Fabinho praised the impact made by Raphinha since arriving in the Premier League and says he expected the Leeds United winger to join Liverpool earlier this year.

Raphinha has starred for Leeds since arriving from Rennes for a reported £17million (€20m) in October 2020 and was rewarded with his first cap for Brazil last week.

The 24-year-old further enhanced his reputation with two goals, while also winning a penalty, in a 3-1 World Cup qualifying victory against Venezuela.

He also featured as a second-half substitute in Brazil's stalemate with Colombia and is in contention to play a part in Thursday's clash with Uruguay.

Fabinho, who played a full the full 90 minutes in those two previous matches, has been particularly impressed by what he has seen from his international team-mate at club level.

"Since he arrived in the Premier League, has been performing and standing out very well at Leeds," Fabinho told reporters.

"Even in the summer transfer market, there was some talk that he could go to Liverpool. I even expected that to happen, but he stayed at Leeds."

Indeed, Raphinha's agent Deco has confirmed Liverpool showed an interest in the winger during the most recent transfer window without making a formal move.

"He's an important player," Deco told Brazilian outlet O Globo. "There are certainly several clubs that like him, and Liverpool do like him.

"There were approaches, but nothing official. Leeds wanted to keep him for another season."

That interest from Liverpool came on the back of a debut campaign in English football that saw Raphinha score six goals and assist nine more in the Premier League.

Only five others assisted more goals in the division last term, and while he has yet to set up a goal this campaign, his expected assists return of 1.81 ranks him among the top five players.

The ex-Sporting CP attacker already has three league goals to his name in 2021-22, coming from 24 shots, while only four others in the league have attempted more dribbles than his 37 – a list topped by Wolves' Adama Traore (61).

With Raphinha poised to feature for Brazil some 36 hours before Leeds' meeting with Southampton, however, Marcelo Bielsa faces being without his most influential attacker this weekend.

"There is no doubt that it's a short turnaround," Bielsa said at his pre-match news conference on Thursday. 

"The options he has to participate in the game on Saturday depends on whether he plays this final game tonight, how many minutes he plays, how he finishes the game after participating in it and how efficient his rest in the next 36 hours is.

"Considering that a third of those hours he will spend on a flight and if there is any risk that fatigue could cause injuries, then we won't risk it. There are so many aspects to consider that I can't offer you any certainty either way."

Hector Moreno and Raul Jimenez helped Mexico re-claim their three-point lead in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win away to El Salvador on Wednesday.

Moreno headed in Jesus Corona's 30th-minute corner before Mexico star Jimenez rounded out the win with a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time.

Hirving Lozano put an early chance wide, while Osvaldo Rodriguez also pushed a header off target before Moreno broke the deadlock with a glancing effort which crept in at the back post.

Both sides were then reduced to 10 men, with El Salvador losing Mario Jacobo to a straight red card for a foul on Rogelio Funes Mori in the 48th minute.

Mexico saw Nestor Araujo sent off with 23 minutes remaining for a second bookable offence, ruling him out of next month's crucial qualifier against the United States in Cincinnati.

Wolves' Jimenez cushioned the victory with his late spot-kick having returned to the national team last month after suffering a serious head injury in November last year.

The win moved unbeaten Mexico to 14 points after six games, three points ahead of USA, who came from behind to beat Costa Rica 2-1 earlier on Wednesday.

The United States came from behind to beat rivals Costa Rica 2-1 in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.

Sergino Dest scored a stunning goal as a youthful USA side overturned an early deficit to bounce back from their shock loss in Panama – the nation's first defeat during the 2022 qualifying campaign.

With an average age of 22 years and 229 days, USA's starting XI was the youngest fielded by the country in a World Cup qualifying fixture midweek.

USA faced an early test in Columbus after Keysher Fuller's volley found a way past goalkeeper Zack Steffen and into the back of the net in just the first minute.

