Inter's unlikely 2009-10 Champions League success under Jose Mourinho could inspire Cameroon to a shock World Cup triumph in Qatar, according to the former Nerazzurri and Indomitable Lions striker Samuel Eto'o.

The Cameroon great was part of the Inter side that completed a stunning treble in 2009-10, winning a fifth consecutive Scudetto, the Coppa Italia and their first Champions League or European Cup title in 45 years.

Diego Milito's brace was enough to down Bayern Munich in the final of UEFA's elite club competition, with Eto'o assisting the Argentina international for his second goal to wrap up victory.

Inter overcame Chelsea and Barcelona either side of defeating of CSKA Moscow en route to the final, and Eto'o – who is now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation – optimistically believes his country can follow the Nerazzurri's example at Qatar 2022.

"I don't see why he can't win it," he told reporters in Milan, where the 41-year-old has returned to announce a charity friendly game in San Siro on May 23 that will include the likes of Francesco Totti and Lionel Messi.

"I believe that in order to win the World Cup you don't need to be monsters or aliens, you need good preparation, a strong mentality and a pinch of madness.

"I won a bit in my career and to do it I gave everything. 

"I always take Inter as an example: no one at the beginning of the 2009-10 season thought we could win [the Champions League] and instead Mourinho did something crazy, with a group of men and warriors.

"I would like something like that for Cameroon too."

Cameroon's best performance at a World Cup saw them famously reach the 1990 quarter-finals, but they did not make it out of the group in any of their other six participations, failing to even register a point at either South Africa 2010 or Brazil 2014.

Having missed out on Russia 2018, Cameroon will have to overcome the world's number-one ranked side Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in Group G later this year.

The Football Association has denied reports that it plans to replace 'Three Lions' as England's official World Cup anthem for Qatar 2022.

British newspaper The Sun claimed on Thursday that The FA is reviewing other options over concerns the song, which has been a fans' favourite since Euro 96, offends other nations.

Luka Modric said after Croatia's win over England in the 2018 World Cup semi-final that his side were additionally motivated to win due to the song's lyrics.

It had been suggested that 'Sweet Caroline', which became synonymous with England's run to last year's Euro 2020 final, would replace the Baddiel and Skinner hit.

However, the FA has released a statement denying that is the case.

"Contrary to reports this morning, The FA still plays Three Lions at major Wembley matches and has never had any intention of doing otherwise," the statement read.

"The song belongs to the fans and is about the hope of following the England team. 

"It was requested by The FA to be played as one of our team songs at the 2018 World Cup and at the EUROs last summer, and this is our plan at tournaments going forwards."

FIFA have ordered the Senegalese Football Federation to play a competitive match behind closed doors and fined them $180,000 after a series of incidents in March's World Cup qualifier against Egypt, including the use of laser pens to target Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

After Egypt and Senegal each claimed 1-0 home wins in their two-legged play-off for World Cup qualification, Salah was targeted by a number of laser pens as he missed his penalty in the decisive shoot-out in Dakar, which Senegal went on to win.

Egypt lodged a complaint after their defeat, which came little over a month after the Pharaohs had lost the Africa Cup of Nations final on penalties to the same opponents, also claiming Salah was subject to racist abuse and their team bus targeted by missiles before the game.

Just as he did in February's Africa Cup of Nations final, Salah's Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane netted the winning spot-kick to hand Senegal a place at the Qatar World Cup.

Now, FIFA's disciplinary committee has punished the African champions for a series of offences, including a "failure to implement existing safety rules and failure to ensure that law and order are maintained in the stadium."

Senegal have also been punished for an "invasion of the field of play, throwing of objects, lighting of fireworks, use of laser pointers and use of objects to transmit a message that is not appropriate for a sports event."

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Football Federation have also been ordered to play a match behind closed doors, and received a fine of $154,000, after a pitch invasion that followed their away-goals elimination against Ghana in Abuja.

Senegal will be making their third appearance at the FIFA World Cup later this year, and will kick the tournament off when they face the Netherlands in Group A on November 21 – the first time since 1954 where the tournament's opening match doesn’t involve either the hosts or the defending champions.

Ukraine's hopes of reaching the World Cup will be decided in early June after new dates were confirmed for the postponed play-off games.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine meant the original plan to play Scotland in March was shelved and the knock-on effect was that Wales have also been kept waiting.

