Former Germany defender Jerome Boateng has laughed off criticism of the national team ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, joking there are "80 million national coaches".

Germany's 3-3 Nations League draw with England on Monday meant they finished third in Group A3, having won just one of their six matches.

Their shaky recent performances and failure to reach the Nations League's final four have led to questions being asked of manager Hansi Flick.

But Boateng, who played 76 times for Germany between 2009 and 2018, believes fans should reserve judgement of the team until the World Cup is over.

"Shortly before the World Cup we have 80 million national coaches again," Boateng wrote in an Instagram story, alongside a laughing emoji.

"We have a strong team, we can beat any opponent and become world champions. We have young players in all positions.

"How about approaching the World Cup in a positive way and not criticising the team and bringing in unrest?

"Stay positive and support the team together. After the World Cup you can add your two cents again."

Spain's all-time leading goalscorer Jennifer Hermoso has backed a group of 15 players who are refusing to represent the national team under head coach Jorge Vilda.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) claimed last week that 15 of La Roja's players had pledged not to play for the side while Vilda retained his position, citing impacts on their "emotional state".

The RFEF has since offered its support to Vilda, describing the players' behaviour as "harmful".

However, Barcelona's Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas, who has played 100 games for Spain, joined the rebellion by posting a statement from the disgruntled players on social media on Friday.

Hermoso was not among the initial group of 15 to write to the RFEF, but the striker – who has scored 46 international goals – has now offered her "unconditional support" for those who did.

In a statement on Twitter, Hermoso wrote: "Frankly, I wish this situation had never been made public, but I respect the decision of my colleagues, who, despite having expressed themselves privately, have been subjected to a level of exposure that they never sought.

"We all deserve respect and the space to express ourselves safely and without fear of repercussions.

"I want to start by acknowledging how privileged I am to belong to a group of colleagues who have contributed directly and indirectly to the development of women's football in Spain.

"I have always put the group first and this time will be no different because for me, defending my country is and always will be my great pride and motivation.

"Throughout these years I have witnessed significant growth and consistent evolution in the national team… which makes this whole situation that much more depressing.

"I want to publicly express my unconditional support to all my companeras who a few days ago decided to communicate the need to improve the working conditions that are experienced within the Spanish national team.

"It is important to understand that the situation we are experiencing does not happen overnight. It is the consequence of an accumulation of events, behaviours, decisions, failed attempts and mental exhaustion of trying to fight to have the players' voices heard.

"The disconnection between coach and players, federation and players and the breaking up of the group are signs that something is not working.

"I am clear on the fact players must be part of this process and that what happened a few days ago is not blackmail, nor is this happening on a whim."

Spain are due to face Sweden and the United States in friendlies next month, with Vilda expected to announce his squad for those games on Friday.

Rio Ferdinand called on football federations to take more action against racism after a banana was thrown at Richarlison during Brazil's 5-1 friendly victory over Tunisia on Tuesday.

A banana appeared to land near Richarlison as the Tottenham forward celebrated scoring Brazil's second goal near the corner flag at Parc des Princes in Paris.

The incident comes after Vinicius Junior, Richarlison's international team-mate, was told by a Spanish agent to "stop playing the monkey" in relation to his goal celebrations.

Richarlison himself received criticism last month when he started doing kick-ups late in Spurs' 2-0 away win at Nottingham Forest.

And former England international Ferdinand believes it is wrong that, in his view, Richarlison received as much condemnation for his showboating against Forest as Tuesday's incident with the banana has.

"You've got your own kids waking up and saying: 'Dad, have you seen that banana thrown on the pitch at Richarlison?' It's madness," Ferdinand said on his FIVE YouTube channel.

"There was probably as much vitriol and hysteria on social media and in the media in general as there were with this banana incident, racism incident, as there was when Richarlison was doing kick-ups."

