Julian Draxler implied he will likely leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season due to a lack of minutes.

Draxler played all 90 minutes in Germany's 2-0 friendly win against Israel on Saturday, with Chelsea duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner contributing the two goals.

He arrived at Paris Saint-Germain from Wolfsburg in 2017, racking up 131 appearances and 17 goals for the French giants, but his playing time has plummeted this season.

Draxler has been brought on as a substitute in his past six appearances for PSG dating back to February 19, playing no more than 25 minutes in any of the short cameos.

Speaking with SPORT1, Draxler highlighted his joy in having an extended run, and the struggles that come with being out of favour back at his club.

"I'm glad that I played 90 minutes again after a long time," he said.

"My situation in the club is not easy – I lack the rhythm and I need to play more games.

"I haven't spoken to the national coach about it, but he has already told us as a team that he needs fit players who are in rhythm. You'll see what happens in the summer."

Hansi Flick praised Germany's "brave" approach after they racked up an eighth straight win under his leadership against Israel on Saturday.

Die Mannschaft went ahead in the 36th minute courtesy of Kai Havertz's near-post header from a corner, before Timo Werner added a second in first-half stoppage time with an instinctive finish from Ilkay Gundogan's free-kick.

Thomas Muller squandered a golden opportunity to add a third in the 89th minute, crashing a penalty against the post, while Israel also missed from 12 yards a few minutes later when Kevin Trapp denied Yonatan Cohen.

The result meant Germany have won all eight games under Flick since he took over from Joachim Low last year, scoring 33 goals and conceding just two.

Flick was pleased with his side's display and highlighted their prowess from set pieces during his fledgling reign. 

"I'm satisfied. We played very bravely and pressed them hard," he told reporters. "Overall, we can be happy with all parts of the team. I think it's great how they rewarded themselves.

"We have scored six goals from set pieces in eight games, that's something to be proud of."

Werner's strike was his 22th in the colours of Die Mannschaft, and Flick was pleased with his contribution given his reduced game time for Chelsea in recent months,

"Timo hasn't played for a long time, only made a few appearances," he added. "You can already tell that the rhythm is missing.

"Of course, I'm pleased that he scored a goal. It's also extremely important for a striker to know where the goal is and he's someone who keeps trying, keeps going deep."

Israel's penalty was awarded for Nico Schlotterbeck's clumsy trip on Cohen after he had cheaply lost possession, and Flick warned the Freiburg full-back that mistakes like that will be punished at the World Cup.

"At this level you just have to be fully focused for 90 minutes," he said. "Such a mistake at the World Cup could be deadly. Up until then he had done very well."

Germany face Netherlands in another friendly and Tuesday, with Flick eagerly awaiting the opportunity to pit his wits against a coaching idol of his, Louis van Gaal.

"We're looking forward to this duel," he added. "I'm happy that we're playing against Louis van Gaal. 

"He's someone who gave me a lot in my coaching career, because I appreciated Dutch football very much, loved it very much and kept learning from there. 

"He was definitely one of the great coaches from whom I took a lot with me."

Timo Werner revealed he prefers playing in Germany's system than Chelsea's after scoring in Die Mannschaft's 2-0 international friendly win over Israel.

There was a strong Chelsea flavour in Germany's victory, with Kai Havertz netting the first goal in the 36th minute before Werner doubled the advantage in first-half stoppage time.

The goal was Werner's 22nd for his country in his 48th cap, but despite being a significant part of Chelsea's plans, he has had less success in at Stamford Bridge.

Werner has scored seven goals in 28 appearances this season for the Blues and suggested Germany coach Hansi Flick is utilising him better than Thomas Tuchel.

"I'm a striker and always want to score," he said.

"Things aren't going the way I'd like at Chelsea, so it's all the better that things are going well here under Hansi Flick.

"I really enjoy playing football, no matter where I'm playing. There are differences in the style of play between football at Chelsea and here.

"Maybe the one at the national team suits me better. Here, I always have scoring chances, I can score goals. I feel very comfortable here."

Germany made it eight wins on the spin as goals from Kai Havertz and Timo Werner sealed a 2-0 friendly win over Israel at the PreZero Arena on Saturday. 