A moment of brilliance from 20-year-old Dest restored parity for Gold Cup champions USA in the 25th minute – the Barcelona full-back drifted onto his left foot on the edge of the penalty area and fired a powerful strike into the top corner.

Gregg Berhalter's USA completed their comeback with 24 minutes remaining at Lower.com Field.

Costa Rica's Leonel Moreira – who replaced Keylor Navas at half-time – was unable to keep out Timothy Weah's shot at the near post.

USA moved level with arch-rivals Mexico on 11 points before El Tri face El Salvador on the road to Qatar 2022.

Barcelona are awaiting news on the extent of the hamstring problem sustained by Ronald Araujo while away on international duty with Uruguay.

The 22-year-old was injured during the second half of his national side's 3-0 loss to Argentina on Sunday and has been ruled out of Thursday's World Cup qualifier with Brazil.

Barcelona confirmed on Tuesday that Araujo, who has made 48 appearances for the club in total since his debut in October 2019, will now return to Catalonia to undergo further tests.

Araujo has appeared in all nine of Barca's games this season – seven in LaLiga and two in the Champions League – totalling 615 minutes on the field.

Only Marc-Andre ter Stegen (630), Frenkie de Jong (676), Sergio Busquets (734) and Memphis Depay (809) have featured more regularly under Ronald Koeman this term.

Araujo's passing accuracy of 93.59 per cent is the second-best of any defender to have played at least six times in LaLiga this term, behind Real Madrid's Nacho (93.82).

Koeman's side face Valencia on their return to LaLiga action on Sunday and have a huge showdown with Real Madrid to come the following week, with a Champions League tie against Dynamo Kiev sandwiched in between. 

 

Mexico moved top of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of 10-man Honduras on Sunday. 

It was not a routine fixture for Mexico, who lost at home to Honduras during qualifying for the 2014 and 2008 World Cups, but El Tri were up to the challenge at Azteca Stadium. 

The victory put Mexico on 11 points through five matches, three points clear of the United States and Panama after the USA's shock defeat in Panama City earlier on Sunday.

Sebastian Cordova opened the scoring in the 18th minute, driving home a shot from seven yards out with Honduras goalkeeper Luis Lopez out of position after a scramble around the goal. 

Four minutes into the second half, Honduras saw any realistic hopes of a comeback dashed when Maynor Figueroa drew a straight red card for a challenge on Raul Jimenez.

Rogelio Funes Mori provided a welcome cushion in the 76th minute, collecting a rebound from an Edson Alvarez shot that went off the post and driving it home for Mexico's second goal. 

Hirving Lozano sealed the win 10 minutes later as Mexico poured it on through the final whistle on the road to Qatar 2022.

 

Panama celebrated a famous win as Sunday's 1-0 victory gave them their first CONCACAF World Cup qualifying triumph over the United States.

USA entered the away fixture unbeaten in eight World Cup qualifiers against Panama, including six wins, and enjoying a 13-match undefeated streak across all competitions.

But Panama had other ideas thanks to Anibal Godoy, whose 54th-minute header secured an unlikely victory in Panama City on the road to Qatar 2022.

In wild scenes, Godoy – who plays in MLS for Nashville – headed home Eric Davis' corner at the near post.

It was a rough outing for Gold Cup champions USA, who appeared out of sorts having failed to produce a single shot on target throughout the fixture at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

Panama are now level with leaders USA and Mexico on eight points, though El Tri are due to face Honduras on Sunday.

Mexico and Canada played out a 1-1 draw in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying as El Tri failed to beat their emerging North American rivals for the first time in 13 years.

Not since 2008 had Mexico been unable to defeat Canada, a run of five consecutive victories across all competitions.

Mexico were forced to share the spoils with fellow unbeaten side Canada at the Azteca on Thursday after Jonathan Osorio cancelled out Jorge Sanchez's 21st-minute opener before half-time.

The result left Mexico level on eight points alongside the United States atop the standings in the final round of qualifying on the road to Qatar 2022, two points ahead of third-placed Canada through four matchdays.