The Manchester United legend also believes more should be done by footballing powers, adding: "I'm not saying football can change or cure racism because I would be an idiot to think that.

"Football can play a good part in highlighting issues and standing together, standing strong and standing unified to make the authorities and powers that be put things in place to protect people, but it ain't happening. It's disheartening.

"Another day racism is okay and welcomed in football. Look at the reaction to the stuff with Vinicius Jr. I don't see the federations coming out and absolutely backing these players and going absolutely against it or a big press conference being called and saying 'we ain't having this'."

Karim Benzema is "feeling very good" and is ready to play a part in Real Madrid's next match after returning to training on Wednesday.

The France striker missed Madrid's last three matches prior to the international break with a knee injury and played no part in his country's two Nations League games.

However, Benzema has recovered from the injury sustained against Celtic on September 6 and is in contention to start Sunday's LaLiga clash against Osasuna.

"I'm pleased to be back with the team," he told the club's official website. "It's been some time [away] and I've had time to do a pre-season. 

"I'm feeling very good, comfortable. I'm looking forward to the game on Sunday.

"I've been doing a lot of fitness work. I've not touched the ball but I trained for the first time today. I've done a lot of running and strength training over the past few days. 

"I also worked out at home. I was a bit late back from my holidays and I didn't have much time to do a good pre-season, which is why I've done it now and I feel very good."

 

Benzema scored four goals and assisted another in his opening five matches this season prior to hobbling off in the 3-0 Champions League win over Celtic.

Despite being without the 2022 Ballon d'Or favourite, Madrid won all three games in his absence, including a 2-1 victory against Atletico Madrid last time out.

Madrid have won all nine matches they have played this season and Benzema believes a large part of that is down to the squad depth.
 
"The team looks very good to me, perfect," he said. "I've seen the winning all their game, scoring goals and showing their character. We've got a great team.

"It could be said that we've got two teams. There's no difference between those who start the game and those who come on. The team looks very good to me.
 
"We know in our heads that we have to win every game. Every match is important. Everyone wants to beat Real Madrid, but we're in good shape and ready to keep going."

Barcelona's economic vice president Eduard Romeu has insisted the club can afford to bring Lionel Messi back to Camp Nou next year.

The 35-year-old sees his contract with Paris Saint-Germain conclude at the end of the season and will reportedly decide his future after the World Cup in Qatar.

Should Messi become available on a free transfer, a host of clubs would likely be attributed with an interest in the Argentina international, and Romeu has made it clear Barca could afford a deal.

"As it would be on a free, surely it is something that we can do. But it'd be a technical decision, anyways," he told Mundo Deportivo.

While Messi would not require a transfer fee if his deal with PSG reaches its conclusion, significant funds would be required on his wages.

He spent 21 years with Barcelona, scoring a record 672 goals in 778 appearances for the senior side, prior to departing to PSG on a shock free transfer in August 2021.

After heavily investing in the squad in the transfer window, Romeu added further additions could be made in January.

"There is margin but we have made a very important effort this summer and if any complement was needed, we would have to study it," he added.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini is already targeting World Cup glory in 2026, as the Azzurri prepare to "suffer" through this year's tournament after failing to qualify.

The European champions will be the most high-profile side to miss the tournament in Qatar after slipping to a humiliating play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March.

Italy were also absent from Russia in 2018 following a play-off loss to Sweden, meaning their exile from football's most storied competition will stretch to a minimum of 12 years.

The Azzurri also suffered group-stage exits in 2010 and 2014, meaning their most recent World Cup knockout tie remains 2006's final victory over France.

Mancini, however, is determined to end Italy's World Cup woes when the tournament heads to the United States, Mexico and Canada in four years' time, and believes their failure to reach Qatar was unjust. 

"Winning with the national team is the best thing there can be," he said at an event in Rome. 

"Giving Italians such joy is incredible, now we have to wait four years. We will aim to win the next World Cup in America.

