England manager Gareth Southgate has labelled Germany as one of the benchmarks in international football due to their continued presence in the latter stages of major tournaments.

The Three Lions head to Munich on Tuesday for their second Nations League game, having suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Hungary on Saturday in their first League A Group 3 game.

Meanwhile, Germany shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Italy as preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are stepped up.

England and Germany met only last June at Euro 2020, with Southgate's side 2-0 victors at the last-16 stage in front of a buoyant Wembley crowd.

Germany have failed to score in their past two matches against England, as many as in their previous 16 games combined.

But Southgate still views Hansi Flick's side as a force to be reckoned with looking forward to the clash at the Allianz Arena and further ahead to the World Cup in November.

"You can see elements of what he did with Bayern Munich, I think seven either current or had just left Bayern, a lot of have cohesion and experience working with him," Southgate said of Flick on Monday.

"You can see the counter-pressing and the general pressing of the forwards, we have to be prepared for that. With the ball, they have some talented players.

"We saw that in summer, I think in some respects the result in summer was overlooked, I'm not sure why. The quality of the team was still very high, World Cup winners everywhere, Champions League winners.

"Real experience of those big occasions. For me, I think Brazil and Germany are still the benchmarks for teams who have regularly won tournaments, regularly making finals, even when you look at the 5-1 here [in 2001], they ended up in the World Cup final.

"You have to respect what they are and where they are as a footballing country, we have to try and replicate that and instil that mentality.

"We have to keep getting to the latter stages of competitions and games like tomorrow are exactly what we need. I think it's a great measure for us, this will be a brilliant test of what we're about and where we're at.

"It won't define where we're at in six months' time, if we win tomorrow, it doesn't mean we are going to win the whole thing in five, six months.

"One of the challenges before was can we beat the bigger teams, we've beat Belgium, Germany and Spain, we're starting to do that so now it is can we continue to do that."

England have not come out on top in consecutive games against Germany since a seven-game winning run between 1935 and 1966, the last game of which was the World Cup final.

Southgate vowed to rotate once again after offering the likes of Jarrod Bowen and James Justin starts in Budapest.

"We are going to push. We want to perform well. We will manage their load. Everyone of them wants to play tomorrow night," he continued. 

"There is huge motivation in the group. I don't think the long season was the cause of the result the other day. The heat was a huge factor.

"To talk about the season is a psychological thing. It is no different to going into the Euros or the World Cup.

"It varies slightly from game to game, you are always trying to win. You always pick a team strong enough to win a game of football. We are trying to manage players coming back.

"To play Saturday and Tuesday is very challenging. Always trying to learn things, there's the performance and result. We go trying to win and the learnings after it is how you develop and improve as a team.

"James [Justin] won't be ready for tomorrow but we are hopeful he will be back for the next game if not the one after. Marc [Guehi] should be ready for tomorrow. Fikayo [Tomori] we could probably put him in the squad but given it's a hamstring we will give him a bit longer."

Germany midfielder Ilkay Gundogan promised to support England and take the knee on Tuesday after Hungary fans jeered the action on Saturday.

England fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat in their Nations League Group A3 opener after Dominik Szoboszlai's second-half penalty at the Puskas Arena, the same Budapest venue where some England players were subjected to racial abuse in September.

Hungary were supposed to play the fixture behind closed doors after racist behaviour at Euro 2020 last year, but children accompanied by some adults were allowed to attend as a crowd of 35,000 watched on.

There were boos when England players took the knee prior to kick-off, with Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate subsequently expressing his confusion and dismay at the pre-match response.

"The first thing is that is why we do it [take the knee], to try to educate people around the world. I have no idea why people would choose to boo that gesture," Southgate told Channel 4 after the game.

England next head to Germany, who played out a 1-1 draw with Italy in their opener, and Gundogan vowed to support his opponents by taking the knee.

"We will go down on our knees together with the English because we want to support this whole initiative," Gundogan told reporters at Monday's pre-match news conference.

"We did this last year at the Euros and, of course, we will do it tomorrow too. I'm used to that from the English league, where we do it almost every match, so it's nothing new for me.

"We talked about it inside the team and we will support the opponent."