Tata Martino's Mexico opened the scoring through Sanchez, who controlled Hirving Lozano's pass beautifully before finishing past Maxime Crepeau.

Canada were not overawed away from home – Alphonso Davies almost restored parity in the 31st minute but the ball was cleared from the Bayern Munich star's feet at the last moment with the goal at his mercy.

Osorio did equalise for Canada three minutes prior to the interval, finishing expertly beyond Guillermo Ochoa having been played through by Davies.

The second half was eventful, with play halted momentarily due to crowd chants, while Canada defender Alistair Johnson headed the ball onto his own crossbar as Ochoa produced an important save 12 minutes from the end.

The United States have found a new goalscoring star as Ricardo Pepi's brace inspired a 2-0 win over Jamaica in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. 

USA teenager Pepi now has three goals in two international appearances after the 18-year-old scored on his debut against Honduras last month on the road to Qatar 2022.

Playing before a home-state crowd in Austin, Texas on Thursday, the El Paso native and Dallas star cemented his newfound status as the central figure in USA's attack in the absence of Christian Pulisic. 

After the United States failed to score in the first half for the seventh successive game, Pepi found the net in the 49th minute with a header from seven yards out off a cross from Sergino Dest. 

In-demand teenage sensation Pepi followed that up in the 62nd minute by putting home a cross from Brenden Aaronson with his right foot, Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake having no chance to make the save as the former came clean through the middle of the defence. 

Pepi's heroics shifted the spotlight away from referee Reon Radix, who drew the ire of the home side by failing to show red cards when Jamaica players hauled down USA attackers who appeared to have a clear path to goal in the first and 33rd minutes. 

USA ultimately did not need help after dominating throughout the game, with 61 per cent of possession and seven shots on goal to Jamaica's one. 

After a second successive win following two road draws to open the final round of qualifying, USA – a point clear of Mexico before their clash with Canada – next travel to Panama on Sunday, while Jamaica host Canada the same day. 

 

 

 

 

The United States scored four unanswered goals in the second half to celebrate their first victory in 2022 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with a 4-1 rout of Honduras.

CONCACAF Gold Cup and Nations League champions the USA had drawn their opening two fixtures on the road to Qatar 2022 but goals from Antonee Robinson, Ricardo Pepi, Brenden Aaronson and Sebastian Lletget kick-started their campaign.

After cancelling out Bryan Moya's 27th-minute opener, the USA are third in the Octagonal standings, level on five points with Canada and Panama, and two points behind leaders Mexico.

Honduras went into the match having not beaten the USA since their 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory in 2013.

But Honduras took the lead approaching the half-hour mark thanks to a diving Moya, who glanced a header beyond USA goalkeeper Matthew Turner on Wednesday.

The USA lacked any real purpose or drive in the first half, but they emerged with renewed vigour in the second half – the visitors restoring parity within three minutes courtesy of Robinson's volley following a goal-mouth scramble.

Never in the USA's history had they drawn three consecutive matches – dating back to 1916 – and avoided doing so as teenage sensation Pepi's header gave the visitors a 2-1 lead with 15 minutes remaining.

Aaronson put the result beyond doubt in the 86th minute before Lletget's goal in the third minute of stoppage time sealed a 12th successive game without defeat under Gregg Berhalter.

Jesus Corona salvaged a 1-1 draw away to Panama as Mexico dropped points for the first time in 2022 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

Mexico had won their opening two Octagonal fixtures to sit top of the CONCACAF standings on the road to Qatar 2022.

But Panama and Mexico shared the points at Estadio Rommel Fernandez Gutierrez in Panama City on Wednesday.

Panama – also unbeaten – had suffered four consecutive defeats to Mexico since earning a goalless draw against El Tri in World Cup qualifying in 2016.

However, hosts Panama opened the scoring through Rolando Blackburn approaching the half-hour mark in the 28th minute.

