UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dismissed the notion of Russia hosting Euro 2028 as "beyond satire", instead suggesting the tournament be awarded to Ukraine.

Russia launched a bid for either Euro 2028 or Euro 2032 on Wednesday, despite the country's ongoing invasion of their Eastern European neighbour.

That puts the 2018 World Cup hosts against a joint United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland bid for the former, an Italy bid for the latter and a Turkey bid for either event.

"The idea of Russia holding any idea of football tournament or any kind of cultural event right now is beyond satire," Johnson said in Brussels, where a Nato summit addressing Vladimir Putin's invasion is taking place.

"I can’t believe that anybody would seriously consider their suggestion."

Johnson appeared to forget that his own country had bid for Euro 2028 when he subsequently suggested the best path would be to hand it to Ukraine, who jointly hosted Euro 2012 with Poland.

"I think the best thing possible would be for the entire Russian forces to retire forthwith from Ukraine and hand the tournament to them," Johnson added.

Last year's rearranged Pan-European edition saw Italy triumph over England in a penalty shoot-out final at Wembley Stadium.

Hosts will be confirmed for 2028 and 2032 in September 2023, ahead of the next edition in Germany in 2024.

UEFA has confirmed it received declarations of interest from four potential bidders for hosting rights to Euro 2028 and Euro 2032.

The United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland launched a joint-bid for Euro 2028 earlier on Wednesday, while a Russian official remarkably confirmed its own interest in holding either of the two tournaments.

Russia's teams are currently banned from UEFA and FIFA competitions following the country's invasion of Ukraine, but the 2018 World Cup hosts pushed ahead regardless.

Turkey has joined Russia in announcing to UEFA its willingness to stage the European Championship in either 2028 or 2032.

While the two countries are up against the UK and Ireland in the first of the two finals, Italy is the other interested party four years later.

The hosts of the two tournaments will be announced in September 2023.

The United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland have dropped plans to stage World Cup 2030 and will instead focus on a bid for Euro 2028.

A joint announcement from the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic confirmed the decision following "an extensive feasibility study".

The committee chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Julian Knight, had previously derided the World Cup bid as a "giant, expensive vanity project".

The joint statement on Monday confirmed: "The feasibility study included an analysis of the economic impact, the political football landscape and likely costs of hosting major international tournaments. On balance, the five associations have decided to focus solely on an official bid to host UEFA Euro 2028, and have agreed not to bid for the 2030 FIFA World Cup.

"Hosting a UEFA Euro offers a similar return on investment, with the European tournament carrying a far lower delivery cost and the potential of the benefits being realised sooner.

"It would be an honour and a privilege to collectively host UEFA Euro 2028 and to welcome all of Europe. It would also be a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the true impact of hosting a world-class football tournament by driving positive change and leaving a lasting legacy across our communities.

"We believe the UK and the Republic of Ireland can offer UEFA and European football something special in 2028 – a compact and unique five-way hosting collaboration that will provide a great experience for the teams and the fans."

England, which last hosted a major tournament when it staged the Euros in 1996, failed in a bid for the 2018 World Cup, which took place in Russia.

London and Glasgow were among the host cities for Euro 2020, with the semi-finals and final taking place at Wembley Stadium.

Switzerland kept their word and thanked Northern Ireland for helping them to reach the World Cup – by sending the team chocolate.

In one of the sweeter football stories of the week, Switzerland posted a video to social media on Wednesday showing head coach Murat Yakin boxing up some confectionery treats to send to Belfast.

It was their way of showing their gratitude for Northern Ireland's goalless draw with Italy in the final round of European World Cup qualifying group games, a result that, combined with Switzerland's 4-0 win over Bulgaria, saw Yakin's men seal their place at Qatar 2022.

Ian Baraclough's side are to receive 9.3 kilograms of Swiss chocolate in recognition of preventing the European champions from scoring for 93 minutes.

Switzerland had previously promised a gift after initially paying tribute in their post-match celebrations at the team hotel in Lucerne, where they sung Sweet Caroline, the 1969 Neil Diamond hit that has become a staple song at Northern Ireland matches.

The Euro 2020 quarter-finalists drew 1-1 with Italy in their penultimate qualifier, in which Jorginho missed a 90th-minute penalty for the Azzurri. That result ensured they were able to finish two points clear at the top of Group C after the final round of games.