Alessandro Florenzi insisted he has faith in Italy's young talent following their 1-1 draw with Germany on Saturday.

The Azzurri opened their Nations League campaign with an improved performance from their UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima loss to Argentina, consistently generating opportunities against a ball-dominant Germany.

Among a string of debutants including Torino duo Tommaso Pobega and Samuele Ricci, 18-year-old Wilfried Gnonto marked his first cap for Italy with an assist for Lorenzo Pellegrini.

Wearing the captain's armband and amid Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup, Florenzi tried to bring perspective to the window post-game.

"There were many young players compared to Wembley," Florenzi told RAI Sport. "Some of them paid a price for the nerves of their debut, others behaved like little veterans.

"We need to start again with Italy fuelled by the hunger of these young guys."

Florenzi and Gianluigi Donnarumma were the only Azzurri players on Saturday to have played over 40 caps, with six debutants overall at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

While five of them came off the bench including Gnonto, a start was handed to Sassuolo midfielder Davide Frattesi.

Asked whether he felt added responsibility wearing the captain's armband, the 31-year-old claimed it was necessary for his team to rejuvenate the Italy squad.

"You feel responsibility every time you pull on this shirt," Florenzi said.

"We had to send a signal that we were starting fresh and I think we did that. Everyone gave something more to honour this jersey."

Italy next host Hungary on Tuesday, before Saturday's Euro 2020 final rematch with England.

Germany coach Hansi Flick says his side lacked "intensity" and "precision" in their 1-1 Nations League draw with Italy on Saturday.

Die Mannschaft looked the brighter side in the first half, yet the best chance fell to the Azzurri, with Gianluca Scamacca striking the post from distance.

Roberto Mancini's side were much improved after the break, though, and Lorenzo Pellegrini put them ahead in the 70th minute.

However, Germany recovered a point three minutes later courtesy of Joshua Kimmich's neat finish after a scramble in the penalty area.

The result means Flick has not lost any of his first 10 matches in charge of the national team, becoming the third Germany coach to achieve that feat after Sepp Herberger and Josef Derwall.

Despite that, Flick was not impressed with his side's display and has urged his players to improve swiftly. 

"We started the game well then lost our way after 15, 20 minutes," he told a media conference.

"Italy played very well, and we made too many mistakes in the build-up. We lacked intensity and defensive solidity.

"These are the areas we need to improve so we can do better on Tuesday. We did not apply what we had practised in training and that's not the first time it has happened.

"Italy were far more cohesive and well-drilled than we expected, so it's positive that we managed to get the equaliser straight away.

"It confirms the Nations League allows you to always face very strong opponents. Our performance was fairly negative in general today, we can and must do more. We lacked intensity and our usual precision."

Italy shocked many by failing to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar later this year, but Flick has seen enough to suggest the Azzurri will not be away from the top table of world football for long.

"Italy is a nation that lives and breathes football," he added. "They are solid defensively. I admire Mancini and the way his Italy played at Euro 2020. We all slowly became Italy fans watching the way they played in that tournament.

"The Azzurri have everything they need to reboot and reconstruct another important era."

Germany are next in action on Tuesday when they welcome England to the Allianz Arena in Munich. 

Roberto Mancini says Italy have a "long road ahead" of them despite a much-improved display in a 1-1 Nations League draw with Germany on Saturday.

The Azzurri were beaten 3-0 by Argentina in Wednesday's Finalissima – a meeting between the European champions and Copa America winners – but they delivered a bright performance against Hansi Flick's side in Bologna.

Lorenzo Pellegrini put them ahead in the 70th minute, although Die Mannschaft sealed a point three minutes later when Joshua Kimmich powered home.

Despite an improved showing, Italy have still won just one of their last six games, and Mancini urged players and supporters alike not to get carried away.

"One result changes nothing, we've got a very long road ahead of us," he told RAI Sport. "The lads did really well. It's not easy as Germany are one of the best sides in the world right now.

"We were a little hesitant at the start, then slowly started to play. It's a pity we conceded the equaliser straight after. We were naive because it was not an easy game, especially at the start.

"It was the first time they [the players] played together, they did a great job. They suffered when they had to and attacked when they had to.

"The lads did really well. They played at the same level as what is a great national team at this moment."