"We are working, unfortunately we will suffer until December - the disappointment of not qualifying for the World Cup does not pass me. 

"It was totally unfair, but the defeats must be faced. We did not deserve to stay out of the World Cup, but unfortunately, that's how it went."

Asked why he chose to continue as Italy coach following their play-off embarrassment, the former Manchester City boss added: "Honestly, I don't know, at that moment I just wanted to turn the page because it went badly. 

"But winning the European Championship gives an incredible joy. Now we have to wait a few years and then we want to try for those emotions again."

Italy have since salvaged some pride by winning their Nations League group, finishing above Hungary, Germany and England to reach next year's finals.

And Mancini was keen to emphasise the difficulty of that achievement, adding: "It wasn't easy, the boys put everything in. 

"England are a danger to win the World Cup, they have an incredible squad and Hungary are a very physical team."

Italy will contest friendlies against Albania and Austria when elite club football pauses for the World Cup in November. 

Declan Rice has described Jude Bellingham as "the future of English football", claiming his international midfield partner is the most talented 19-year-old he has ever seen.

Although England suffered relegation from the top tier of the Nations League last week, Bellingham has done no harm to his chances of starting at the upcoming World Cup during the international break. 

With Manchester City's Kalvin Phillips enduring an injury-blighted campaign, Bellingham started alongside Rice in matches against Italy and Germany, impressing in a box-to-box role.

In Monday's 3-3 draw with Germany, Bellingham led England's charts for passes completed (41), touches (67), touches in the opposition box (six), duels won (eight), tackles won, interceptions and fouls won (all three).

Rice believes the Borussia Dortmund star's all-round ability is unique for someone of his age, telling the Daily Mirror: "I don't think I've seen anyone as good as he is for 19.

"I look at a lot of 19-year-olds, whether it's at a club, around the world, around the country. To have the whole package is a hard thing and I feel like he's got that.

"He's 19 but he's got the body of a 28-year-old – he's a man. He thinks like a man, plays like a man and shows personality and character. 

"I've been around and played so many more games than he has in my career, but you can just tell as a 19-year-old what he brings to the team already, the energy he's got.

"He can play in a holding role, he can play as an eight, he can play as a 10.

"He's a man – you can see it when he plays for Dortmund. As a 19-year-old, you're normally scared to talk to the referee but he's in the referee's face demanding answers, demanding decisions and he leaves himself on the pitch constantly. 

"He really pushes you on the pitch. We push each other on and it's a privilege to play next to him.

"Every time I play with Jude, we're building that connection and I say to him; 'you go and bomb on and do your attacking stuff and I'll sit here and defend for you'. So we're getting that good connection, he's great to play with.

"Hopefully, he keeps flourishing. He's the future of English football to come for the next 15 years."

While Bellingham's individual displays have earned rave reviews, England will begin the World Cup – against Iran on November 21 – having gone six games without a win (D3 L3).

This is their longest such run going into a major tournament, but Rice believes the Three Lions were much improved against Germany, adding: "We're sticking with a formation that needs work and we're working on that in training all the time. 

"I feel like there's positive signs there. It's just a blip at the moment but that was a massive, positive step."

Neymar has hit out at Mallorca captain Antonio Raillo over controversial remarks directed towards Brazil team-mate Vinicius Jr.

The Real Madrid forward has been embroiled in a racism scandal after a Spanish agent told him to "stop playing the monkey" in reference to his dancing celebration.

Vinicius was then subject to a torrent of abuse from Atletico Madrid fans in Madrid's recent derby victory, celebrating Rodrygo's goal in his customary fashion after being urged to "keep on dancing" in a flood of support.

On Monday, Raillo cause further controversy when he accused Vinicius of using the "race card" when he is criticised.

"Vinicius should dance, but he shouldn't be foul, he shouldn't insult or belittle his fellow professionals; then when he is branded as provocative, he uses the race card," he told Diario de Mallorca.

