Sarina Wiegman feels England are “in a very good place” with a few days to go before they depart the country for this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The Lionesses, who have been in a pre-tournament camp since June 19, were held to a 0-0 draw by Portugal at Stadium MK in a send-off warm-up match on Saturday, with their flight set to follow on Wednesday.

They are scheduled to have another warm-up, against Canada behind closed doors, on July 14 and kick off their World Cup campaign eight days later with the Group D meeting with Haiti in Brisbane.

Saturday saw Wiegman, who had captain Millie Bright unavailable, make some interesting calls for her starting line-up and six substitutions during a contest in which the European champions failed to score despite creating a considerable number of chances.

The England manager said: “I think we’re in a very good place.

“I think we had two very good weeks, on and off the pitch. I think this game was very helpful, although we are disappointed we didn’t score a goal.

“If you see how the game went and what we wanted to do and how we wanted to play, you can tell that we really know what we want to do, and that’s really what we’re working on.”

With regular skipper Leah Williamson having been ruled out of the World Cup by an ACL injury and fellow centre-back Bright still not involved as she continued to build up her fitness, Wiegman – who made goalkeeper Mary Earps captain for the game – brought Alex Greenwood into the defence in one of three changes to her starting XI from April’s 2-0 loss to Australia.

She opted to start the experienced Greenwood at left-back as Jess Carter came inside to partner Esme Morgan in the middle.

There was also Women’s Super League Golden Boot winner Rachel Daly coming in for Alessia Russo up front, and Lauren James for Chloe Kelly on the right side of the attack.

After a first half in which Daly had two early headers saved and Georgia Stanway sent an effort against the bar, Wiegman then made a triple substitution at the break, Greenwood being replaced by Niamh Charles, Daly coming off for Russo and Kelly entering the fray, with James moving into a more central position.

A more lively showing from the hosts followed, but they remained unable to break the deadlock, with Lucy Bronze heading against the post and Russo to the fore amid a series of opportunities.

Wiegman highlighted the creation of chances and said that while finishing had been “a little problem” on Saturday it was “not a worry”, and also stressed that “in some positions it’s really tight” with regard to the potential decisions she will make about the starting line-up for the Haiti game.

When asked if she had come away from the Portugal match with more questions or more answers, she said: “Oh, more answers – and answers already give another question of course because we always want to improve.

“We are always thinking ‘where are we now, how do we want to improve, what do we need?’ And then we also think of course about who the next opponent is.”

Wrexham will play Chelsea in a pre-season friendly on July 19 as part of their United States tour.

The National League leaders, who are owned by Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, will lock horns with the Premier League side at the University of North Carolina's Kenan Stadium.

It is the latest coup for Wrexham, who recently announced they will also play Manchester United in San Diego on July 25.

Chelsea were already scheduled to be in the US for the Premier League Summer Series, playing Brighton and Hove Albion on July 22 in Philadelphia, Newcastle United on July 26 in Atlanta and Fulham on July 30 near Washington D.C.

Wrexham boss Phil Parkinson told the club's official website: "Our tour of the United States will be an exciting part of the summer's build-up to the new season and something we will all be looking forward to in July.

"To have the opportunity to play a team of Chelsea's calibre at the Kenan Stadium, North Carolina, will be a terrific test for our players and form an important part of our preparations for the 2023-24 season.

"We're looking forward to meeting some of the fans who have supported us so passionately from afar this season at a renowned athletics stadium."

Wrexham are four points clear of second-placed Notts County with two games remaining in the National League and will secure promotion to League Two with victory over Boreham Wood on Saturday.

Eighteen players including Women’s Super League Player of the Month Khadija Bunny Shaw have assembled for a Reggae Girlz training camp in England ahead of their friendly against Sheffield United on Monday in preparation for this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The first batch of players arrived at the camp in Leicester on Monday, April 3 while others arrived on Tuesday. The camp will end on April 11.