Pellegrini's goal was created by substitute Wilfried Gnonto, who became the first player born after January 1, 2003 to play for Italy.

The FC Zurich forward looked at home on the international stage, and he said the past week has been a whirlwind for him.

"It was a strange and exhilarating week," he said. "The coach gave me a chance and I think I made the most of it.

"It's all going so fast. I just try to enjoy the moment and every training session because being here is a privilege."

Speaking about his excellent cross for the goal, the 18-year-old added: "I knew [Thilo] Kehrer was already booked, so when I got the ball I didn't think of anything other than taking him on.

"I was determined to get past him and the ball from that angle is the toughest for a goalkeeper and defender to deal with. If you are a striker, you need to make the difference and I did that tonight."

Italy and Germany played out a 1-1 draw in their Nations League Group A3 opener in Bologna on Saturday.

Roberto Mancini's side suffered a 3-0 defeat to Argentina in Wednesday's Finalissima – a meeting between the European champions and Copa America winners – but they were much improved at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

The Azzurri, who hit the post in the first half through Gianluca Scamacca, went ahead in the 70th minute courtesy of Lorenzo Pellegrini's fourth international goal.

However, Germany levelled soon after as Joshua Kimmich stole in to snatch a point for Hansi Flick's men.

Germany had been comfortably the better side in the early stages, with Serge Gnabry forcing Gianluigi Donnarumma into a smart stop from a tight angle in the 15th minute.

Thomas Muller saw a powerful strike superbly blocked by Alessandro Florenzi shortly before the half-hour mark, while at the other end Scamacca struck the base of Manuel Neuer's right-hand post with an effort from distance.

Scamacca headed wide from a promising position soon after the restart, before Matteo Politano had an effort deflected narrowly wide.

Then 18-year-old debutant Wilfried Gnonto had an almost immediate impact after being introduced in the 65th minute, whipping in a wonderful cross from the right that Pellegrini steered in from close range. 

Italy's lead lasted just three minutes, though, as Kimmich clipped home from 10 yards to ensure the spoils were shared. 

Roberto Mancini vowed to start a new era with Italy as the Azzurri look to rediscover their Euro 2020 magic, but warned not to expect instant fixes as he cannot "invent players".

Italy lifted the European Championship last July, their first since 1968, with a penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley.

The Azzurri followed that up by failing to make a second straight World Cup, following play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March, which led to questions over coach Mancini's tenure.

Development problems were also cited with the Italian system, which was bemoaned for struggling to produce younger players for the national team with Serie A coaches reluctant to trust the youth.

Italy were 3-0 losers to Argentina in the 'Finalissima' on Wednesday, a meeting between the Euro 2020 winners and Copa America champions, and Mancini promised change after that game.

The former Manchester City coach reiterated his desire for new beginnings with Italy, although he does not expect quick solutions ahead of the Nations League opener at home to Germany on Saturday.

"The victory of the European Championship is part of the magic that are part of those tournaments. Now we have to start again and go back to that magic," he told reporters on Friday.

"I have never had this type of problem. In football, however, when you win everyone is with you and when you lose almost everyone against you. That's how it is.

"Against Argentina we paid for the loss of players, one after the other. We weren't such a huge group and the injuries affected us: Argentina were better than us, they had fresher players and maybe it's the first game in three and a half years where we find a team that has put us under pressure, even if we made two mistakes on goals in the first half.

"It takes time, we cannot invent players and we know that we will have to suffer enough.

"The restart is from now. The new cycle starts again from tomorrow.

"The common thread is the same: looking for players with quality, speed, who they will not be like [Marco] Verratti and Jorginho who played in certain teams and therefore it will take a little longer.

"If we can give some minutes to these guys who have never played in the national team, and see them integrated well, it would be better."

Italy host Germany and Hungary before visiting England on June 11, with a return trip to Hansi Flick's side three days later capping off the internationals for this month.

Mancini believes that England and Germany pose two of the toughest tasks in international football at the moment, and cited Brazil, France and Argentina among the favourites for the World Cup in Qatar.

"We face the two strongest teams at the moment, Germany and England," he added. "They are among the best, they have great players and we take a lot of risks by changing a lot, it could be a good start.