To reach the finals in Qatar, Ukraine must win away to Scotland on Wednesday, June 1, before coming out on top in another away game against Wales on June 5.

Wales secured their place in the final round of the play-offs with a 2-1 victory against Austria on March 24, which had been the original date for the Scotland-Ukraine fixture.

The winner of the final European play-off will go into a World Cup group alongside England, Iran and the United States.

UEFA announced the new play-off dates on Thursday, as well as explaining how its Nations League opening fixtures, also set for the June international window, would be rearranged to allow for Ukraine, Wales and Scotland to fulfil their World Cup commitments.

European football's governing body said it had held "extensive discussions" with eight national associations who would be affected by the World Cup games being switched to the intended Nations League dates and said there had been "a remarkable spirit of solidarity and cooperation" in negotiating an updated schedule.

Wales were due to play Poland in the Nations League on June 3, but that game has been switched to June 1, meaning Rob Page's team will have a competitive game in the build-up to facing either Scotland or Ukraine.

Scotland had been due to play Ukraine in the Nations League on June 7, but that game has been shunted back to September 21, with both teams then due to play three games in seven days.


Nations League group A4 and B1 games affected by World Cup play-offs, with new dates:

June 1: A4 - Poland v Wales
June 4: B1 - Armenia v Republic of Ireland
June 8: A4 - Belgium v Poland, Wales v Netherlands; Scotland v Armenia, Republic of Ireland v Ukraine
June 11: A4 - Netherlands v Poland, Wales v Belgium
June 14: A4 - Netherlands v Wales, Poland v Belgium
September 21: B1 - Scotland v Ukraine
September 24: B1 - Scotland v Republic of Ireland, Armenia v Ukraine
September 27: B1 - Republic of Ireland v Armenia, Ukraine v Scotland

Gareth Bale will "definitely" continue to play club football next season if Wales qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, says national team boss Rob Page.

Page also vehemently defended Bale against recent media criticism in Spain, saying he was angered by Marca's depiction of the Real Madrid winger as a "parasite" last month.

Bale's future has been called into question in recent weeks, with the 32-year-old making just four starts for Carlo Ancelotti's team in LaLiga this season and speculation abounding that the wideman could call time on his club career.

However, Wales' caretaker manager Page is certain the four-time Champions League winner would continue playing to fulfil his dream of featuring at a World Cup, should Wales qualify, although he was none the wiser as to where he would go when his Madrid contract expires in June.

"If we get to the World Cup in November, then he will definitely be playing football," Page told the Athletic. "The World Cup is his dream, the one thing missing from his CV. 

"Where he'll play, I'm not sure, whether he comes home, stays in Spain, fancies another challenge, I really don't know."

Bale netted twice in Wales' crucial 2-1 victory against Austria last month, including a stunning free-kick opener, to send the Dragons to June's play-off final in Cardiff.

If Wales beat either Scotland or Ukraine to secure a place in Qatar, they will make their first World Cup appearance since 1958, and would feature in the same group as rivals England.

Page was also asked about the Spanish media's coverage of Bale's Real Madrid career, saying he was left fuming by Marca depicting Bale as a "parasite" last month.

"I'm absolutely appalled by it," he added. "I know Gareth well now and a lot of people don't see what he does off the pitch, the donations he made to the NHS recently, to a hospital in Cardiff, a considerable amount of money.

"He doesn't get credit for that because he doesn't shout about it and people don’t hear about it. He keeps it to himself. 

"That parasite comment made my blood boil. I don't like that. 

"That's not the Gareth Bale who is the captain of our country, who represents us, and he never will be that."

Bale is the top goalscorer in the history of the Welsh national team, netting 38 times in his 102 senior caps to date. Only Chris Gunter, meanwhile, has made more appearances for Wales, winning five caps more than the Madrid winger.

Sergio Ramos says he has "four or five more years" left at a high level despite struggling for game time since his move to Paris Saint-German. 

The 36-year-old has endured an injury-hit first campaign in the French capital, playing 392 minutes across his seven appearances in all competitions, just four of which were starts. 

However, the former Real Madrid defender impressed on his return to the line-up in PSG's 6-1 thrashing of Clermont last time out, as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe each netted hat-tricks and Lionel Messi claimed three assists. 