Besides Shaw, the other Reggae Girlz include Chantelle Swaby, Havana Solaun, Peyton McNamara, Sydney Schneider, Solai Washington and Tiffany Cameron. Also in camp are Allyson Swaby, Atlanta Primus, Drew Spence, Rebecca Spencer, Paige Bailey Gayle, and Kayla McKenna.

Cheyna Matthews, Kameron Simmonds Tiernny Wiltshire and Victoria Williams are also in the camp.

Jamaica has been drawn in Group F in the World Cup alongside Brazil, France and Panama.

The Reggae Girlz kick off their campaign against France on July 23 before facing Panama on July 29. They will then take on France on August 2.

 

 

 

 

Lionel Messi scored his 100th goal for Argentina in Tuesday's friendly with Curacao with a 20th-minute strike to open the scoring.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward's seven goals in Argentina's triumphant World Cup 2022 campaign took him two short of the milestone figure.

His free-kick against Panama on Thursday – which was also his 800th career goal at club and international level – was followed by a classy right-foot finish after jinking past two defenders inside the box to reach his century against Curacao.

Messi already holds the record for both the most goals of any Argentina player (200) and the most caps (173).

 

The 35-year-old's first senior international goal came against Croatia in a 3-2 friendly defeat in March 2006.

The eight goals he has scored against Bolivia make the South American nation his favourite opponent, followed by Ecuador and Uruguay (six against both).

Qatar, meanwhile, are the only side Messi has played against more than once without scoring (two games).

Outside of friendlies, 28 of Messi's goals have come in World Cup qualifiers and 13 each at both the Copa America and World Cup.

As well as leading Argentina to World Cup glory last year, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner also lifted the Copa America in 2021.

Messi surprised many by declaring his intention to continue playing for La Albiceleste after December's triumph, but he has already ruled out playing at the 2026 World Cup.

Kevin De Bruyne revelled in a reinvigorated Belgium realising their potential as the new Red Devils captain hailed the "fun" approach Domenico Tedesco has instilled.

Manchester City superstar De Bruyne assisted two and scored another as Belgium defeated Germany 3-2 in Tuesday's friendly at RheinEnergieStadion.

That made new coach Tedesco the first Belgium manager to start his tenure with two victories since Rene Vandereycken in 2006.

Tedesco also became the first Belgium boss to see his side score six goals in his first two matches since 1999 when Robert Waseige's new side managed nine from their first pair of outings.

De Bruyne, whose 46 assists for his country are 15 more than any international team-mate since his August 2010 debut, lauded the early work Tedesco has delivered since Roberto Martinez's exit.

"It was a nice match. The first 30 minutes were very good, full of effort. It's good to see that we can be so good," De Bruyne said on television channel VTM. "After that it was a bit more difficult, but it is logical that you also get into trouble against a team like Germany.

"The last quarter of an hour was hard, but it is good to see that this team can do that too. The combinations were there, defensively it was also pretty good. There were many positives.

"It's fun to play like this, fun for everyone. Not only with the ball, also defensively. We try to put pressure on quickly and win the ball quickly. Then you get the ball back so much faster, that is also the intention of the coach. There were many good moments. 

"The coach has already laid a certain foundation, for example in terms of structure. His way of playing is already a bit there, but there are of course also times when it is still a bit difficult. 

"But after eight days together, I think this is the best we could do."

Belgium crashed out in the group stages at the World Cup in Qatar as Martinez waved goodbye to what many deem a golden generation of international footballers for the Red Devils.

Martinez's side finished third at FIFA's top international tournament four years before at Russia 2018, sandwiched in between a pair of quarter-final eliminations at the European Championships.

While it appears a vastly talented group of Belgian footballers may end their career without international reward, Tedesco's new era has offered early promise.

A rare win over Germany, who were stunned by early goals from Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku, coupled with Friday's 3-0 victory over Sweden in Euro 2024 qualifying have left Tedesco impressed.