Die Mannschaft rounded off their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 4-1 victory over Armenia in November, and they picked up where they left off against Gadi Brumer's side in Sinsheim. 

Havertz gave them a 36th-minute lead with a smart near-post header, before Timo Werner's 22nd international goal on the stroke of half-time ensured they had a healthy advantage at the interval. 

Hansi Flick's side were content to play out the second period at a more pedestrian pace, although there was late drama as Thomas Muller and Yonatan Cohen exchanged penalty misses. 

Despite Germany's dominant start, they did not carve out a shot on target until the 29th minute when Ofir Marciano got down well to repel Havertz's effort, with Julian Draxler prodding the rebound into the side netting.

Ilkay Gundogan curled straight at Marciano from a promising position soon after, before the Israel goalkeeper raced off his line to deny a clean-through Havertz.

The Chelsea forward was not to be denied from David Raum's resulting corner, however, heading home his eighth international goal from inside the six-yard box.

The hosts doubled their advantage in first-half stoppage time through an unmarked Werner steering in Gundogan's indirect free-kick at the near post.

Only a superb Marciano save denied Thilo Kehrer a third on the hour mark as Germany continued to dominate after the break.

Muller fluffed his lines from 12 yards in the 89th minute after Lukas Nmecha had been brought down inside the area, while Cohen saw his spot-kick saved by Kevin Trapp after he had been tripped by Nico Schlotterbeck.

What does it mean? Flick's men shaping up nicely for Qatar

Germany were utterly dominant throughout, yet Flick will not get carried away given Israel are a whopping 66 places beneath them in FIFA's world rankings.

Still, this was further proof that Die Mannschaft are in rude health and will be a force to be reckoned with at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Havertz shines for hosts

He was less threatening after the interval, yet Havertz was comfortably Germany's brightest spark. The 22-year-old had a game-high five shots, while no player on the pitch made more key passes (four).

Dabbur an isolated figure

Hoffenheim striker Munas Dabbur scarcely had a look in at the stadium where he plays his club football, with the isolated frontman substituted in the 74th minute having had just a single shot.

What's next?

Both sides are in friendly action again on Tuesday, with Germany travelling to Netherlands and Israel hosting Romania.

Ilkay Gundogan has revealed the personal torment he feels over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, detailing a close family connection to the war-torn country.

Manchester City and Germany star Gundogan explained in an interview with German magazine Kicker that his brother's wife is Ukrainian.

Gundogan says he has found himself lost for words over the crisis, which has lasted over a month, and says he would value peace in Ukraine over anything football might bring him.

The 31-year-old is chasing a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble with City, and with Germany he hopes to be pushing for World Cup glory in November and December.

At club level, Gundogan is a team-mate of Ukrainian defender Oleksandr Zinchenko, and he tries to summon the right words to support a player who has been in despair while missiles strike his homeland and Russian tanks enter cities.

"It's so hard to deal with. We try to support him," Gundogan said of Zinchenko.

"My brother's wife is also Ukrainian, therefore the war also affects my family directly. We spoke on the phone the other day, but I couldn't find the words.

"You offer any help, but there is no template for how to properly deal with this terrible situation."

Asked whether the prospect of a treble was blighted by concerns over war, Gundogan said: "Definitely. As beautiful as football is and as much joy as it brings us, there is nothing more important than health and peace."

Gundogan repeated a recent message that he would be keen to stay at City beyond the end of his current contract, which expires next year.

"I'm very happy at Manchester City, football-wise there isn't a more attractive place at the moment," he said. "I can imagine staying there beyond 2023. There are no concrete talks, but we have a good relationship. I'm still patient. There's no hurry."

Gundogan is on Germany duty at present, with a friendly against Israel coming up on Saturday.

Whether midfielder Gundogan plays on for Hansi Flick's Germany beyond the World Cup remains to be seen.

He will turn 32 in October and will be nudging towards 34 by the time Germany host the next European Championship in 2024.

"If the mind and body allow it, the European Championship can be a topic," he said. "I'll decide after the World Cup."

Julian Weigl was taken aback by his recall to the Germany squad after a five-year absence, having previously been considered a potential future superstar.