"The most important thing will be to defend well and attack better. We face one of the strongest teams in the world along with Brazil, Argentina, France...

"Germany are technical, very fast when they counter-attack and come to press. They will be among the favourites for the World Cup victory in Qatar.

"We must defend all together and attack and press as we did for three and a half years: we did it for three and a half years with players who didn't seem able to do it, yet they have done."

Hansi Flick says Germany want 'to be among the best in the world again' as his side kick off their Qatar 2022 World Cup preparations in the Nations League against Italy.

Since defeat at Euro 2020 to England - in the final match of the Joachim Low era - Germany have gone unbeaten under their new coach.

That rich vein of form faces its sternest test yet in the shape of the incumbent European champions, who represent a major threat despite failing to reach Qatar 2022 themselves.

But speaking about the mood within his squad, Flick appears unfazed and says his team are ready to claim back their place at the summit of world football.

"The situation has been clear since the first meeting," he stated in his pre-match press conference. "We want to be among the best in the world again, where Germany belongs.

"It's important to get back into competition mode. We have to be careful what happens on the field. But I think everyone is very motivated. It will be a good game for us."

Elsewhere, Flick paid tribute to opposite number Roberto Mancini too, while admitting the Azzurri's failure to reach the World Cup took him by surprise.

"I have great respect for him and appreciate him very much," he added. "He has the quality, class and passion to bring Italy back to where it belongs.

"We all know how difficult it can be against supposedly small opponents. Nevertheless, we were all surprised that Italy was eliminated.

"It's certainly not easy to predict the opponent. He did a fantastic job after the World Cup in Russia. We were all fans during the European Championship.

"The team spirit and the way they played football was impressive. He will try to do the same thing again."

Joshua Kimmich has expressed his hope Serge Gnabry stays at Bayern Munich, as the winger continues to be linked with a return to Arsenal.

Gnabry hinted at a move away from the Allianz Arena on Thursday as he asked: "Should I leave my comfort zone?", with just a year left on his contract with the Bundesliga champions.

The winger finished the season with 14 league goals: Only team-mate Robert Lewandowski (35) scored more for Bayern, while just Thomas Muller (84), Kimmich (80), and Leroy Sane (50) created more chances for the side than Gnabry's 48.

That has led to interest from Mikel Arteta's Arsenal, who allowed Gnabry to leave for Werder Bremen in 2016 before he joined Bayern the following year.

However, Kimmich hopes his club-mate and international team-mate Gnabry stays with the Bavarian giants for at least another season.

"It's also a difficult topic for me. Serge is my best friend and that's why I hope he stays," Kimmich told reporters at a Friday news conference ahead of Germany's UEFA Nations League clash with Italy.

"We understand each other not only on but also off the pitch. But in the end, it's also important that he makes the right decision.

"Every day he joins a squad where it's fun to play football, he has the chance to play for every title with us every year and an environment where he feels comfortable, [but] he has to decide what's right for him."

Lewandowski also appears set to leave Bayern in the upcoming transfer window, declaring his "story was over" with Julian Nagelsmann's side amid interest from Barcelona.

The Poland international, like Gnabry, has a contract until June 2023, but has made his disgruntlement clear and his preference to join Xavi's side has become more than apparent.

Kimmich, though, kept his cards closer to his chest on the Lewandowski debate, with the striker suggesting he has not been offered a new deal, while Bayern have claimed a "concrete offer" is on the table.

"The question has been very popular in the last few days. Everything has been said there. I'll leave it uncommented. The players and the club have to make up their own minds," Kimmich continued.

Kimmich lifted yet another Bundesliga title with Bayern this campaign, but Nagelsmann's side crashed out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage to Villarreal.

The Germany international expressed his frustrations with the 2021-22 season as he looked ahead to the Nations League campaign with his country, which starts in Bologna on Saturday.

"I'm always a player who expects a lot from himself. We certainly conceded too many goals this season. Not only do I have to improve, but the whole team. We have to stretch us next season," he added.

"Unfortunately, I haven't been with the national team too often in the last six months. We certainly haven't achieved enough with Bayern.

"We have to present ourselves differently next season. The national team now has important tournaments with the Nations League, World Cup and then the European Championship.