Mexico – again without head coach Tata Martino following eye surgery – had their chances in the opening half, but it was not until the 76th minute that El Tri found the back of the net.

After Sebastian Cordova hit the post, Corona was on hand to convert the rebound with a curled effort past Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia.

The United States' stuttering start to World Cup qualifying continued after they were held to a 1-1 draw by rivals Canada.

Brendan Aaronson's 56th-minute opener was cancelled out within six minutes by Canada forward Cyle Larin as the USA drew consecutive games on the road to Qatar 2022.

Chelsea star Christian Pulisic returned to the starting line-up on Sunday after missing the USA's Octagonal opener against El Salvador following a positive coronavirus test.

Weston McKennie, though, was axed from the squad following a "violation of team policy", while Giovanni Reyna sat out due to a hamstring injury.

Canada made a lively start on the road in Nashville, where Larin checked his run and got on the end of Alphonso Davies' pass, but Matthew Turner somehow pushed the shot onto the crossbar in the 14th minute.

USA went close to breaking the deadlock five minutes before the break when Pulisic's shot hit the post from close-range.

CONCACAF Gold Cup champions the USA, though, did open the scoring via Aaronson, who slid onto the end of Antonee Robinson's cross 11 minutes into the second half.

The lead was short-lived however as Davies showed off his incredible pace, driving towards the penalty area before teeing up Larin for a simple tap-in just past the hour-mark.

Despite the draw, the USA extended their unbeaten streak to 11 matches across all competitions.

The United States and Canada both have two points from their opening two fixtures.

Mexico preserved their 100 per cent record in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying after edging Costa Rica 1-0 away from home.

Orbelin Pineda converted a penalty in first-half stoppage time and it proved to be enough on Sunday as Mexico made it two wins from two games in the Octagonal section of qualifying on the road to Qatar 2022.

Mexico head coach Gerardo Martino did not travel to Costa Rica after undergoing eye surgery and assistant Jorge Teller deputised in the absence of the former Barcelona and Argentina boss.

El Tri were underwhelming in their opening 2-1 win over Jamaica and they made another timid start on the road – Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa forced into a save to deny Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz.

Mexico had a great chance to break the deadlock three minutes later in the 18th minute after Rogelio Funes Mori found himself in a one-on-one situation with Keylor Navas, who thwarted the forward from close range.

Visiting Mexico did draw first blood on the stroke of half-time – Pineda scoring from the spot after Bryan Oviedo was penalised for a foul on Andres Guardado.

Costa Rica continued to push numbers forward and almost salvaged a point at the death, however, Keysher Fuller's 92nd-minute effort rattled the woodwork.

Mexico clinched the start they wanted, opening their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign with a dramatic 2-1 win over Jamaica. 

Henry Martin's 89th-minute strike was the difference at an empty Estadio Azteca, helping El Tri avoid an embarrassing result as they look to secure a spot at Qatar 2022. 

Mexico dominated possession throughout Thursday's fixture and out-shot Jamaica 27-5, but Reggae Boyz goalkeeper Andre Blake thwarted the hosts until Martin's last-gasp winner. 

A botched clearance by Jamaica in the 50th minute left the ball at Alexis Vega's feet, with multiple Mexico players in an offside position, he held the ball and worked his way toward the middle of the field along the top of the penalty area before sending a right-footed shot past a diving Blake.

Shamar Nicholson equalised 15 minutes later for Jamaica, firing a shot past Guillermo Ochoa after a poor clearance by Jorge Sanchez. 

Martin gave Mexico the three points in the end, collecting a pass from Luis Romo that was redirected by Cesar Montes and firing home just inside the top of the area.

Nearly four years after the infamous loss to Trinidad and Tobago that saw the United States fail to qualify for Russia 2018, a young USA side opened the final round of 2022 World Cup qualifying with a 0-0 draw at El Salvador on Thursday. 