Weigl rose to prominence at Borussia Dortmund, earning his first senior Germany cap 14 months after moving to BVB from 1860 Munich in 2015 as a 19-year-old.

His form during his first couple of seasons in the Bundesliga drew links with some of Europe's biggest clubs, with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Manchester City apparently particularly keen on the talented deep-lying playmaker.

But he struggled to maintain that level after Thomas Tuchel's exit and was frustrated by untimely injuries, ultimately falling out of favour and being sold to Benfica for a reported €20million in January 2020.

The move was indicative of the decline in Weigl's reputation and he was being linked with another move less than a year after joining Benfica due to early struggles with Jorge Jesus.

But this season he has become a key figure and played in seven of Benfica's eight matches en route to the Champions League quarter-finals, helping him back into the Germany setup.

"When the coach called me, I was with my team-mate Soualiho Meite. I couldn't believe that Hansi [Flick] had called me and that I'd missed it," he told reporters.

"I knew I had to call him back. I was absolutely thrilled, we chatted for a short while and then I immediately rang my parents and my wife. They were some emotional phone calls. My family and my wife were also over the moon.

"I was extremely pleased when I got the call from Hansi. I wasn't expecting it. When you're putting in good performances for your club, you do get your hopes up a little bit, but it still came as a surprise.

"I was looking forward to seeing the lads again, and so I arrive here with a really positive energy. I've always looked out for when the national squad gets announced, and I'm more than aware that you have to be performing at the top level at your club week-in, week-out to earn your selection.

"But I never once said to myself at any time that my performances deserved to be rewarded with a call-up – I simply tried to keep concentration on myself and my game. Because of that, the eventual call-up was even more of a pleasant surprise."

Despite the promise he showed early on at Dortmund, Weigl only ever featured five times for Germany.

His most recent outing was 66 minutes in a friendly with England way back in March 2017 – now 26, Weigl does not think his playing style has changed significantly, but leaving Germany helped him grow and he feels better physically.

"Generally speaking, I'm still the same player," he continued. "What's changed is that I've become more mature and more experienced – playing abroad has certainly helped me in this regard, as well as becoming a father.

"My daughter helps me to relax, as my life is so fast-paced. I've improved from a physical perspective, too."

Weigl's recall comes at a potentially critical moment as well. With the World Cup starting in less than eight months, the midfielder surely has a genuine opportunity of being in the selection that travels to Qatar.

He is now focused on proving to Flick that he is worthy of consideration.

"I'm trying to show off what I can do every day that I'm here, as well as take on board the ideas of the head coach and work them into my game," he said.

"I'm asking for the ball a lot in the sessions and I'm not afraid to do so, because that's how I'm going to prove to the head coach that I'm a serious option for the World Cup squad, because I can be relied upon at any time and that I can put in a solid performance when needed."

Germany, who have already qualified for the World Cup, will face Israel and the Netherlands in friendlies during this international window.

Hans-Dieter Flick declared his unease with the World Cup in Qatar, believing there should be more stringent criteria for potential hosts of global sporting events.

The German national team coach made note of public sentiment, adding that while prioritisation of the bottom line for global sporting bodies comes at a cost, they can protect themselves from it with a more discerning framework.

"It can't always be about the money," Flick told German magazine Stern. "We recently had a World Cup in Russia, the Winter Olympics in Beijing, and the World Cup in Qatar in November – and there was always great criticism.

"That's why I say – we have to think about the country in which we are going to hold sporting events sooner and define even more binding criteria for this."

On whether Germany will boycott from a World Cup in Qatar though, with die Mannschaft having already qualified, Flick questioned its benefit.

"It wouldn't help the people in Qatar," he said. "We want to take part and then send out signals. I think that's more effective.

"For many athletes a World Cup is a career highlight. That would be taken away from them with a boycott.

From a standpoint of symbolism however, the 57-year-old believes armed conflict in Ukraine provides sufficient reason for Russia to be banned from sporting competition.

"I think such measures are right as a symbol, but I don't think Putin is going to be impressed by this," Flick said.

"So far, even economic sanctions haven't been able to stop him. I feel sorry for the athletes who are now being banned from the competitions. Because it's Putin's war, not their war, but there is no other option at the moment."