"The games that are coming up now are special again. These are not friendly games either. The Nations League is already good because it's about something. Then you'll see where we stand."

Phil Foden will miss England's UEFA Nations League trips to Hungary and Germany after testing positive for COVID-19, Gareth Southgate has announced.

England will face Hungary at the Puskas Arena on Saturday in their Nations League Group A3 opener before meeting old rivals Germany in Munich on Tuesday, but Foden will play no part in those contests after being forced to leave the Three Lions' camp.

Foden enjoyed a stellar club campaign as Manchester City won their fourth Premier League title in the last six seasons, racking up 25 goal involvements (14 goals, 11 assists).

He was one of just three City players to record double figures for both goals and assists in all competitions (also Kevin De Bruyne with 19 goals and 14 assists, and Gabriel Jesus with 13 goals and 11 assists).

Southgate is hoping to have the 22-year-old back and available when his team return to England to host Italy and a return contest with Hungary, both to be played at Wolves' Molineux Stadium.  

"Phil Foden, unfortunately, has tested positive for COVID-19, so he's had to leave," Southgate told reporters on Friday.

"Hopefully he'll be able to meet up once we get back from Germany. 

"That very much depends on symptoms and how his breathing is when he gets back into training. Of course, it affects everybody differently. I think every team in the world is getting used to dealing with this kind of situation, really."

Elsewhere, Southgate will assess Raheem Sterling's fitness after the winger suffered from an illness, and will definitely be without young defenders Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi for the trip to Hungary, but hopes to have both available later this month. 

"Fikayo and Marc Guehi both arrived with injuries but they're progressing well. They won't be involved in tomorrow's game but there's a chance for some involvement against Germany," he added.

"They should be fine for the games from there on. Other than that, Raheem has missed a couple of days' training with an illness, so we'll assess whether we involve him tomorrow, but everyone else is fully fit."

Leon Goretzka says Germany are not setting any firm World Cup targets after two disappointing tournaments, but hopes Die Mannschaft can "make a good impression" in their upcoming UEFA Nations League games ahead of their trip to Qatar.

The Bayern Munich midfielder has won 41 caps for his country, scoring 14 goals, but has enjoyed limited tournament success with the national team, featuring in underwhelming campaigns at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020.

Germany crashed out in the group stages in Russia in 2018 before being eliminated by England in the last 16 at the Euros last year, also missing out on qualifying for the Nations League semi-finals in 2020-21.

Goretzka, who missed Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph after suffering an injury in a pre-tournament friendly, recalled those negative experiences as he insisted Hansi Flick's side had yet to set any targets for their trip to Qatar.

Asked by Sky Sports Germany whether winning the tournament was a realistic aim, the 27-year-old said: "Answering the question doesn't do us much good. 

"We'll play our Nations League games first and see that we make a good impression and can go to the World Cup free. 

"I've already taken part in tournaments where we were considered one of the favourites and we failed quite a bit. Then there were tournaments where nobody expected us [to perform well] and we won. 

"Basically, we are an absolute footballing nation with great successes in the past, and accordingly we have our expectations in such a competition."

Germany have been drawn into a tricky Group E for the tournament, alongside Japan, Costa Rica or New Zealand, and Spain, having lost their last meeting with La Roja 6-0 in November 2020.

Before that, Flick's side face several tough Nations League fixtures, including a home clash with England and a double-header against European champions Italy, and Goretzka believes those contests will provide Germany with a real test after Flick won eight of his first nine games at the helm. 

"The opponents we have now are much more important," he added. "These are top games at the very highest level.

"We haven't had one under Hansi yet, so [with] many games against top opponents, which is why we made a good impression. Now we can prove that at another level, higher up."

Meanwhile, at club level, Goretzka endured an injury-hit campaign with Bayern, making just 19 league appearances as Julian Nagelsmann's men won the Bundesliga title, fewer than fellow midfielders Marcel Sabitzer (25), Joshua Kimmich (28), and Jamal Musiala (30).

Despite their domestic dominance, the midfielder said Bayern's Champions League quarter-final exit against Villarreal meant the team's season "wasn't satisfactory", and is targeting better things next term.

"We have a lot of things to improve. We played a pretty good, if not excellent, first half of the season. We were in the flow then," he added.

