-0 in Georgia earlier on Thursday, to leapfrog them into first place.

Spain had never lost away to Greece in four previous meetings, and a first-half penalty from Pablo Sarabia increased that record to four wins and one draw.

They will book their place at Qatar 2022 if they can avoid defeat to Sweden on Sunday in Seville.

The visitors unsurprisingly dominated possession but created little early on against a well-organised Greece.

The home side thought they had taken the lead on 21 minutes as Giorgos Masouras finished well from a Thanasis Androutsos throughball, but the Olympiakos forward was offside.

Just three minutes later, Spain were awarded a penalty after Inigo Martinez was felled in the box by Dimitris Giannoulis following a corner, and Sarabia sent Odisseas Vlachodimos the wrong way to put La Roja ahead.

The hosts needed a win to keep alive any hopes of qualification themselves and started to gamble a little more towards the end of the game, but Spain remained relatively calm as they eased to a vital win in Athens.

When the Reggae Boyz face El Salvador at the Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador on Friday, Reggae Boyz defender Damion Lowe is hoping for an important victory for more than one reason.

Alessandro Antonello says Marcelo Brozovic is a "fundamental player" and a "strategic piece" for Inter as the Serie A champions strive to keep the midfielder.

Brozovic's contract expires at the end of the season and the 28-year-old has been linked with the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and Newcastle United.

Nicolo Barella and Lautaro Martinez have recently signed new deals with the Nerazzurri following intense speculation over their futures.

Inter chief executive Antonello hopes Croatia international Brozovic will follow suit but says the club will not be held to ransom.

He said on Radio 24's 'Tutti Convocati' broadcast: "The relationship with the players is excellent. Let's also remember the results achieved by the team with the Europa League final [in which they lost to Sevilla last year] and the Scudetto [triumph last season].

"We must recognise this and the sporting performances that must be adequately paid.

"But it is normal that the pandemic has led to reflections, then there are contracts to be respected and it is right to sit at the table with the parties involved to find an agreement.

"Brozovic is a fundamental player for the team, he is a strategic piece for us "

Brozovic has started all 16 of Inter's matches in all competitions this season.

Juventus have confirmed captain Giorgio Chiellini has been diagnosed with inflammation of his left Achilles tendon.

Chiellini had to pull out of Italy's crunch World Cup qualifier against Switzerland on Friday and returned to Turin for tests.

Juve are waiting to discover how long the Italy skipper will be out of action.

A club statement said: "The diagnostic tests that Giorgio Chiellini underwent this morning at J-Medical showed inflammation of the muscle tendon junction of the left Achilles tendon. His condition will be monitored daily."

Striker Moise Kean completed the entire session with his Juve team-mates on Thursday after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Defender Mattia De Sciglio continues his rehabilitation from a hamstring problem.

The Bianconeri will be eyeing a third consecutive win in all competitions when they face Lazio a week on Saturday,

Saudi Arabia remain top of World Cup qualifying Group B after they held second-placed Australia to a goalless draw in a feisty contest at the Western Sydney Stadium.

Playing their first home game since October 2019 and backed by an expectant crowd in driving rain on Thursday, the Socceroos were devoid of quality in the final third as they had to settle for a point.

Herve Renard's men lost their 100 per cent record, but remain three points clear of Australia and on course to secure their place in the World Cup in Qatar next year.

The Socceroos - missing Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Adam Taggart - made a strong start but lacked a cutting edge as Ajdin Hrustic was off target before Awer Mabil fired wide.

Graham Arnold's side continued to dictate the play after the break, with Mathew Leckie forcing a save from Mohammed Al Yami and Jackson Irvine side-footing wastefully wide from close range.

Al Yami denied Martin Boyle with his feet after making a hard work of keeping out a tame Mabil free-kick, while Mat Ryan thwarted Salman Al-Faraj and Salem Al Dawsari at the other end.

Australia defender Harry Souttar was carried off with a serious looking injury before Saleh Al-Shehri nodded just wide and Salem Al-Dawsari had a long-range drive saved by Ryan as Saudi Arabia finished strongly 

Al-Dawsari called Ryan into action again with a long-range drive, but neither side could conjure up a winner on a miserable evening in Parramatta.

Xavi has his work cut out at Camp Nou following his appointment as Barcelona head coach.

Barca have struggled on the pitch amid off-field turmoil and financial problems.

But Xavi wants to make Barca great again and he reportedly has his eyes on some players across Europe.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYE TRIO

RB Leipzig star Dani Olmo and Manchester City pair Ferran Torres and Raheem Sterling are transfer options for Barcelona, according to Thursday's Mundo Deportivo.

Xavi is now at the helm of Barca and the club great is tasked with restoring the fortunes of the embattled LaLiga giants.

The Barca head coach is keen to reinforce his squad in either January or at the end of the season.

Barca have also been linked with Chelsea forward Timo Werner and Manchester United veteran Edinson Cavani.

 

ROUND-UP  

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Paul Pogba is set to leave United and Juventus are trying to re-sign the Frenchman, though his salary is proving problematic. Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and he has been linked with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

Inter are pressing Marcelo Brozovic to sign a new contract by Christmas, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. The Croatia international is reportedly wanted by Barca, Liverpool, PSG and United.

Steven Gerrard is expected to join Aston Villa as their new manager, reports Fabrizio Romano. The Rangers boss is set to be joined by his backroom staff at Villa.

Fiorentina are trying to sign River Plate striker Julian Alvarez as Dusan Vlahovic prepares to leave but Juve are also interested, according to Corriere dello Sport. Vlahovic has no plans to renew in Florence and the Serbia international has been linked with City, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Tottenham, Juve and Inter.

- The Mirror says United are confident of landing Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers as their new manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under mounting pressure at United and former Liverpool boss Rodgers has emerged as a target for the struggling Red Devils due to a release clause in his contract.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has no interest in leading Italy as he enjoys "day-to-day work" at club level.

Italy are currently in good hands with Roberto Mancini, who guided the Azzurri to Euro 2020 glory.

Mancini is contracted to Italy until 2026, having overseen the country setting a new world record of 37 matches unbeaten.

A 26-time Italy international, former Parma, Juventus, Milan and Napoli boss Ancelotti was asked about coaching at international level.

"I don't know, I don't know," Ancelotti told ESPN Colombia as Italy gear up for their decisive Group C contest with Switzerland on Friday.

"I like the day-to-day work of training with teams. I'd have to think about a national team role, but I don't think so."

Ancelotti is back in charge of Madrid for a second time after leading Los Blancos to Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup and Copa del Rey glory during his first spell between 2013 and 2015.

Madrid are second in LaLiga this season, a point behind Real Sociedad during the international break, though they have played a game less.

Ancelotti's Madrid also top Champions League Group D, two points ahead of Inter through four matchdays.

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