The upcoming international window will see Germany host Israel on Saturday, before travelling to Amsterdam to face the Netherlands next Tuesday.

Florian Wirtz can roar back to action for Germany for the World Cup and end a testing year by starring at Qatar 2022, according to Oliver Bierhoff.

The 18-year-old attacking midfielder sustained a major knee injury during Bayer Leverkusen's defeat by FC Koln earlier this month, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament guaranteeing a long-term absence.

But speaking at a news conference ahead of friendlies against Israel and Netherlands, national team managing director Bierhoff believes Wirtz has both the incentive and the physical attributes that mean his prospects are positive.

The teenager has already earned four senior caps for Germany, having made his debut last September after dazzling at club level.

There is no doubt Wirtz is a beneficiary from the World Cup taking place unusually in November and December, given he now has some hope of being able to get fit and match ready.

Had the tournament run in June and July, as has been the custom, he would have been ruled out of Germany's plans by now.

"I'm absolutely convinced that he can do it, for various reasons," Bierhoff said. "First, there is the mental aspect when you have a World Cup in front of you.

"But he's also a light-footed player, and I'm always confident that they'll get over it a little faster. We will give all possible support in coordination with the club."

 

"Our demand is that the players have the World Cup in their heads all year round.

"I am firmly convinced that if you start early and also deal with this topic mentally and build up this inner will, you will do everything you can to want to play a successful tournament in November.

"We will always give the players material so that they can take this one step further."

With 10 goals and 14 assists across all competitions, Wirtz has the most direct goal involvements among players under the age of 21 in 2021-22 from Europe's top five leagues.

The 19 big chances created by Wirtz is bettered only by Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Muller and Dimitri Payet (all on 20), as well as Trent Alexander-Arnold (22) and Bruno Fernandes (23).

Manuel Neuer does not know whether he can hang on as Germany's number one goalkeeper until Euro 2024 – but he is not ruling it out.

The Bayern Munich captain will have turned 38 by the time Germany host the European Championship in two years' time.

Laying his gloves on that trophy would mean Neuer landing one of the few honours that has eluded him in a remarkable career.

Speaking in a Germany news conference on Tuesday, Neuer was cagey about his future prospects and suggested only his form would dictate prospects of playing on for Die Mannschaft in future years.

"I don't have the target for 2024 and beyond to play in goal for the German national team," he said. "I've always said that for as long as I can help, and as long as I feel good, remain needed and have fun, I want to be involved."

Germany strode through to the World Cup with nine wins from 10 qualifiers, and Neuer is set to be their leader going into that tournament in November.

He skippers both club and national team, and will reach 110 caps for his country if he features in the friendlies against Israel and Netherlands over the coming week.

After recovering from a recent knee injury, Neuer has returned to the Bayern side who are chasing a Bundesliga and Champions League double this season.

Going away with Germany is an escape from such pressures, and a reminder of the satisfaction of playing for his country.

"I'm really happy to be here with the national team," Neuer said. "It's still a great honour for me, even if I've been here many years and played many games.

"I'm happy to be part of the squad. For as long as that remains the case, I want to keep playing. For that to happen, of course my performance has to match up."

Germany were World Cup winners in 2014 and that is the goal again this time around, with Neuer believing Hansi Flick's team can challenge.

"We will be measured by trophies," he said of this year's objectives. "That's why there's only one goal for me – to win the World Cup."

Neuer joined Bayern from Schalke in 2011 and holds the record for the most clean sheets in the Bundesliga (210), having surpassed Oliver Kahn (196) in 2021.

Neuer's contract is due to expire at the end of next season, when he will be 37, leading to speculation over his future with Julian Nagelsmann's team. He said on Tuesday there was "no news" on a fresh deal with Bayern.

Louis van Gaal has spoken out for the first time against the World Cup in Qatar in his position as Netherlands coach.

The former Ajax and Manchester United manager is known for speaking his mind, and made clear the strength of his feelings about this year's prestigious competition.

During a news conference on Monday ahead of a friendly against Denmark, the 70-year-old called it "ridiculous" that the tournament will be held in Qatar in November.