"You can't say that about the second half of the season. We weren't up to par in the important games - that wasn't Bayern-like. Getting kicked out in the Champions League hasn't happened to us against such an opponent in recent years. 

"That's why this season overall wasn't satisfactory, but that's what makes many in the club extremely motivated to do better next year."

Bayern Munich youngster Malik Tillman has been called up by the United States for the first time.

The 19-year-old attacking midfielder has featured seven times for Bayern in all competitions this season, albeit just one of those appearances coming from the start of a match.

Tillman had previously represented Germany at various age levels and earned his fourth cap for the Under-21 side in March.

However, he revealed this week he had switched allegiance from Germany to the USA, the country of his father's birth, and was named in their latest squad on Friday.

There are 10 MLS-based players in Gregg Berhalter's 27-man squad, though there is no place for Chicago Fire goalkeeper Gaga Slonina after he made a U-turn on his Poland call-up.

The 18-year-old, who has yet to appear for either country, has subsequently declared for the USA and explained his decision in a social media post.

"My heart is American," he wrote on Instagram. "This country has given me and my family all the opportunities I could ask for. 

"It's pushed me and supported me through good and bad. I understand the privilege of wearing the badge, and the only time I'll put my head down is to kiss it. 

"America is home and that's who I'm going to represent."

USA are without a number of key players for their June fixtures, with Sergino Dest, Chris Richards and Giovanni Reyna among those to miss out through injury.

Berhalter's side face Morocco and Uruguay in friendlies next month before beginning their CONCACAF Nations League defence with games against Grenada and El Salvador.

The fixtures will also act as preparation for the 2022 World Cup, where they are in a group alongside England, Iran and one of Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.

Germany coach Hansi Flick has named a 26-man squad for the upcoming Nations League fixtures at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Flick's team face four matches in the space of 11 days between June 4 and 14, playing against Italy both home and away, either side of hosting England and travelling to Hungary.

There are no new faces in Germany's squad, with Flick sticking with the tried-and-tested players who will almost certainly form the bulk of his selection for the 2022 World Cup, which starts in November.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a notable absentee, but he had previously confirmed he asked Flick for permission to skip the matches and recuperate.

It means uncapped Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann has received his first call-up since September 2020, with Kevin Trapp – who saved a penalty to ensure a shoot-out success for Eintracht Frankfurt over Rangers in the Europa League final on Wednesday – second-choice behind Manuel Neuer.

Niklas Sule and Nico Schlotterbeck will be playing together at Borussia Dortmund next season and are both in the squad, while RB Leipzig defender Lukas Klostermann has earned his first call since October last year.

Antonio Rudiger, seemingly Real Madrid bound, is the oldest player in a relatively youthful defence, at 29. Matthias Ginter has missed out, however.

Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich returns after an absence, as does Leon Goretzka. 

Karim Adeyemi – who Dortmund have signed to replace Erling Haaland – also features, as does Bayern youngster Jamal Musiala alongside his club-mates Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and Leroy Sane, Chelsea duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, and Wolfsburg forward Lukas Nmecha, who has featured in Flick's two previous squads.

Germany squad in full:

Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Oliver Baumann (Hoffenheim), Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt); Benjamin Henrichs (RB Leipzig), Thilo Kehrer (Paris Saint-Germain), Lukas Klostermann (RB Leipzig), David Raum (Hoffenheim), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Nico Schlotterbeck (Freiburg), Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich), Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen); Julian Brandt (Borussia Dortmund), Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich), Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Jonas Hofmann (Borussia Monchengladbach), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich), Leroy Sane (Bayern Munich), Anton Stach (Mainz); Karim Adeyemi (Salzburg), Kai Havertz (Chelsea), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Lukas Nmecha (Wolfsburg), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Timo Werner (Chelsea).

The dust is settling following the 2022 World Cup draw, which has provided a number of subplots and talking points aplenty to discuss between now and the opening set of games on November 21.

France, placed in a group that contains Denmark, Tunisia and one of Peru or Australia, will look to avoid becoming the fifth defending champions in the past six tournaments to exit at the first hurdle.

Spain and Germany, the winners of two of the past three World Cups, face off in arguably the pick of the group games in what will be their fifth meeting in the competition and the first since La Roja's 2010 semi-final triumph.