"Yes, I am satisfied after these two victories," Tedesco said on VTM. "Not only with the result, but also with the way we played. Only we should have finished the game in the first half.

"I wanted my players to show courage, to play forward and to claim the ball, even when Germany put pressure on us. We have the players for it. We have to believe in our own strengths, but we have to maintain the quality we bring for 90 minutes. And that's the problem."

Belgium's elimination at the World Cup came as somewhat of a surprise, given their recent success at major tournaments, and Tedesco is out to offer his new players a lease of freedom.

"The players have qualities, they can play freely here and are allowed to make mistakes," he said at his post-match press conference.

"The most important thing is that they develop as a team and as individuals. We must help and guide them in this.

"It is crucial that the enthusiasm is back. I have a good feeling and am extremely motivated. However, we still have a lot of work to do. If you win, it's more fun, of course. 

"But I do not agree that Belgian football was at a standstill after the World Cup. Losing matches at a World Cup, that can happen."

Hansi Flick rued a timid Germany performance as Belgium "took full advantage" to seize an unassailable early lead in Tuesday's 3-2 friendly triumph in Cologne.

Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku fired Domenico Tedesco's new-look Belgium into a 2-0 lead inside nine minutes at RheinEnergieStadion.

A Niclas Fullkrug penalty, his sixth goal in as many international appearances, brought Flick's side back into it before Kevin De Bruyne – who created Belgium's first two goals – put the game out of reach.

Serge Gnabry managed a late consolation but Flick acknowledged there was no way back after Tedesco's visitors punished a woeful start to earn Belgium's first win against Germany since 1954.

"We were too cautious, too passive and weren't able to put our opponents under pressure, and Belgium took full advantage," Flick said on RTL.

"Our passion brought us back into contention, but it wasn't quite enough to get a result."

While a late fightback offered Flick reason for hope, Germany must improve and make use of their international friendlies, given they have automatically qualified for Euro 2024 as a host nation.

Their cause was not helped by Leon Goretzka limping off with an ankle injury in the first half, raising fears the midfielder will not feature in Bayern Munich's crucial Bundesliga meeting with Borussia Dortmund.

Just a point separates Bundesliga leaders Dortmund and Bayern ahead of Saturday's Klassiker at Allianz Arena, with Thomas Tuchel set to take charge of the reigning champions for the first time.

The former Chelsea coach's appointment came after the dismissal of Julian Nagelsmann last week, but Tuchel may be boosted by the injury update Goretzka provided after the match.

Bayern star Goretzka, who appeared in an upbeat mood, told reporters: "I've twisted my ankle. It shouldn't last until Saturday."

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are taking Wrexham to the United States, where the non-league club will face Manchester United.

San Diego's Snapdragon Stadium will host the friendly on July 25.

Wrexham, who this month signed former United goalkeeper Ben Foster, are pushing for promotion from the National League.

They sit three points clear of Notts County, while they also reached the fourth round of the FA Cup, losing to Sheffield United, who have gone on to reach the semi-finals.

The Welsh club were bought by Hollywood A-listers Reynolds and McElhenney in 2020.

"We're looking forward to being able to play in the United States for the first time in the club's history," said Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson.

Wrexham last faced United in an FA Cup tie in 1995. The Red Devils' team will be mainly made up of academy players.

Germany coach Hansi Flick credited Niclas Fullkrug with having the ability to "pull the team along" after the striker's double against Peru.

Fullkrug's two first-half goals ensured Euro 2024 hosts Germany claimed a routine 2-0 victory in their opening match of 2023.

Germany dominated Saturday's friendly in Mainz, and only a twist of the rules prevented Kai Havertz making it 3-0 in the second half, with the Chelsea forward's first-time finish on the rebound after he hit the post with a penalty disallowed as no other player had touched the ball.