"I am a member of a committee with [KNVB Secretary-General] Gijs de Jong. We meet and then I hear what has been agreed with other countries," he said. "Then I hear what we can do and I give my comments.

"I'm on it every month. I have already mentioned it in previous press conferences. I think it's ridiculous that the World Cup is there."

While Van Gaal's position on the World Cup in Qatar has been publicly known, he has not spoken on it since taking over as the Dutch national team coach last August.

"We are playing in a country that FIFA says they want to develop football there," he added. "That's bulls..t, but it doesn't matter. It's about money, about commercial interests. That matters in FIFA.

"Why do you think I'm not on a committee at FIFA or UEFA with my expertise? Because I have always opposed these kinds of organisations. I can say that in Qatar later but that won't help the world get rid of this problem."

The Oranje face Denmark in Amsterdam on Saturday, before also hosting Germany on Tuesday.

Germany head coach Hansi Flick is confident Bayer Leverkusen star Florian Wirtz can return just as strong after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury.

The 18-year-old sustained the damage in Saturday's 1-0 Bundesliga loss to Cologne when twisting awkwardly on the turf 28 minutes into the contest.

Wirtz has earned four senior caps for Germany, having made his debut last September, but is now in a battle to be fit and ready for the World Cup in November.

The news is a big blow for Flick ahead of his first tournament in charge of Germany, but the ex-Bayern Munich boss has faith that Wirtz will make a full recovery.

"He is one of the greatest talents that German football has produced in recent years," Flick told the DFB's official website. 

"That's why we were all shocked when we found out about his cruciate ligament rupture. I've already phoned him and tried to encourage him. 

"He's still young, he'll come back at least as strong, I'm sure of it. He gets our full support. 

"We wish him all the best and keep our fingers crossed that the healing process goes as optimally as possible."

 

Wirtz is considered to be one of the highest-rated young players in European football and has been linked with the likes of Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

With 10 goals and 14 assists, Wirtz has the most direct goal involvements among players under the age of 21 in 2021-22 across Europe's top five leagues.

The 19 big chances created by Wirtz is bettered only by Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Muller (both 20), Bruno Fernandes and Trent Alexander-Arnold (both 22).

It's November 25, 2020. A young German winger stands on the touchline anxiously waiting to step on to the Allianz Arena pitch for his Champions League debut in his hometown.

But as he waits to be allowed on, there are people watching both on television and in the largely empty stands who know this isn't how it should've been.

Rather than wearing the all-red of Bayern Munich, Karim Adeyemi jogs on in the all-black of Salzburg with the Austrian champions 3-0 down.

A technically gifted and rapid forward, Adeyemi has long been considered one of Germany's most promising young players, having cost Salzburg a reported €3million when he was 16.

Adeyemi had left Bayern six years earlier. It's a detail that has dominated much of his early professional career, with questions about why he left never far away.

Now 20, Adeyemi has previously spoken at length about his attitude as a kid, how learning wasn't much to his liking and distraction was a regular nuisance to him. These factors certainly didn't help at Bayern.

Neither, Adeyemi alleged in the past, did the club, who he said showed little support to players who strayed from "the plan". The collective, rather than individualistic talents, was prioritised.

He and Bayern were simply not a good match at the time. He left Die Roten and, while such a disappointment might've been enough to derail other ordinary kids, Adeyemi has since proven he is rather extraordinary.

A move to a smaller local club, Unterhaching, soon followed. It was there that, according to youth coach Marc Unterberger, Adeyemi was able to develop with a greater degree of individual emphasis and that eventually translated into him becoming a better asset for the team as a whole.

"He had his own thoughts on how to deal with things," Unterberger told Stats Perform in 2021. "We never wanted to change him completely, and I think we succeeded quite well. Karim is a really great guy and a great person.

"Until the time Karim came to us, we had never had such an exceptional player in our youth division.

"Of course, as a young person, you benefit from being accepted for who you are, but I would like to make it very clear that there was no situation within the team in which Karim behaved in such a way that we as a club were forced to act.

"On the contrary, over time he developed more and more towards putting himself at the service of the team. He was easily distracted, that's right, but let's be honest, something like this is normal when young people develop."