Neymar has subsequently responded on social media, replying to a post from TNT Sport Brasil and asking: "Who is Raillo?" – accompanying his comment with a laughing face emoji.

Brazilian footballers have unfortunately been on the receiving end of recent abuse, with the incident on Vinicius followed by a banana being thrown at Richarlison after he scored for the national side in a 5-1 friendly victory against Tunisia on Tuesday.

Bruno Fernandes has defended Cristiano Ronaldo and believes there is "no need" for a "soap opera" around his Manchester United and Portugal team-mate following a 1-0 loss to Spain.

After an impressive 4-0 win against the Czech Republic put Portugal in pole position in Nations League Group A2, they were beaten by La Roja and missed out on a place in the Finals.

Ronaldo failed to score in a third consecutive game at international level, seeing two attempts saved by Unai Simon, and appeared extremely disappointed and frustrated at full-time.

But Fernandes came to his colleague's defence, saying: "There is no need to make great stories. Cristiano is here, he is here to help, and he will continue to help.

"Cristiano is a forward; he wants to score goals. Frustration is normal, but there was no one more frustrated than anyone else.

"We were all very frustrated – there is no need to make a soap opera around Cristiano."

Ronaldo has just one goal and one assist for club and country this season, but Fernandes added: "He has done what he has to do; the goals will appear.

"This is a phase. When the goals start to appear, he will have more capacity and tranquillity to continue scoring many goals for our national team. We cannot forget that he is the best scorer ever."

After two disappointing international tournaments, not progressing past the last 16 at either the 2018 World Cup or Euro 2020, Qatar provides an opportunity for Portugal to set things right. 

"[The Nations League] doesn't get in the way," Fernandes said. "The World Cup is a completely different competition.

"We knew what we had to do in this competition; unfortunately, we couldn't go all the way.

"The World Cup will soon be seen, so we have to focus, be at the best level in the clubs to represent the national team."

Lionel Scaloni is "excited and grateful" at the prospect of continuing as Argentina coach through to the 2026 World Cup.

Chiqui Tapia, president of the Argentine Football Association, stated an agreement had been reached between both parties for Scaloni to remain in his post for the next four years.

A new deal would be a fine reward for Scaloni, who replaced Jorge Sampaoli after the 2018 World Cup, where Argentina were beaten by eventual champions France in the last 16.

Under Scaloni, Argentina won the Copa America last year to end a drought at major tournaments dating back to the 1993 Copa.

A routine 3-0 win over Jamaica on Tuesday, in which Lionel Messi scored twice off the bench, also saw Argentina stretch their unbeaten run to 35 matches.

Scaloni is now focused on continuing his work with the national team.

"I'm excited and grateful," Scaloni said about Tapia's announcement.

"I want to continue, who wouldn't want to do it with the Argentine national team?

"I have the best relationship with the president, we met today, everything is on track."

The fixture against Jamaica was Argentina's penultimate game before the World Cup with a friendly against the United Arab Emirates to come before the tournament in Qatar.

Earlier this year, Argentina's planned friendly against Brazil – scheduled to take place in Australia – was cancelled.

Scaloni spoke about a lack of preparation against the more elite sides of international football but is confident his team will be ready based on their performances in the build-up to the tournament.

"The result is positive, not for the results, but because the players gave themselves to the maximum," he added.

"Sometimes things don't go well but this team knows that sometimes you can suffer, the rival can be better, and you have to stay entrenched and work.

"Don't forget that our idea of the game could be different from what was seen today You have to know what to do in the game and this team knows it."

Asked about his team's chances in Qatar, Scaloni added: "I do not go to Qatar with an inflated chest, there are great teams and it is very difficult to say who can win the World Cup.

"Whatever it has to be in the World Cup [it will be], but we are going to leave every last drop of sweat [out there]."

Argentina's first group-stage match takes place on November 22nd against Saudi Arabia.