Flick reserved special praise for Fullkrug, who has netted five goals in as many international games, and became the first Werder Bremen player to start for Germany since Serge Gnabry in 2016.

"Niclas is a player who is special, he is very confident, he wants to win and can pull the team along. He also gives the team a lot of positive energy," Flick told Sky Sport.

Sandro Wagner is the only other player this century to have scored five goals across his first five appearances for Germany.

However, there are elements for Fullkrug to work on, with Flick noting: "There were a few situations that I wasn’t happy with today.

"If we play forward, we have to have a certain seriousness about it.

"Niclas has also had one or two situations where he can be better, but he's still there for goals and he scored them."

Germany's game was their first since their disappointing showing at the World Cup, where they suffered a group-stage exit.

However, Germany are on a 13-game unbeaten run in friendlies (W8 D5) equalling their record, which was set between 1994 and 1996.

"I think you could see that the team played with a lot of dynamism, especially when it came to attacking," Flick said.

"A lot of things were good, but not yet at 100 per cent, although you couldn't expect because we didn't train very much.

"The team has never played together in this formation, but there were still a few situations that we played out well, where the last pass was missing.

"We scored two nice goals and kept a clean sheet, which was a focus for us this week."

Lionel Messi will have the final say on when his international career with Argentina is over, but head coach Lionel Scaloni is hopeful that is not anytime soon.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward played a starring role as Argentina ended a 36-year wait to lift the World Cup for a third time in December.

Messi announced immediately after his side's penalty shoot-out win over France in the final that, contrary to what many predicted, he would continue playing for Argentina.

La Albiceleste are in action for the first time since then in a friendly against Panama on Thursday, with Messi and his team-mates set to receive another heroes' welcome.

The 35-year-old has previously revealed he does not intend to take part in the 2026 World Cup, but Scaloni is unsure exactly when he will retire from the international stage.

"Messi will continue to come until he says otherwise. I see him happy on the pitch and within the selection," Scaloni said at a press conference on Tuesday.

"Leo's looking good to me. He deserves all that love. He and all the players who are here deserve to go out and receive that love because they have not been able to live it.

"Leo, although he is the best of all, he also needs to see that his people love him. This is something that will stay with him forever."

Argentina are reigning South American and world champions, but Scaloni has warned his players they cannot afford to drop their levels now they have a target on their backs.

"We are world champions, but that doesn't mean we have the right for more," he said. "Just because we win we can't do whatever we want. 

"That's what [the players] have to understand. The message is that a new process is beginning: the pitch is what rules. 

"From there on, those who are world champions have no advantage, we will have to keep working.

"The Argentina shirt doesn't allow you not to give your best, that's clear to us. Afterwards, it's good to celebrate, but we have to do our job on the pitch."

Scaloni, who recently signed a new contract running through until after the next World Cup, has called up a number of uncapped youngsters for the friendly with Panama.

However, Scaloni confirmed that those who featured at the World Cup will start Thursday's match in Buenos Aires.

"I'd like for the people [in the stadium] to watch their players," Scaloni said.

Arsenal will face the MLS All-Stars, who will be coached by Wayne Rooney, in a friendly in July.

The annual MLS All-Star Game sees a squad made up of players from across the league come together to face an opponent.

For the last two years, the MLS All-Stars have played a Liga MX All-Stars team, with the team from the United States' top tier emerging victorious on both occasions.

However, the 2023 edition will see the MLS All-Stars return to playing a European club, with Arsenal appearing in the exhibition event for a second time.

The Gunners beat an All-Stars side that included Andrea Pirlo, Kaka, Didier Drogba and David Villa 2-1 in San Jose in 2016.

This year's match will be held at Audi Field in Washington, D.C, with England's joint-record goalscorer Rooney – who coaches D.C. United in MLS – set to take charge of the All-Stars.

"I've had a front-row seat to watch the growth and development of Major League Soccer, first as a player and now as a manager," said Rooney in a statement.