Unterberger arguably knows Adeyemi better than any other coach, given he was there for the youngster's entire six-year stay at Unterhaching.

"I can still remember it very well, the first time I saw him play in an Under-11 tournament," he recalled.

"Back then he was still playing for TSV Forstenried. My first thought was: 'We absolutely need this player'. Fortunately, it worked out later!"

That might be something of an understatement in reality. The €3m fee that Unterhaching received made him the most expensive Under-18 German player ever at the time, while 2019 saw him win the Fritz-Walter Gold Medal, an award handed out to Germany's best youth player. Previous winners include Timo Werner, Emre Can and Mario Gotze.

But most importantly, that move proved an unequivocal success for the player, as did his next.

Adeyemi confirmed to Stats Perform last year that he rejected the chance to join Chelsea from Unterhaching in his teens, instead opting to move just over the border to Salzburg. Had he gone to London, maybe he would've broken into their first-team – but it's probably just as likely that he'd have been lost among the Blues' army of loan players.

That's not to say loans can't work. Adeyemi's Salzburg career was carefully mapped out for him even before he joined, and that included an initial 18-month stint with Liefering, who essentially act as a B team. A haul of 15 goals and eight assists in the second tier provided strong evidence the teenager was ready for the step up in 2020.

His introduction to top-tier football wasn't quite so explosive, only having a hand in goals in six of his first 29 Austrian Bundesliga matches, but a key factor here was the need to remain patient – only nine of those 29 games were as a starter.

It wasn't until the final three months of 2020-21 that Adeyemi began to nail down a starting role, with seven of his 11 starts coming between mid-February and the end of May. This period also yielded six of his seven league goals.

This proved the final push he needed – with Patson Daka leaving for Leicester City, Adeyemi went from being the forwards' supporting act to the leading man in attack.

As you'd expect, this led to a bit of a change in his role, but there's no doubt he's thriving, securing his first senior international cap in September and finding himself linked heavily with Borussia Dortmund.

 

Sure, chance creation frequency is down (2.7 per 90, to 1.6), but the pay-off in terms of his effectiveness in front of goal is more than worth it.

His 14 goals is a league high, while only Kelvin Yeboah (11.2) – who has since joined Genoa – can better Adeyemi's 10.1 non-penalty expected goals (np-xG). Though on a per-90-minute basis, Adeyemi ranks first in the division with 0.72 np-xG (minimum 650 minutes played).

But it would be doing Adeyemi a huge disservice to give the impression he's 'just' some poacher. He's an immensely exciting player characterised by his explosive pace, low centre of gravity and silky ability on the ball. Yeboah (21) is the sole forward with more carries leading to shots and chances created than Adeyemi (21), though the Ghanaian's total comes from nearly 300 minutes more on the pitch.

It's a similar story in the Champions League. His carries led to a combined total of eight shots and chances created in the group stage – the only Opta-defined strikers to better that were Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo (both nine) and Arnaut Danjuma (14).

 

Even if it's reductive to just look at that metric, there's no doubt his performances have translated to European football's biggest stage – Sevilla's Diego Carlos will have been hoping to never see the youngster again after terrorising the Brazilian in the group.

Adeyemi's displays were a major factor in Salzburg reaching the knockouts of the Champions League for the first time in their history.

It would be a truly inspirational tale were it to be him, the young Bavarian cast-off, who plotted Bayern's downfall this time.

Kai Havertz has his sights set on World Cup glory with Germany after securing the Club World Cup for Chelsea on Sunday. 

A penalty in extra-time from Havertz, who scored the winning goal in last season's Champions League final, saw Chelsea get their hands on the Club World Cup for the first time in their history thanks to a 2-1 win over Palmeiras in Abu Dhabi. 

The 22-year-old insisted he is focused on fighting for silverware on another four fronts with the Blues this season.

However, he has an eye on success with Germany at Qatar 2022 in December as well.

"Without a doubt, I want to be a World Cup winner this year," Havertz told Bild. 

"In the upcoming games with the national team, it's important to show yourself. 

"Nevertheless, I'm focused on the here and now with Chelsea. We can still the win the Premier League, Champions League, the EFL Cup final against Liverpool, and the FA Cup. We have big goals." 