USA head coach Gregg Berhalter's inexperienced team, missing star Christian Pulisic and goalkeeper Zack Steffen, managed to take a point before a raucous crowd in San Salvador following their CONCACAF Gold Cup success last month.

It might not have been a scintillating performance for a side coming off Gold Cup and CONCACAF Nations League triumphs, but the USA will take it after opening their 2018 qualifying campaign with successive losses. 

Nine players in the USA starting line-up were making their first appearance in a World Cup qualifier, with DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Ream the only exceptions, but the group did not appear rattled on the road. 

USA had a tantalising chance after eight minutes when Miles Robinson got free behind the El Salvador defence on a Gio Reyna free-kick, but saw his header sail over the goal. 

El Salvador's best opportunity of the first half came in the 33rd minute when California-born Alex Roldan cut in from the left after a short corner and curled a ball over USA goalkeeper Matt Turner that grazed the top of the crossbar. 

The home side had a chance to take the lead in the 57th minute, as Turner had to dive to his left to save a header from Eriq Zavaleta off a corner from Marvin Monterroza, the first and only shot on target for El Salvador. 

Weston McKennie had a clear header in the 72nd minute, however the USA and Juventus midfielder could not put home Reyna's cross, one of several missed opportunities for the visitors.

The result snapped the USA's nine-match winning streak, but they still have suffered only one defeat in their last 20 games dating to November 2019, a 2-1 friendly loss at Switzerland in May. 

 

The first international break of the 2021-22 campaign has arrived, and with it comes an opportunity for many national teams to start afresh.

Following the conclusion of the Copa America, Gold Cup and Euro 2020 in quick succession, all roads now lead to the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

For a number of players, the September qualifiers provide an opportunity to make an impression, while for others it is potentially a first taste of international football. 

With the games coming thick and fast over the next week or so, Stats Perform has looked at those in contention to make their senior international debuts.

Albert Sambi Lokonga (Belgium)

Belgium's golden generation of talent missed another opportunity to turn promise into something more tangible when losing to eventual winners Italy in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.

Roberto Martinez has decided against wholesale changes after that disappointment, with Lokonga the only outfield player in line for his first cap, having failed to get further than the bench – against Greece in June – after previous call-ups.

A product of the same Anderlecht youth system that oversaw the development of Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker, among others, Lokonga sealed a move to Arsenal in July after impressing in the Belgian top flight.

The £15million signing has not had the best of starts to life at Arsenal, the Gunners finding themselves bottom of the English top-flight table having played at least three league matches for the first time since October 1974.

Lokonga, noted for his ability to play in front of the defence, featured in just two of those games yet still trails Granit Xhaka alone in terms of passes (113 to 139) and successful passes (97 to 118) and is behind only Sead Kolasinac for interceptions.

 

Claudinho (Brazil)

Citing concerns over the availability of his European-based contingent due to clubs being reluctant to release players to red-list countries, Tite has named a bloated Brazil squad for this month's triple-header of World Cup qualifiers.

Those complications appear set to deny Raphinha a debut, having impressed during his first year in the Premier League with Leeds United. 

Raphinha ranks seventh in the division for dribbles attempted since the start of last season (142), completing 42.96 per cent of those. He also ranks in the top 10 for chances created over that period with 68.

But Claudinho remains in line to be capped for the first time, called up after helping his country secure Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.

The midfielder, whose signing at Zenit was announced not long after the Olympic tournament had concluded, described his call-up as "a dream come true".

Theo Hernandez and Moussa Diaby (France)

It is out with the old and in with the new as far as France's first post-Euros squad is concerned – to an extent, at least, with Olivier Giroud one of nine players to make way from the previous group named by Didier Deschamps.

Injuries have also played a part in that, potentially giving a quartet of uncapped players the chance to impress in the upcoming qualifiers with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine and Finland.

Hernandez, a more natural left-back option than brother Lucas, will feel his first call-up is long overdue following back-to-back campaigns as a regular for Milan, whom he joined from Real Madrid. 