Italy, meanwhile, must now contend the play-offs alongside teams including Portugal, Sweden, Wales and Russia. The draw for the semi-finals takes place on Friday.

Roberto Mancini is "completely confident" Italy can rediscover their cutting edge and seal a 2022 World Cup spot after a goalless draw with Northern Ireland denied them automatic qualification.

The European champions went into their final Group C match at Windsor Park on Monday top on goal difference ahead of Switzerland.

But Northern Ireland did the Swiss a huge favour, frustrating an Azzurri side that could not find a way past goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Switzerland had no such trouble as they thrashed Bulgaria 4-0 to move ahead of Italy and secure their place in the tournament in Qatar next year.

Italy only hit the target with half of their 12 shots and ought to have been consigned to defeat when Conor Washington spurned a great chance in the closing stages, Leonardo Bonucci clearing off the line to preserve a sixth clean sheet of the campaign. No other European team have conceded fewer than their two goals.

The Azzurri must get through a play-off semi-final and final to avoid missing out on a second consecutive World Cup, but Mancini believes they will get the job done in March.

He said: "Despite controlling matches, we're struggling to score goals at the moment. We needed to score early on tonight. It's a shame because we should have finished things off sooner in this group.

"We need to rediscover what has set us apart until now and remain completely calm until March.

"We should have won against Bulgaria and had two penalties against Switzerland. These are games that could have finished in our favour. I'm completely confident about the play-offs."

Since beating England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley, Mancini's side have won just two of their seven fixtures, with only one of those victories coming in qualifying.

European champions Italy missed out on automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Northern Ireland.

Jorginho's last-gasp penalty miss against Switzerland last time out meant Italy headed into their final Group C game at Windsor Park level on points with the Swiss, ahead only on goal difference.

And while Switzerland managed to beat Bulgaria on Monday, Italy were frustrated by Ian Baraclough's side in Belfast.

A star of the Euro 2020 success, Federico Chiesa went closest to breaking the deadlock for Roberto Mancini's side as Italy – who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup – had to settle for a place in the play-offs.

Lorenzo Insigne's sublime pass put Giovanni Di Lorenzo through inside the opening 10 minutes, though from a tight angle, the full-back's effort was caught between a cross and a shot, with Bailey Peacock-Farrell able to parry away.

That set the tone for Italy, who had plenty of possession and territory but lacked a cutting edge. Matters would have been made more difficult early in the second half if not for Gianluigi Donnarumma.

With Insigne having dragged wide from a presentable chance, Northern Ireland almost took the lead at the other end – Donnarumma making a superb stop to deny George Saville.

Peacock-Farrell judged a difficult Domenico Berardi free-kick, though was beaten by Chiesa's curling attempt soon after. Unfortunately for Italy, it sailed the wrong side of the upright.

Despite Mancini throwing on the cavalry, Chiesa's chance was the closest Italy went, and they were fortunate Leonardo Bonucci was on hand to clear Conor Washington's late shot off the line.

The Azzurri now face two play-off games in March to try and qualify for the tournament in Qatar.

 

What does it mean? Back down to Earth

Italy’s Euro 2020 euphoria will have been replaced by a real concern history could be set to repeat itself. Since their penalty shoot-out triumph over England at Wembley, Mancini’s side have won just two of their seven fixtures, with only one of those coming in qualifying.

The Azzurri lost to Sweden in the play-offs for Russia 2018. This time, they will have to win two games to progress (a semi-final and a final). They will go into pot two in the draw, alongside the Czech Republic, Scotland, Sweden, Wales and the runners-up from Groups D, G and I.

Baraclough’s brilliant defence

Northern Ireland boss Baraclough had a tough ask taking over from Michael O'Neill, but he has retained the resilience and spirit within the squad.

They were out of the qualification picture before Monday’s game, but have gone the entire campaign without conceding a goal at home. Indeed, they have now kept a clean sheet in their past five home qualifiers. It should have been an even more jubilant night, but Washington fluffed his lines late on.

Toothless Italy fall short

Italy have not conceded a single goal in any of their past nine away games in all competitions, but it was at the other end they fell short.

While Switzerland cruised to a 4-0 victory, Mancini must find a way to get his attacking talents firing as they did in the Euros. Only against Sweden (eight), have Italy played more away matches without winning than in Northern Ireland - drawing three and losing once in four games.

What's next?