Real Madrid and Barcelona had been credited with an interest in Havertz before he joined Chelsea in September 2020 for a reported £71million. 

Havertz is a fan of Spanish football but has no doubt picking the Premier League has enabled him to develop significantly despite stiff competition for game time at Stamford Bridge. 

"For me personally, the step to the Premier League was the right one. A lot of pundits saw me in LaLiga back then," said Havertz. 

"I like Spanish football a lot, but I'm also convinced that the Premier League has shaped me a lot in recent months and helped me progress. 

"When you play for a club like Chelsea, the competition is fierce. I was aware of that from the start. 

"Nothing is given to anyone. However, I'm convinced that if I play, I will repay the trust." 

Italy were drawn to face England and Germany in a tough 2022-23 Nations League group on Thursday.

The Azzurri beat England in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley in July and the two sides will do battle again in Group A3 of the Nations League.

They will also face Germany and Hungary home and away in matches that will take place next June and September 2022.

Holders France are in Group A1 along with Croatia, Denmark and Austria.

World champions France were crowned champions when they came from behind to beat Spain 2-1 at San Siro in October.

Spain were drawn in Group A2 and will come up against Portugal, Czech Republic and Switzerland in the third edition of the UEFA competition.

Belgium, who squandered a two-goal lead to lose against France at the semi-final stage of the Nations League two months ago, will take on Netherlands, Poland and Wales.

Scotland, Republic of Ireland, Ukraine and Armenia are in League B Group 1.

Russia, Iceland, Israel and Albania will do battle in Group B2, with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland and Romania in Group B3.

Group B4 will see Serbia, Sweden, Norway and Slovenia lock horns as they strive to secure promotion.

Four of the six matchdays will be in June due to the scheduling of the World Cup in Qatar later in 2022.

The four group winners in League A will advance to the Nations League Finals in June 2023. The group winners in the other three leagues will all be promoted for the 2024-25 edition.

The 2022 World Cup is now just 12 months away, with qualifying entering its closing stages following a series of crunch November clashes.

Difficulties still await Italy and Portugal – the past two European champions – in the play-offs, but most of the other big names are well on their way if they have not already confirmed their place in Qatar.

So, how are the expected contenders shaping up? Stats Perform investigates.

Argentina

Having finally ended his long wait for a senior international honour at this year's Copa America, Qatar looks like Lionel Messi's last realistic chance to guide Argentina to World Cup glory. They last triumphed in 1986, in the days of Diego Maradona.

But the brilliant Barcelona form that has been the bedrock of Messi's outstanding career is no more. Since clinching the Copa, the forward has left Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain and played just 595 minutes across eight games at club level, scoring three goals and assisting none. Heading into this weekend, he had yet to net in Ligue 1.

At odds with the rest of his career, Messi has briefly become one of those players who performs better for country than for club, scoring four goals in seven games for Argentina in the same period, even allowing for the minutes spent regaining fitness in November. But the national team must be concerned Messi's unconvincing displays and shaky recent fitness record hint at a decline that could continue for another year before he gets an opportunity to lead a global title charge.

Although Argentina undoubtedly have other highly talented players – Messi was one of four to make the Team of the Tournament as they become South American champions – it is tough to imagine a successful Albiceleste side without the great number 10 at the heart of it.

 

Belgium

Roberto Martinez's Belgium remain the world's top-ranked team, but it feels like their window for a first major title might now have passed.

Martinez took charge after Euro 2016, where a stacked squad lost to Wales in the last eight, yet he has found a glass ceiling, finishing third at the 2018 World Cup and fourth at the 2020-21 Nations League either side of another quarter-final exit at Euro 2020. Since a disappointing performance at the Nations League Finals, Martinez has been linked to a host of club roles – albeit he is expected to stay put until Qatar.

Although Belgium's 'Golden Generation' have maintained their position at the top of the game despite an ageing defence, there are worrying signs their key attacking players could also be on the wane.

Through a combination of injuries and poor form, Eden Hazard has not looked the same player since he left Chelsea for Real Madrid. Kevin De Bruyne, also beset by fitness issues and below-par outings of late, will hope not to follow the same path. Both he and Romelu Lukaku must still be at their peak to give the Red Devils a chance.