Ramos completed 99 of his 105 attempted passes – both of which were game highs – during the Ligue 1 leaders' dominant win. 

The defender now says he believes he can play at the highest level into his forties, insisting he feels back to his physical best. 

"I see myself playing four or five more years at a high level, and then [I'll have] another experience," Ramos told Amazon Prime Video in France. 

"Here in Paris, I have two more years [on my contract], I'll try to make it three, [with] one more, we'll see.  

"As long as my physique holds up, I think my head is very focused. Now, I'm very well, very happy and eager to play." 

Ramos' excellent distribution from the back contributed to PSG completing 93.6 per cent of their passes against Clermont, the highest percentage managed by any Ligue 1 team since Opta began recording such data in the 2006-07 season. 

Meanwhile, Ramos refused to say whether he preferred international football to the club game, having won an incredible 180 caps for Spain during a glittering career that has seen him win one World Cup and two European Championships. 

He never formally retired from international duty despite being left out of Luis Enrique's squad for Euro 2020 and could yet look to fight his way back into the coach's plans for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

"It's a difficult question to answer," Ramos added. "The feeling of your homeland and your country is always something very big. [The feeling] that your team is to whom you owe yourself, [that] you have to play well in your [club] team to be selected.  

"They are both a unique feeling, I can't keep [only] one, although with the national team you can aspire to be a world champion." 

PSG have a 12-point lead over second-placed Marseille in Ligue 1, and Mauricio Pochettino's team can take a huge step towards securing the French title when they face their nearest rivals on Sunday. 

Former Juventus defender Fabio Cannavaro says the Bianconeri can still win the Scudetto this season, insisting Massimiliano Allegri's men have a chance in a "four-man race" for the title.

Cannavaro noted the slip-ups of Juventus' rivals as a reason for his belief in his former club's chances, claiming "it seems that nobody wants to win" Serie A.

The legendary centre-back also demanded far-reaching changes across Italian football in response to the Azzurri's recent failure to reach this year's Qatar World Cup, but would not be drawn on talk he could replace Roberto Mancini as the national team's coach.

Juventus are six points behind leaders Milan with six games remaining, and narrowed the gap on their rivals over the weekend, beating Cagliari 2-1 before Milan drew 0-0 with Torino and Napoli lost 3-2 to Fiorentina.

Juventus have now won three consecutive away league games for the first time this season, and the 48-year-old, who left the club for Real Madrid after captaining Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, believes Allegri's men remain in the hunt.

"It seems that nobody wants to win it," the 2006 Ballon D'or winner said at an event in Tuscany. "The feeling is that when there is the chance to make a difference, something always happens.

"The championship is always open, anything can happen. Seeing the results of those ahead [of Juventus], it's a four-man race.

"We know Juventus, they never give up, it is certainly a championship that can give us surprises.

"It's a strange championship, when you have the chance to knock the others off [the top], nobody does. It's a championship that anyone can win, all four of them. If the results are [to continue like] these, it will be an interesting ending ".

If Juventus were to win the title, it would represent their 10th Scudetto in 11 years, and their sixth under the tutelage of Allegri.

Cannavaro was also asked about his country's second consecutive failure to qualify for the World Cup after Italy suffered a shock play-off defeat to North Macedonia last month.

"It hurts," he said of the failure to reach Qatar. "After 2006, we are no longer able to [have our] say at the World Cup, which has always seen us as protagonists.

"Beyond this, this resignation to the fact that it has to be like this saddens me. It is a shame, there are generations [of Italians] that have not seen a final phase [of a World Cup].

"We need to change quickly. I don't have the cure, I don't have the recipe, it's not up to me.

"It [the Italian Football Federation] is an organisation that doesn't work. Before, the [Italian] teams went to Europe and commanded, we went to Champions League finals, now we haven't reached it for years.

"It [talk of Cannavaro succeeding Mancini] is normal. You can't focus on one man, but on a system that has failed for too many years. I haven't heard from anyone."

Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Giovanni Reyna's season is over after the club confirmed the United States international suffered a muscle and tendon injury against Stuttgart on Friday.

The teenager was forced off in the early stages of BVB's 2-0 Bundesliga victory in the latest of a line of fitness issues that have seriously impacted his season.

Now, Dortmund have confirmed he will sit out the rest of the campaign, with Marco Rose's side nine points of adrift of leaders Bayern Munich.