 

Fernando Santos had no concerns around his future as Portugal coach after his team lost 1-0 to Spain and missed out on a place at the Nations League Finals.

Spain's dramatic victory came courtesy of Alvaro Morata's goal in the 88th minute, sending La Roja to next year's tournament instead of Portugal.

Having only needed a draw to advance, the late winner was of great frustration to Santos, but he would not entertain talk around his status as coach.

Informed of criticism and asked whether poor results would affect his position, Santos shot back: "Well, that's fine. But what should I answer? It doesn't pinch [impact] me at all.

"Do you want to be more direct or is that your question?

"My contract goes until 2024. I can't be more direct than that."

On the match, Santos added: "We cannot concede a goal in the last minutes. If we have to defend, we should give everything for it.

"Anyway, the players worked hard, and we still had a good opportunity, but we didn't make the most of it." 

Spain had five shots on target to Portugal's four, but all of those came after the 71st minute, with Santos' side paying for their earlier profligacy.

"If I would like to simplify, I would say that we had several opportunities and Spain only had a few," the coach said. "So it would be a matter of efficiency: we didn't score.

"We must look at the whole game. We are all very sad. We were convinced that we would reach the Nations League Finals. We are not there, so we are obviously sad.

"We must move on and identify what needs to be improved. We must address it in order to be on top form at the World Cup."

Portugal were not helped by Cristiano Ronaldo's failure to contribute in attack.

He has now not scored in his past three appearances for Portugal, and there are questions around his ability to carry the national team without consistent game time at Manchester United.

"I am only interested in the team's performance," Santos said. "Ronaldo had three or four chances, two of them very good.

"He normally scores [in these situations], but he didn't. It's football. We normally expect him to score, but he didn't."

Lionel Messi should be appreciated by fans of all countries at the World Cup as he will be missed like Roger Federer "and more" when he retires, says Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.

Messi scored twice from the bench in Argentina's 3-0 win over Jamaica on Tuesday, their penultimate friendly before Qatar 2022.

The Albiceleste head to the finals as one of the favourites, having won the Copa America last year.

That was Messi's long-awaited first major international honour, and this could be the 35-year-old's last chance to win a World Cup, having lost in the 2014 final.

Although the Paris Saint-Germain superstar remains on top of his game, scoring six goals across his past four matches for club and country, Scaloni knows he cannot go on forever.

And the Argentina boss expects Messi's eventual retirement will be received with the same outpouring that met tennis legend Federer's decision to quit the sport last week.

"[Messi] is like Federer," Scaloni said after the Jamaica game.

"He retired and what happened when he retired? Everybody [was] excited, everybody is thinking, 'he won't be here anymore, he's not going to play anymore'.

"How many of us would like to see Federer play tennis? Because it was wonderful to watch him play. The same will happen with [Messi] and more, because football is a sport that moves much more.

"So, let's enjoy him. Everyone enjoys him regardless of the country, it's wonderful to see him.

"I have the possibility of training him, but I would be a fan, I would pay a ticket to see him and I would buy his shirt, regardless of the country.

"So, the only thing left is to enjoy him, because I don't know if something like this will ever be repeated. So, you have to enjoy him and nothing else."

Bayern Munich sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has backed Sadio Mane to shine, expressing his empathy after his recent struggles with the Bundesliga champions.

The Senegal international arrived from Liverpool for a reported €32million fee and initially started strong in his new surroundings, scoring three goals in his opening three Bundesliga appearances.

However, a dip in goalscoring form for Mane has seen the forward fail to score in his last four league matches and has coincided with poor results for Bayern, who are without a win in those games.

Indeed, Mane's only goal in his last seven Bayern appearances came in a routine 5-0 win against Viktoria Koln in the DBF-Pokal at the end of August.

Salihamidzic is not concerned, however, identifying the struggles he himself went through after leaving Bayern for Juventus and backing Mane to excel this season.