Neither team will be in action until March, with Italy waiting to see who they will face in the play-offs.

Roberto Mancini insisted Italy must not forget what they have achieved recently as his side prepare for a crunch clash with Northern Ireland.

The Euro 2020 winners sit above Switzerland in World Cup qualifying Group C on goal difference alone, with both teams currently on 15 points after a 1-1 draw between the pair on Friday.

With only the team that finishes top progressing, slipping to second place would see Italy condemned to the play-offs as the Azzurri flirt with missing the World Cup for the second time in a row.

However, as Italy prepare for their final game with Northern Ireland – who are in third with eight points – Mancini implored his team to remember what they have achieved so far, having previously embarked on a world-record 37 matches without defeat.

"We mustn’t think negative thoughts," Mancini said at Sunday's pre-match news conference. "We know it’s an important match, we’ll go there aiming to win and know that Northern Ireland are difficult to beat here.

"If we do miss out, then we’ve got the opportunity of a make-up exam in March, but we want to go through tomorrow and that is what we must focus on.

"Nobody believed in us when we started this journey three years ago and we know there have been difficult moments along the way. It’s a delicate match tomorrow, but the lads mustn’t forget everything they have achieved already.

"They mustn’t feel so much anxiety, they have to play with freedom and concentrate on what needs to be done."

Italy, however, are by no means a certainty to cruise past Northern Ireland, given the Azzurri have never won in Belfast.

Indeed, a 2-1 loss in 1958 saw Italy miss out on the World Cup that year and Mancini appreciates the difficult task that awaits his team at Windsor Park.

"I don’t go back that far, but I do know the history," Mancini responded when asked about Italy's previous record in Belfast.

"It’s not an issue of scoring many goals, it’s about playing the game. Northern Ireland haven’t conceded a goal yet at Windsor Park in this group and there must be a reason for that.

"We have to win and if we score lots of goals that’s even better. We certainly won’t go for high balls into the box, as Northern Ireland are rather tall and that’s their bread and butter.

"We must try to play the ball quickly to feet, what we’ve been doing for the last three years, really.

"All the teams have injuries at the moment, but we remain a strong squad and will aim to get a positive result."

Alessandro Bastoni, Davide Calabria and Cristiano Biraghi have all withdrawn from the Italy squad ahead of their crunch World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland. 

Inter defender Bastoni had been struggling for fitness and will not travel to Belfast for Monday's game, with Calabria experiencing a calf problem on Saturday and Biraghi dropping out for personal reasons.

To bolster his defensive options, with veteran centre-back Giorgio Chiellini having left the camp ahead of Friday's 1-1 draw with Switzerland, Roberto Mancini called up Davide Zappacosta. 

Italy sit top of Group C on goal difference so only need to match Switzerland's result at home to Bulgaria when they take on Northern Ireland in order to clinch top spot. 

A draw would have been enough had Jorginho converted a 90th-minute penalty against Switzerland on Friday, but the Chelsea midfielder missed his third successive spot-kick (including shoot-outs) for the Azzurri. 

Italy have won seven of their 10 matches against Northern Ireland, who have been scoreless in the past six and secured their only victory in a World Cup qualifier back in January 1958.

However, the last meeting between the pair in Northern Ireland was a goalless draw at Windsor Park in October 2010.

The United States sealed a fifth consecutive win in all competitions as goals from Giovanni Reyna and Christian Pulisic secured a 2-1 friendly win over Northern Ireland. 

In the first-ever meeting between the two nations, USA went ahead after 30 minutes when Borussia Dortmund midfielder Reyna sent a deflected effort past Conor Hazard. 

That was Reyna's second goal in four appearances for his country, with his strike making him the youngest player to score an away goal for USA (18 years and 135 days) since Pulisic against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in September 2016 (17 years and 350 days).

Pulisic doubled the visitors' advantage in the 59th minute, stroking home from the penalty spot after he had been brought down inside the area by Daniel Ballard. That was the Chelsea man's eighth goal involvement in his last 10 appearances for his country (five goals, three assists). 

Substitute Niall McGinn pulled one back for Northern Ireland in the 88th minute but it proved too little, too late for Ian Baraclough's side, who are winless in their last 12 matches across all competitions.

Roberto Mancini and Leonardo Bonucci acknowledged there is room for improvement from Italy, despite kicking off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a routine 2-0 win over Northern Ireland.