"Midfielder Gio Reyna, who had to be substituted early in the game, suffered a muscle and tendon injury," Dortmund confirmed in a statement. "The season is over for the American."

Restricted to just 13 appearances this term for the German side, English-born playmaker Reyna has struggled to live up to the heights of his first full senior season last term.

He suffered a hamstring injury in September while on international duty against El Salvador and subsequently was out of action into the new year.

A return to action in February for Dortmund saw him promptly reaggravate the problem, though he only missed a few further weeks.

He subsequently recovered in time to play a part in the Stars and Stripes' successful Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification last month but will now wait for the 2022-23 season to play again.

 

 

Pep Guardiola says he will happily manage Manchester City for the rest of his career as he shut down speculation linking him with the soon-to-be-vacant Brazil job.

With head coach Tite set to step down after the World Cup, reports from Spain earlier this week suggested Brazil have already reached out to Guardiola.

According to Marca, Brazil are willing to pay Guardiola a salary of €12million (£10m) a year through until after the next World Cup in 2026.

However, asked about the rumours on Friday, Guardiola made clear that he cannot see himself managing any side other than City.

"Not today, come on," he told a news conference.

"I'm under contract here and I'm so happy. I'm willing to stay forever here. There cannot be a better place to be [than City]. 

"I'd extend the contract ten years but I could not extend the contract ten years. Now is not the moment. I don't know where it's come from."

Guardiola was speaking ahead of Sunday's huge showdown with Premier League title rivals Liverpool, with City holding a one-point lead over Jurgen Klopp's team.

The ex-Barcelona coach was also questioned about another article published this week, in German outlet Der Spiegel, alleging City are being investigated over illegal payments.

Among other allegations, Der Spiegel reported that City pressured young players "to sign contracts through monetary payments, in violation of the rules".

City have yet to officially comment on the matter and Guardiola did not want to discuss it any further when probed on the topic.

"It's come from outside," he said. "When you understand the important win we had a few days ago [against Atletico Madrid], and the games ahead, I don't spend one second on it.

"In fact, I have spent 50 seconds talking about it now, so next question."

Neville Southall insists Jordan Pickford is not to blame for Everton's woes and believes he is rightfully England's first-choice goalkeeper.

Pickford captained Everton as Frank Lampard's team capitulated to another dismal away defeat on Wednesday, this time to relegation rivals Burnley.

Two penalties from Richarlison had put Everton 2-1 up at Turf Moor heading into half-time yet Jay Rodriguez and Maxwel Cornet struck to seal a 3-2 victory for Burnley that takes the Clarets to within a point of Lampard's side, who sit 17th with nine games remaining.

Pickford was hardly at fault for any of Burnley's goals and has been a consistent performer for Everton despite their torrid form.

The 28-year-old's place as England number one has been called into question this term, due in large part to Aaron Ramsdale's strong form for Arsenal, though Gareth Southgate has stood by Pickford, who has played a pivotal role in the Three Lions reaching a World Cup semi-final and the final of Euro 2020.

Asked about Pickford by Sky Sports, Everton great Southall, who was their goalkeeper throughout the club's successful spell in the 1980s, said: "Confidence plays a part in it. Jordan Pickford's done nothing wrong this season.

"Unfortunately at the moment, we've got Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal and traditionally most of the media want somebody to play [for England] from a London club.

"So he's always going to be under more scrutiny because he's playing for a club up north. I truly believe there's been a witch hunt against him through the media at times and I think it's just silly.

"He's a decent goalkeeper, playing for England. Is he going to make mistakes? Of course he is, because he's human."

Southall also believes fans and pundits have to be more aware of the potential damage that being highly critical of players can do to their mental wellbeing.

"We've got to think about what we say to these players," he continued. "Telling them all the time that they can't do stuff. 

"We should start saying that they can do it. They don't know what damage they're doing. You're entitled to an opinion but some of the language I think has been over the top and it can affect some of the players. For me it's about looking after the players' welfare."

Everton's situation makes for grim reading. Lampard has lost all five of his Premier League away games in charge of the club – he is the first manager to lose his first five away matches at a Premier League side since Jan Siewert at Huddersfield Town in 2019, who lost his first seven.

Southall, though, has put the onus on the players to step up after mistakes from Ben Godfrey and Jonjoe Kenny proved costly at Turf Moor.