Brazil

Brazil were outclassed by Belgium in the quarter-finals in Russia but have lost just three matches since then. One of those was in this year's Copa final against Argentina, although the Selecao also won the competition in 2019.

Unlike previous Brazil teams, Tite's side are built on the strength of their defensive record. They have kept 28 clean sheets since the 2018 World Cup, conceding just 16 times in 42 games, with 11 shutouts in 2021 alone.

However, that solidity comes at a price. Brazil are scoring at a relatively unspectacular rate of 2.0 goals per game, including netting only two in their three Copa knockout games in July and just one across two November qualifiers.

Neymar will have a key role in producing those timely moments of magic and should not be short of motivation heading to Qatar, having suggested this will be his last World Cup. The forward has excelled on the world stage before without taking Brazil all the way.

England

As so often, England have qualified with relative ease, benefiting from a kind draw, but will not face a true test until the tournament comes around.

That means a wait to see if Gareth Southgate can make the necessary tweaks to turn the Three Lions from nearly men into champions, with the midfield a key area of focus having ceded 65.4 per cent of the possession to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, 53.2 per cent to the Netherlands in the 2018-19 Nations League semi-finals and 55.5 per cent to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semis. The continued development of Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham should encourage optimism.

But England also find themselves in a position, like Argentina, where the performances of their talismanic captain are suddenly a concern – at least at club level.

Harry Kane has so far this season used the international breaks as sweet relief, quickly closing on Wayne Rooney's record goals tally by scoring in 15 consecutive qualifiers up to September and notching seven in November alone, but there is a break now before March's fixtures and the forward simply must rediscover some sort of form for Tottenham and add to his single Premier League goal in order to return to the England fold in good nick.

 

France

Welcoming Karim Benzema back into a frightening front line, France appear to have an even more impressive line-up than at the previous World Cup, where they emerged as champions.

Benzema has already directly combined for five goals with Kylian Mbappe and one with Antoine Griezmann, who has in turn linked up once with Mbappe. The trio netted nine of France's 10 goals this month, while Mbappe had assists for each of Benzema's strikes at the Nations League Finals as both players scored in both matches and Les Bleus twice came from behind to take the title.

Yet those prior deficits and the six goals conceded at the Euros hinted at the weaknesses in this France side, as Didier Deschamps is still working on his new 3-4-1-2 formation.

The composition of the midfield in that team is crucial, and N'Golo Kante was missing against Belgium and Spain before Paul Pogba suffered an injury prior to the November fixtures. France have no shortage of quality but may not head to Qatar as the most settled unit.

Germany

It was clear Joachim Low's Germany tenure was reaching its natural conclusion before he announced his departure plans in March. That the team followed up a group-stage exit at the World Cup by stumbling through their pool at the Euros before exiting to England only further illustrated that this was the right decision.

But Germany know all about recovering quickly from such setbacks; they seemed to reach rock bottom at Euro 2000 and were in the World Cup final two years later.

Now Hansi Flick, having set Bayern Munich back on course, is excelling again with the national team, becoming the first Germany coach to win his first six matches in charge – a sequence that now stands at seven and counting. The team's last longer winning run ended at 12 games in 1980.

Germany were the most aggressive pressing side in Europe during qualifying, this despite naming their oldest XI in more than 21 years in a recent qualifier against Liechtenstein. Striking this same balance between energy and experience will be key in Qatar.

Spain

Spain have come a long way since the last World Cup, where they appeared to be in crisis from start to finish, eventually exiting to hosts Russia on penalties.

Luis Enrique's subsequent work across two spells has made them contenders again, reaching the last four at the Euros – only to again fall foul of a shoot-out – and briefly leading France in the Nations League final. The emergence of Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi over the course of these campaigns provides a major cause for long-term optimism, too.

However, injury issues have kept that trio from ever featuring together for their country; in fact, Fati, Pedri and Gavi are yet to play a single minute together for Barcelona.

They were three of 39 players to appear for Spain in qualifying, showing the depth of talent at Luis Enrique's disposal. Within that group, however, there is not a prolific goalscorer – a major concern with 12 months to go.

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