"Sadio still needs a bit of time. He has to get used to the Bundesliga, but he will. I know how it is to join a new team, in another city, another country with another football culture," he told BILD.

"I joined Juventus at 30 years old. I had won the Champions League, Bundesliga and Pokal with Bayern, but even as an experienced successful player, you need a while to get used to your new environment in order to fully focus on football and perform consistently.

"Sadio is still in this process. Everything will soon be more familiar to him and we'll soon see it on the pitch.

"I speak regularly with him, but I also give him space. He has to organise himself in a way that he feels at home in Munich - he's doing that. Sadio is one of the best players in the world. He'll bring very good performances. We'll still have a lot of joy with him.

"Sadio plays for the team. His teammates can see that. They all know that Sadio is an important member of the group. They will help him because, when in top form, he helps us achieve our goals."

Bayern resume their campaign after the international break on Friday against Bayer Leverkusen, which is followed by a home match against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League and Der Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund.

Newly appointed Jamaica Reggae Boyz head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson believes a 3-0 scoreline might have flattered Argentina, insisting his team was made to pay for a loss in concentration in the defeat at the Red Bull stadium on Tuesday.

Argentinean superstar Lionel Messi came off the bench to score twice as the Albiceleste, who, in truth, looked comfortable despite holding a slim 1-0 lead, blew the game wide open in the last 10 minutes.

By the time the world-famous number 10 entered the fray, in the 56th minute, Argentina were already 1-0 up courtesy of Julian Alvarez’s tidy finish in the 13th minute. from there they had struggled to find real goalscoring momentum, that is until Messi entered the pitch.

After stinging the palms of Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake with an early attempt, the forward made no mistake blasting his shot well to the left of the keeper, when he got another opportunity, to double the lead in the 86th minute.  However, sloppy play in midfield led to the dangerous player taking possession at the edge of the area.

Three minutes later, there was real anxiety when the wily forward was brought down just at the top of the 18-yard box.  Those concerns were proven valid when Messi picked himself up and scored the resulting free-kick.  Again the Jamaicans might well feel dissatisfied with their defensive play, as Messi found space through a somewhat disheveled wall to beat Blake again.  The match was the first for Hallgrimsson and he believes despite the errors they were a few positives.

“We lost 3-0 and you are never happy to lose.  Three, zero is a big number but I don’t think it reflects the game on a whole,” Hallgrimsson said.

“It does not reflect the performance of our players, I think we showed an excellent team performance for 80 minutes and we lost a little focus in possession that led to the first and the second goal and then from that lost more focus for the third goal and that cannot happen,” he added.

“Those were the negatives from the match.  We kept them from creating goal-scoring chances, more or less, until the 80th minute.  After 10 minutes we were finding our feet but after that, we were comfortable with how we played our defensive game.”

The Seattle Sounders kept their playoff hopes alive by salvaging an important point in their 1-1 draw against Cincinnati on Tuesday.

Cincinnati were the better of the two sides based on expected goal data, tallying 1.98 expected goals compared to just 0.36 for Seattle in front of their home fans.

The visiting side took the lead in the 24th minute when Brandon Vasquez was able to take advantage of the Sounders' high defensive line, slipping a ball through for Brenner to run onto and he made no mistake with his one-on-one, calmly side-footing it inside the far post.

Seattle nearly equalised through a set-piece in the 35th minute, with Will Bruin rising well to send his header towards the bottom-left corner, only for Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano to deny him with a terrific save.

When the hosts did find the leveler, it was worth the wait, with a searing ball from Kelyn Rowe out of defense being controlled by Fredy Montero near the corner of the penalty box, before he unleashed a rocket high into the near-post corner.

With the result, Seattle remain five points away from the seventh and final Western Conference playoff spot, which is currently occupied by Minnesota. Cincinnati are much more comfortable, fifth in the Eastern Conference and four points clear of chasers.

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