"I wouldn't say any, to be fair," Southall said when asked how much responsibility fell on Lampard's shoulders.

"Whoever he puts out it's up to them to do the job. It's all about the players on the pitch. The players have to emulate the fans, passion, expression, desire and if they show them things I think we'll get results."

Everton face Manchester United at Goodison Park on Saturday.

England could be considered as "the biggest favourite" for the 2022 World Cup, according to former Three Lions manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Gareth Southgate's team reached the semi-finals at Russia 2018, matching England's best effort at a World Cup since they triumphed on home soil in 1966.

England then made their first major tournament final appearance since 1966 when they faced Italy in a Euro 2020 showdown last year, only to lose on penalties.

Eriksson managed England at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, reaching the quarter-finals of each tournament respectively, while also getting to the last eight at Euro 2004.

Beaten by Brazil in 2002, and Portugal at the following two tournaments, Eriksson was unable to guide England's 'golden generation' to success.

But the Swede believes Southgate's team have earned the right to be considered among the favourites – and, indeed, the frontrunner overall – to succeed in Qatar later this year.

Eriksson told Stats Perform: "I think they are one of the big teams who can win, and maybe they are the biggest favourite.

 

"I'm not sure how strong Brazil and Argentina are in this moment, but in Europe, Italy [are] not there. Spain, I don't think they are good enough to win it too. Germany, you never know they could do it. Belgium, always a good team."

Eriksson also believes England should easily progress from Group B, in which they have been drawn alongside Iran, the United States and one of Ukraine, Scotland or Wales.

"The group with England, Iran, United States and then it's Ukraine Scotland or Wales. I mean, it's always difficult in the World Cup, but I can't see them not winning that group," Eriksson added.

"That's impossible. They will win it easily. And then it depends always, who are you going to meet next stage, and then if you win there you go to the quarter-final.

"So, a little bit of luck there and no injuries, important players and so on and England can do it."

Ronald Koeman will return to his former role as head coach of the Netherlands national team after the 2022 World Cup.

The former Barcelona boss will take over from Louis van Gaal, who revealed recently on Dutch TV show Humberto he has undergone 25 rounds of radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

The 70-year-old has continued to work and did not tell his players of his condition when the Netherlands squad got together in March for friendlies against Denmark and Germany.

However, Van Gaal will remain in charge for the tournament in Qatar, which takes place between November 21 and December 18, with Koeman resuming the role he left in 2020 after that.

The news was confirmed by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) on Wednesday.

"I am looking forward to the new collaboration," Koeman said. "A little over a year and a half ago, I certainly did not leave the Dutch national team out of dissatisfaction. 

"My stay felt good, the results were good and the connection with the players was good. We will soon continue on that path, that is certain to me."

Marianne van Leeuwen, director of professional football for the KNVB, said: "We are very happy that Ronald will return next year. During his previous term as national coach, there was great satisfaction with his work and the results.

"That is why, after internal deliberations, together with director of top-level football Nico-Jan Hoogma, I entered into discussions with Ronald and his agent Rob Jansen."

Koeman previously spent just over two years as national team coach between 2018 and 2020, guiding the Netherlands to the final of the 2018-19 Nations League, before leaving for Barca in August 2020.

The Netherlands will face hosts Qatar, Senegal and Ecuador in Group A at the World Cup following Friday's draw.

Russia has withdrawn its appeal against a ban for its teams from FIFA competitions after World Cup qualifying continued without its senior men's national team.

Russian teams were suspended from FIFA and UEFA competitions following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

The FIFA sanction meant Valeri Karpin's Russia could not compete in their scheduled World Cup play-off semi-final against Poland.

The Russian Football Union (RFU) asked for the ban to be delayed, with that match set for late March, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected its request.

It meant Poland progressed to a final against Sweden, who had defeated the Czech Republic. Poland won to advance to Qatar 2022.

With that tie settled and Poland drawn into a World Cup group alongside Argentina, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, CAS announced on Tuesday the RFU had withdrawn its appeal last week.

Russia's challenges of various bans – including from UEFA – appear set to continue, however.

Wayne Rooney would be "delighted" if Harry Kane surpasses him as England's record goalscorer, but hopes it happens before the 2022 World Cup.