There are some good omens for England, who are in action on the opening day of the tournament – the last time that was the case they went on to lift the trophy on home soil in 1966.

As the debate rumbles on as to which is the most interesting group this time around, and supporters of participating nations plot out their route to the latter stages, Stats Perform picks out a key stat for each team.

GROUP A – Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands

Qatar are competing in their first World Cup and will aim to avoid becoming only the second host nation to be knocked out in the first round after South Africa in 2010.

They will begin their campaign against Ecuador, who have not faced a nation from outside of the UEFA or CONCACAF regions in their previous 10 World Cup matches.

Senegal are participating in the event for a third time and are the third African Cup of Nations title holders to qualify this century after Cameroon in 2002 and Nigeria in 2014.

However, the heavyweights of the group are the Netherlands, who have won 11 of their last 14 World Cup matches when not factoring in penalty shoot-outs. Three times Oranje have reached the final; three times they have been beaten. They failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, of course.

GROUP B – England, Iran, United States, Scotland/Wales/Ukraine

England have progressed past the quarter-finals just once since 1966, although the most recent occasion came four years ago when losing in the semi-finals.

First up for England are Iran, who have scored nine goals in 15 World Cup matches – that goals-per-game average of 0.6 the lowest of any side to have played at least 10 times.

Back involved after missing Russia 2018, the United States will be looking to reach the knockout stages for a fourth time in their past five participations in a World Cup.

Should Wales reach the finals, the gap of 64 years between their only two finals appearances will set a record.

Scotland, who meet Ukraine in a play-off for the right to face Wales, have made more World Cup appearances (eight) without making it past the first round than any other nation.

 

GROUP C – Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland

One of three South American teams to have lifted the trophy, Argentina have made it past the first round in 12 of their past 13 appearances, the only exception being in 2002.

It would be an understatement to say that Saudi Arabia have had less success in the finals, having won only three of their previous 16 World Cup matches – albeit one of those coming against Egypt in the 2018 edition.

Mexico have reached every World Cup since missing out in 1990 and tend to do well in the group stage, having advanced to the last 16 in each of their last eight appearances.

Whereas Mexico have won five of their past six opening games, first opponents Poland have won just one of their previous eight curtain-raising fixtures and have lost the last three.

GROUP D – France, Peru/Australia/UAE, Denmark, Tunisia

France are out to become the third team, after Italy (in 1938) and Brazil (in 1962) to retain the trophy. However, the last three defending champions have fallen in the group stage.

Denmark boasted the best defensive record of any side in European qualifying and have made it out of the group stage in four of their five World Cup appearances.

That is in contrast to Tunisia, who have not made the knockout rounds in six previous attempts. The Eagles of Carthage have also not beaten a European side in 10 World Cup games (D3 L7).

Tunisia have lost 60 per cent of their World Cup games, the third-highest by a team to have played 15+ games behind Saudi Arabia (69 per cent) and possible Group D opponents Australia (63 per cent).

 

GROUP E – Spain, Costa Rica/New Zealand, Germany, Japan

Spain won the World Cup in 2010, but that is the only occasion they have reached the semi-finals in their last 13 participations. However, they have won the group in four of their last five appearances.

Germany, champions in 2014, were the first side to reach Qatar 2022 aside from the hosts, and have made it to the semi-finals in four of the five World Cups this century – the best record of any side.

After reaching the last 16 in 2018, competition regulars Japan will aim to book a place in the knockouts in back-to-back editions for the first time.

Completing arguably the toughest group is either Costa Rica or New Zealand, who meet in a play-off in June. Costa Rica have appeared at five previous World Cups, while the All Whites have made it to the finals twice before.

GROUP F – Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia

Belgium have qualified for more World Cups without winning it than any other European team, with this their 14th appearance. With much of their 'golden generation' either 30 or close to it, however, this is realistically the final chance for that batch of players to cement their names in the history books, after a third-place finish in 2018.

Roberto Martinez's team might meet Spain or Germany in the last 16 but should have little trouble in getting out of their group.

Canada are competing in the global showpiece for the first time since 1986, when they lost all three matches and failed to score.