Domenico Berardi scored for the third international running and Ciro Immobile doubled the Azzurri's lead before half-time in Thursday's Group C clash at Stadio Ennio Tardini.

After managing five attempts on target in a dominant first half, however, Italy dropped off in the second period and failed to test Bailey Peacock-Farrell on a single occasion.

Northern Ireland went close to pulling one back through strikes from Gavin Whyte, Michael Smith and Steven Davis, while Paddy McNair blazed over from a good position late on.

The victory was Italy's fourth in a row without conceding and extended their unbeaten run to 23 matches.

But Mancini was not pleased with what he saw in the second half of the game in Parma, which he put down to the lengthy break between matches for his side.

"After four months, the first half was excellent and we should've scored more goals," he told Rai Sport.

"We'll have to review the second half with the team, because we must do better than that. The first half was perfect and we should've had more goals.

"Perhaps we started to take a few too many touches after the break and the ball moved slowly, but that can happen after four months of not seeing each other.

"We could've won by a bigger margin in the first half, but we knew Northern Ireland were a physical side who could cause us problems. We made too many mistakes.

"The ball can go long at times, especially when we're pressed like that and the opposition are defending in numbers."

Italy's possession count dropped from 72.6 per cent in the first half to 59.6 in the second and they regularly gifted the ball to their opponents.

Bonucci, who became the eighth player to win 100 caps for Italy with his appearance on Thursday, accepted lessons can be learned from the contest.

"It's important that we kept a clean sheet, even if we made a lot of mistakes in the second half and need to improve, especially when we're in possession," he said.

"But what I've always liked since Mancini took over is the attitude. We face everyone without fear, we keep our nerve and go out there to win every game.

"It means there's a lot of hard work behind it, from the players and the staff, because the ideas are clear and we drill them in very quickly.

"The young players here have a lot of talent, along with the spirit of sacrifice and hard work, so these are the results."

With his 14th-minute strike in Parma, Immobile has now been directly involved in seven goals in his last seven starts for Italy - four goals and three assists.

It was a rare goal from open play, however, and the Lazio striker celebrated wildly at the empty ground.

"I felt a weight off my shoulders because I hadn't scored from open play for a year and a half in the Italy shirt," he told Rai Sport.

"I slipped on the first chance, the goalkeeper was there on the second, so I was feeling frustrated and let it all out after the third chance went in.

"Having competition for places only makes you more determined to find the net and help the team. [Andrea] Belotti scored last time, I got the goal this time, so there needs to be more faith in this Italy side."

Italy join second seeds Switzerland on three points at the top of Group C and travel to Sofia on Sunday to face Bulgaria in their next qualifier.

Mancini, who is one of only three coaches to stay unbeaten in his first 15 home matches in charge of Italy after Enzo Bearzot and Marcello Lippi, hinted he will heavily rotate his side for that match.

"We need to change something. We need some fresh players," he said at his post-match news conference. "Nothing should change on the pitch, even if we were to alter five players."

Italy kicked off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a straightforward 2-0 win over Northern Ireland at Stadio Ennio Tardini on Thursday.

The Azzurri entered the contest without defeat in 22 games and that unbeaten run never looked under threat from the moment Domenico Berardi opened the scoring 14 minutes in.

Ciro Immobile doubled the lead for Roberto Mancini's in-form side seven minutes before half-time and the hosts saw out victory despite an improved Northern Ireland display in the second period.

The win moves Italy level on three points with second seeds Switzerland - 3-1 victors against Bulgaria earlier on Thursday - at the top of Group C after their opening fixtures.

Northern Ireland were given an early warning when Immobile chested down Alessandro Florenzi's floated pass and fired straight at Bailey Peacock-Farrell, but there was no stopping Berardi's strike three minutes later.

The Sassuolo forward was played into space down the right by Florenzi and lifted the ball away from Peacock-Farrell at his near post to become the first Italy player to score in three successive matches under Mancini.

Italy continued to patiently probe away and had a second goal through Immobile's drive past Peacock-Farrell - again at the visiting keeper's front post - after being played in by Lorenzo Insigne on the counter.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was called into action twice in quick succession 11 minutes into the second half to keep out Gavin Whyte's volley and Michael Smith's follow-up attempt.

Milan stopper Donnarumma was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the second period, with Craig Cathcart and Steven Davis the next players to be denied, but there was to be no way through as Mancini's men triumphed again.

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