Since making his Rossoneri bow in September 2019, no defender in Serie A has completed more dribbles than Hernandez (133), while only Federico Dimarco (87) and Juan Cuadrado (107) have created more chances than his 86.

Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and Roma's Jordan Veretout may also feature during this international break, but perhaps the most exciting of the new additions is Bayer Leverkusen winger Diaby.

The Paris Saint-Germain product scored twice and assisted another in Leverkusen's opening two Bundesliga games of 2021-22, while Alphonso Davies is the only player in the division to have attempted more dribbles this term (24 to his 22).

Known for his blistering pace and ability to take on opponents, Diaby could well provide Deschamps with a different option in an attack already packed full of talent.

 

Otavio (Portugal)

Three new players have been called up by Fernando Santos, who is looking to the future after his Portugal side's reign as European champions came to an end in July.

Goncalo Inacio is injured, but Diogo Costa and Otavio could each make their senior debuts during this international window, with the latter the name on many lips right now.

Otavio has tallied 11 goal involvementss in each of the past two Primeira Liga campaigns for Porto and has made a fast start to the new season with two assists in his first four games.

Since the start of last season, only team-mate Mehdi Taremi has provided more assists (12) in the Portuguese top flight than Otavio's 10, coming from 51 chances created.

The Brazilian-born attacking midfielder was granted Portuguese citizenship earlier this year and will be eager to show that Brazil's loss is very much Portugal's gain should he get some minutes over the next week.

Ricardo Pepi (United States)

The dual-national drama surrounding Pepi appears to have reached a resolution as the FC Dallas forward has seemingly pledged his allegiance to the United States over Mexico.

After breaking into the Dallas side two years ago and featuring regularly last year, 2021 has been quite the season for the El Paso-born youngster.

Pepi, who does not turn 19 until next January, has 11 goals and two assists in 21 games this term and scored the decisive kick in last week's penalty shoot-out win for MLS against their Liga MX counterparts in the All-Star Game.

He has 13 MLS goals in total, the fourth-most ever by a teenager – ahead of Freddy Adu – and just nine short of the record held by Diego Fagundez.

On the basis of the past four months in particular, the USMNT could have a potentially world-class player to lead their line for a number of years to come.

 

Karim Adeyemi (Germany)

For the first time in 17 years, Germany will play a match without Joachim Low in their dugout either as assistant or head coach when they face Liechtenstein on Thursday.

Hansi Flick is tasked with ushering in a new generation of German talents, with help from the old guard, many of whom were key to his successful spell at Bayern Munich.

Away from regulars such as Thomas Muller, Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich and Manuel Neuer, Flick has included four uncapped players in his first squad – David Raum, Nico Schlotterbeck, Florian Wirtz and Adeyemi.

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

Adeyemi, who left Bayern six years earlier, has been given the chance to spread his wings with Salzburg and has been strongly linked with Red Bull sister club RB Leipzig.

He already has six goals in six Austrian Bundesliga appearances this term, just one less than he managed in 29 top-flight appearances last time out – a return he will be looking to build on if he is given the nod by Flick.

Justin Bijlow (Netherlands)

The Netherlands are another European heavyweight going through a transitional period of sorts after turning to veteran coach Louis van Gaal for a third stint in charge.

Frank de Boer failed to get the most out of this talented Dutch squad and already Van Gaal has put his own mark on the team by calling up a few newbies.

There will be plenty of focus on the goalkeeping position as, with Jasper Cillessen not fully fit and Maarten Stekelenburg recently retiring, Joel Drommel and Bijlow can stake a claim to be the long-term number one.

Bijlow is considered one of the finest young goalkeepers in Europe and already has 45 Eredivisie games under his belt for Feyenoord, where he is a real fan favourite.

The 23-year-old has kept 15 clean sheets across those appearances and boasts a save percentage of 72.16. Van Gaal can seemingly rely on the young stopper, as he has made just one error leading to a goal.

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