Morocco have won just one of their last 10 World Cup games, with that coming against Scotland in 1998, while their last knockout-round appearance was in 1986.

Beaten finalists in 2018, Croatia have had a mixed time of things in the finals, having been eliminated in the group stage (three times) or reached the semis (twice) in their past five appearances.

 

GROUP G – Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon

Brazil are the competition's most successful side with five trophies and are unbeaten in their last 15 World Cup group games, winning 12 of those. Their last such defeat was against Norway in 1998.

The next side with a chance to end that long run are Serbia, who have lost seven of their last nine World Cup matches, which is the most of any European nation since 2006. They also met Brazil in the 2018 group stage.

Another team to have been drawn with Brazil and, indeed, Serbia in Russia was Switzerland. History has repeated itself this time around. The Swiss finished above Italy in qualifying to make it to their fifth successive finals. Including the European Championships, they have reached the knockout stages in their last four major tournaments, a record only Belgium and France can match.

Cameroon make up Group G. They have played more matches at the World Cup than any other African nation (23), but they have lost the last seven of those – only Mexico (nine) have ever lost more in a row.

GROUP H – Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea

Heavyweights they may be, but Portugal have won only three of their last 14 World Cup matches, each of those in the group stage. Their last knockout-round win was in the last 16 against the Netherlands in 2006. 

All being well, Cristiano Ronaldo will be featuring in a record-equalling fifth World Cup. It will almost certainly be his last, though.

Ghana's quarter-final appearance in 2010 remains the joint-best finish for an African side, alongside Senegal in 2002 and Cameroon in 1990, and they have scored in their last five World Cup games.

Uruguay controversially eliminated Ghana in the quarter-finals 12 years ago but the Black Stars have a chance for revenge here in the final round of fixtures.

First up for Uruguay, meanwhile, are South Korea, but the South American side have won their opening match at just one of their last seven World Cups.

That is good news for Son Heung-min and Co. as South Korea look to win successive finals matches for just the second time ever, having knocked out Germany four years ago.

Luis Enrique is optimistic that Spain will win this year's World Cup, despite being drawn in a tough group that contains fellow heavyweights Germany.

Top seeds Spain were placed in Group E in Friday's ceremony in Doha along with Germany, Japan and either Costa Rica or New Zealand, who meet in a play-off in June.

Spain and Germany, who lifted the famous trophy in 2010 and 2014 respectively, will face off in the competition for a fifth time.

La Roja have failed to beat Germany in their previous three group encounters, but they won their most recent World Cup meeting in the 2010 semi-finals.

They have met just twice since then in competitive games, with Spain hammering Die Mannschaft 6-0 in the Nations League in 2020 after a 1-1 draw in the same competition.

Germany have replaced Joachim Low with Hansi Flick since then, however, and are unbeaten in nine games under their new boss, winning eight of those.

The inclusion of a Japan side that reached the last 16 in 2018 and one of the play-off winners makes for a tough group, but Luis Enrique is in a bullish mood.

"It's going to be nice. It's a great group with a great rival, one that we'll enjoy. You don't play at World Cups often," he told reporters.

"My body has stayed as it was before the draw, the same. Regardless of who we got, being in the tournament is already a prize.

"Being seeded means what has been done in recent years counts. We know about Germany but not so much the rest, though we have time to analyse them.

"Competing against us is very complicated and it will be difficult to beat us. Anyone can beat us and we can beat any team.

"It is time to enjoy and be optimistic. We are Spain, seventh in the world ranking and we are going to conquer the world."

 

Spain's huge showdown with Germany will take place on November 27, their second group game.

Should Spain advance, as expected, they will meet either Belgium, Croatia, Canada or Morocco from Group F in the first knockout round.

Fernando Hierro, who took charge of Spain for their disappointing 2018 campaign when exiting to Russia in the last 16, believes facing Germany will give La Roja a chance to lay down an early marker.

"People give a lot of importance to the draw, but if you want to be world champion, you have to beat them all," Hierro said. "World Cups are won, not lost. 

"It is true that everyone pays a lot of attention to the draw for the first group phase. 

"But the most important thing is that in the end, if you want to be world champion, you have to beat everyone.

"Therefore, sooner or later the best teams will arrive, and the World Cup will be decided there."

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