Kane matched Bobby Charlton on 49 goals for the Three Lions when he struck the winner against Switzerland on March 26.

However, Gareth Southgate chose to rotate his squad for last week's meeting with Ivory Coast at Wembley.

England cruised to a 3-0 win, with Kane coming on in the 62nd minute, though the Tottenham striker did not score.

Rooney was stunned the forward, who he labelled as "one of the best players the Premier League has seen", did not start against Ivory Coast, as he believes it would be better for England if Kane breaks the record prior to the World Cup, which starts in November.

"I'd be delighted for him," Rooney said on Sky Sports. "I was so surprised he didn't play against Ivory Coast.

"I think for him, for Gareth as well, he should try and get that record before the World Cup so it doesn't become a distraction, so I would have played him to try and get that record before the World Cup comes along, so there's no distraction on it."

The Derby County boss was also asked if Kane, who he also called a "genuine, nice, humble guy" will go on to surpass Alan Shearer as the Premier League's record goalscorer. The 28-year-old is currently 82 short of the haul of 260.

 

"I think he gets it, I think he beats Shearer. He's young enough to do that, if you look at his numbers, he'll have no problem," Rooney said.

Kane turned in a star performance in Spurs' thrashing of Newcastle United on Sunday. He provided one assist, but was involved heavily as Antonio Conte's team moved into the top four.

After a slow start to the season, Kane now has 12 league goals and six assists, and Rooney is thrilled to see how the forward has developed his game, in particular under Conte.

"When you get a bit older you lose that sharpness but I don't think it’s the case with Harry," Rooney added. 

"I think over the last couple of seasons, he has been dropping deeper, and I think this is the first time it looks like it's worked on. If you look every time the ball is played into him, Tottenham have got players sprinting and that allows him to use his quality. He can do both. He can play as a nine, a 10, he's an incredible player.

"I think Harry Kane of three, four years ago, all he's thinking about goals. Now he's thinking goals and assists.

"I've been there, I used to love assisting goals, so I know he wants to get the goalscoring record but I think he wants to get the assist record as well and he's capable of doing it.

"He's not old, he's a fairly young lad, I don't think his speed will have gone, I think he's done that on his own back but what Conte's done is he's gone in and worked on it. If you look at the reaction of the other players, they know he can deliver that pass. It's almost like [Francesco] Totti at Roma, he'd come deep and they'd have runners going beyond him.

"The one thing I think he needs to do a bit more is go and join in, once he's played the pass, because if it comes into the box he's the one player you want to be on the end of it."

Kane has assisted 40 goals in the Premier League; his first 20 assists were spread across his first 211 appearances in the competition, while his last 20 have come in his last 63 matches.

Ukraine midfielder Taras Stepanenko wants their World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final against Scotland to be postponed again.

Scotland and Ukraine were meant to meet last month, but FIFA delayed the match until June due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

As such, Wales – who beat Austria 2-1 in their play-off semi – are yet to find out which team they will face for a place at the Qatar World Cup in November.

Wales, Scotland and Ukraine all know which group they will be in should they progress, however, with the winner of the play-off path having been drawn alongside England, Iran and the United States in Group B.

But with no sign of the conflict in Ukraine ceasing, Stepanenko, who has played 69 times for his country, has called on FIFA to delay the match with Scotland again. 

The Shakhtar Donetsk man, who last played a match in December, told The Sunday Times: "We don't want to be known as victims here. We are strong and capable guys, everyone is fine, and we can play 100 per cent.

"But the question I would ask is how can we play such an important game when you haven't played a match for such a long time?

"Every football player knows that if you recover from an injury for a long time, no matter how much you work out in the gym and do running, you go out to play football and everything is different.

"The level and strength may not be enough with one match, but we will be asked to play two incredibly tough matches in maybe four days to get to the World Cup. If there is no option, then we must play.

"But I think it would be extremely difficult to achieve two positive results. We are hoping FIFA and UEFA recognise this and postpone the matches to give us more time to prepare."

Speaking after the World Cup draw was made in Doha on Friday, both England manager Gareth Southgate and USA coach Gregg Berhalter stressed they were not concerned by how long it might take for the final team in their group to be confirmed, given the extraordinary circumstances.

"When that tie is played out is irrelevant really," said Southgate, while Berhalter added: "We're patient on that and pulling for [Ukraine] 100 per cent."

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