"The opportunity to lead the best our league has to offer against a top Premier League club like Arsenal will be a highlight for me personally and an unforgettable experience for our passionate fanbase here in D.C."

Mikel Arteta said: "It's great that we're playing against the MLS All-Stars in Washington D.C. in July.

"Our US tour [in 2022] was very good preparation for the season, and we're looking forward to once again visiting our amazing supporters in the US. The match against the MLS All-Stars will be a good test ahead of the 2023-24 season."

On July 18, 10 Arsenal players will also go up against 10 MLS players in the Skills Challenge, which will again be held at Audi Field.

Arsenal are eight points clear at the top of the Premier League with 10 games remaining, while Rooney's D.C. United are 11th in the Eastern Conference in MLS with four points from as many games this season.

Jamal Musiala has withdrawn from Germany's squad for the March international break, with the Bayern Munich forward ruled out with a hamstring strain.

The attacker, who has won 20 caps for his country since his debut in 2021, had been called up for the team's friendlies with Peru and Belgium.

But he will no longer link up with Hansi Flick's squad after he picked up a leg problem during Bayern's 2-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Flick confirmed the news ahead of his team's open recovery session in Frankfurt on Monday, and confirmed he would not call up a replacement for Musiala.

"We [had] all hoped that Jamal would be fit, because he has unique qualities," he said. "That's why it's a shame for everyone that he won't be with us.

"We hope he is fit again as soon as possible and that he is back playing after the international matches."

Musiala, who was capped by both England and Germany at youth level before declaring for the latter, made his debut against Iceland in March 2021.

He was a member of their squads at both Euro 2020 – where they were knocked out by the Three Lions – and the Qatar 2022 World Cup, where they were eliminated in the group stages.

In his absence, Germany will face Peru in Mainz on Saturday before they travel to Cologne for a clash with Belgium three days later, with Die Nationalmannschaft not required to qualify for Euro 2024 as the host nation.

Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez has pulled out of Uruguay's squad for their upcoming friendlies.

The 23-year-old had been included in Uruguay's squad for the games against Japan and South Korea on March 24 and 28 respectively.

However, the Uruguayan Football Association and Liverpool both announced on Friday that Nunez will not be linking up with his international team-mates.

According to reports from Uruguay, the former Benfica man is recovering from an ankle injury sustained in Wednesday's 1-0 loss at Real Madrid.

Nunez has 14 goals and four assists in 33 appearances in his first campaign at Anfield – only Mohamed Salah (33) has been directly involved in more goals among Liverpool players.

Uruguay have called up Club America forward Jonathan Rodriguez as Nunez's replacement.

Southampton midfielder Romeo Lavia has earned his first senior Belgium call-up but there is no place for Axel Witsel in Domenico Tedesco's first squad as coach

The Saints man enters the fray in the Red Devils' first selection following Roberto Martinez's exit at the conclusion of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Lavia, a Belgium youth international, is the only new name among a squad that mixes experience and youth, including the country's most-capped player in Anderlecht's Jan Vertonghen.

But Atletico Madrid midfielder Witsel, who only trails Vertonghen when it comes to appearances for the national team, is an eye-catching omission as Tedesco looks to leave his mark.

Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski has been recalled in place of the retired Simon Mignolet.

Other names earning a return to the fold include Nottingham Forest midfielder Orel Mangala and Wolfsburg defender Sebastiaan Bornauw, both of whom were last capped against Burkina Faso a year ago.

Belgium open their Euro 2024 qualification campaign against Sweden next Friday, before they play a friendly against hosts Germany a week on Tuesday.

The team endured a lacklustre World Cup campaign last year, failing to progress from Group F after defeat against Morocco and a goalless draw with Croatia.

Belgium squad: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Thomas Kaminski (Blackburn Rovers), Matz Sels (Strasbourg); Sebastiaan Bornauw (Wolfsburg), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Zeno Debast (Anderlecht), Wout Faes (Leicester City), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Arthur Theate (Rennes), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht); Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Charles De Ketelaere (Milan), Romeo Lavia (Southampton). Orel Mangala (Nottingham Forest), Amadou Onana (Everton), Dennis Praet (Leicester City), Alexis Saelemaekers (Milan); Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Romelu Lukaku (Inter), Dodi Lukebakio (Hertha BSC), Lois Openda (Lens), Leandro Trossard (Arsenal).

Neymar, Gabriel Martinelli and Bruno Guimaraes are among the notable absentees from the 23-man Brazil squad for the friendly in Morocco later this month.

Neymar tied the Selecao all-time scoring record of the late Pele (77) with his goal against Croatia as Brazil were eliminated in the World Cup quarter-finals in December.

An ankle injury sustained in Paris Saint-Germain's recent win against Lille will keep him from beating that record in Morocco though.

With head coach Tite stepping down after that defeat in Qatar, interim Brazil boss Ramon Menezes will take charge of the friendly and has selected nine new faces, including Chelsea's Andrey Santos – back on loan at Vasco da Gama – Wolves midfielder Joao Gomes and Athletico Paranaense striker Vitor Roque.

United duo Casemiro and Antony are joined by other Premier League players Ederson, Emerson Royal, Renan Lodi, Lucas Paqueta and Richarlison in the squad, though there is no place for Liverpool trio Alisson, Fabinho or Roberto Firmino.

Brazil take on World Cup semi-finalists Morocco on March 25 at Ibn Batouta Stadium in Tangier.

Brazil squad to face Morocco: Ederson (Manchester City), Mycael (Athletico Paranaense), Weverton (Palmeiras); Arthur (America MG), Emerson Royal (Tottenham), Alex Telles (Sevilla), Renan Lodi (Nottingham Forest), Roger Ibanez (Roma), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Robert Renan (Zenit); Andre (Fluminense), Andrey Santos (Vasco da Gama), Casemiro (Manchester United), Joao Gomes (Wolves), Lucas Paqueta (West Ham), Raphael Veiga (Palmeiras); Antony (Manchester United), Richarlison (Tottenham), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Rony (Palmeiras), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Vitor Roque (Athletico Paranaense).

Pep Guardiola made it clear he is not happy with Manchester City's schedule after the World Cup.

City defeated Girona 2-0 in a friendly on Saturday, with Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland getting the goals.

The pair were two of four outfield players among City's first-team regulars, along with Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan, to have started the match.

Reserve goalkeeper Stefan Ortega and back-up left-back Sergio Gomez also featured from the off, but the rest of the squad was made up of academy players.

City face Liverpool in the EFL Cup last 16 on Thursday, before taking on Leeds United and Everton on December 28 and 31 respectively in the Premier League, and Guardiola claimed he did not yet have enough players to prepare for the festive fixture list.

"We have four players – five players," Guardiola told City's official media channel.

"We have to see how they are coming back [from the World Cup]. We don't have players. The big brains of football made this schedule so we are going to play this game."

City had plenty of representation in Qatar, though De Bruyne and Gundogan had returned after early exits for Belgium and Germany respectively.

Aymeric Laporte and Rodri were knocked out in the last 16 with Spain and will return next week, while England internationals Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, John Stones and Kalvin Phillips, along with Portugal trio Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva, as well as Netherlands defender Nathan Ake, are also set to join back up with the squad soon.

"Some players coming back now, in the next few days, step by step we have the people here," Guardiola added.

"People are coming back soon. After that the English players and Portuguese – they're coming back."

Indeed, despite being one of the best teams in world football, City have only one player who will be competing in the final between Argentina and France on Sunday.

Julian Alvarez has been one of Argentina's best performers in Qatar, scoring four goals, including twice in their semi-final win over Croatia.

"All of us are really happy for him," said Guardiola.

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