Anthony Martial scored just his second goal for France as the world champions were held to a 1-1 draw by Ukraine in World Cup qualifying.

Mykola Shaparenko's sublime strike had put the home side in front just before half-time, but Martial forced home an equaliser five minutes after the restart.

Substitute Moussa Diaby hit the post as Les Bleus toiled in vain to find a winner, with Didier Deschamps' men having now drawn five matches in a row in all competitions.

France were winless in four games in Kiev heading into this contest and there was little that was confident about their early play, Antoine Griezmann flashing a shot wide with one of his few openings.

Ukraine looked more dangerous on the break and Andriy Yarmolenko spurned a good chance when his header was saved by Hugo Lloris.

The breakthrough came just before half-time. Martial was denied by Andriy Pyatov after being played in by Paul Pogba, and the home side broke forward, Roman Yaremchuk's cross was cleared by Kurt Zouma to Shaparenko on the edge of the box, and he swept a stylish first-time strike high past Lloris.

Martial's miss took him to 28 consecutive shots without scoring for France, but he had more luck with his next attempt. Adrien Rabiot's header dropped kindly for the Manchester United forward, whose half-volley from six yards was too powerful for Pyatov to keep out.

Diaby skipped into space after good work from Benzema but his low strike clattered off the base of the right-hand post, before Pogba tried his luck with a long-range strike that Pyatov held, as the visitors toiled to no further avail.


What does it mean? France solid but unspectacular in qualifying

France have nine points from five matches in Group D, giving them a five-point lead at the top having played two more matches than second-place Finland.

The world champions are unbeaten in qualifying for Qatar 2022 and remain in a good position, but there is growing concern around their uninspiring performances.

France's five successive draws include three games at Euro 2020, where after a 3-3 draw with Switzerland in the last 16 they lost a penalty shoot-out.

Ukraine are third in the World Cup group, having drawn all five of their games.

Pogba pulling the strings

Almost all of France's good work came through Pogba, who attempted a huge 66 passes in the Ukraine half as he tried to pick through a resolute defence.

There was little creativity aside from the United midfielder, which explained his ambitious shot as the clock began to tick down.

Can the rescue act continue?

France have conceded the opening goal in five consecutive matches, their longest such run since the days of Raymond Domenech from November 2009 to June 2010.

There is over a year to go until Qatar 2022, but France at the moment appear to be limping their way towards defending their crown.

What's next?

France host Finland in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, with Ukraine heading to the Czech Republic for a friendly a day later.

France head coach Didier Deschamps has opened up about the decision to let Kylian Mbappe return to Paris Saint-Germain after sustaining a minor injury.

Mbappe was taken off in the closing stages of Les Blues' 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday with a calf problem.

The French Football Federation announced on Thursday that Mbappe had been granted permission to leave the camp ahead of the games with Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old's injury is not considered serious, but Deschamps was not willing to take any risks by using the prolific forward in France's next two matches.

"I'll be clear about this. Kylian felt something late in the game," Deschamps said at a news conference on Friday.

"We have done all the tests. The recovery period is very short and a muscle problem was ruled out, but an issue persists.

"It is an injury he had with his club in May. He felt the same pain and missed the second leg against Manchester City in the Champions League.

"I felt there was no possibility he could be used before Tuesday so didn't see the point in keeping him."

Despite fielding Mbappe in a front three with Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema, France were held by Bosnia-Herzegovina in Wednesday's Group D clash.

That was Les Blues' first match since exiting Euro 2020 at the hands of Switzerland in the last-16 stage, but Deschamps is not worried about his side's form ahead of facing Ukraine in Kiev.

"I have enough experience to know how the qualifiers work," Deschamps said. "The result against Bosnia was not what we wanted, but we are in the best possible place. I am calm and serene."

France are top of their group, four points better off than second-placed Ukraine, who have drawn all four matches.

"With four matches to play, Ukraine are behind us in the table. A win would consolidate our position, but the Ukrainians also want to win," Deschamps added.

"We'll go into the match with the same intentions as we did against Bosnia. Every match is important and tomorrow's in particular."

France striker Kylian Mbappe has been granted permission to return to Paris Saint-Germain after suffering a right calf injury.  

Mbappe will miss the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on Tuesday as a result. 

The French Football Federation confirmed that no replacement would be called up.  

Mbappe was taken off in the closing stages of France’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday. 

Despite the draw, Les Bleus sit top of Group D, four points clear of their next opponents Ukraine with four games remaining.  

The 22-year-old will hope to recover in time to return to league action for his club against Clermont on September 11. 

Kylian Mbappe will play for Real Madrid "one day or another" according to his France team-mate and Los Blancos striker Karim Benzema.

LaLiga giants Madrid reportedly offered Paris Saint-Germain €200million on deadline day, a whopping sum for a player in the final year of his contract.

It was said PSG failed to respond to that bid – Madrid's third during the window – meaning Mbappe will remain in Ligue 1 to form a mouth-watering attack alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar at the Parc des Princes this term.

However, Mbappe looks certain to agree a pre-contract agreement with Madrid in January, with the superstar forward having his heart set on a move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Benzema is excited by the prospect of teaming up at club level with his Les Bleus team-mate, who has scored 135 goals in 175 games for PSG at a rate of one goal every 101.61 minutes.

Speaking to RTL, Benzema said of Mbappe: "He is a player who will play for Real Madrid one day or another.

"We get along really well, I would like him to be with me today in Madrid."

Benzema was speaking in the aftermath of France's 1-1 draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday, a World Cup qualifying match that saw Didier Deschamps' side finish with 10 men after Jules Kounde was sent off.

The point keeps France top of Group D on eight points after four games, four clear of Ukraine who have drawn all of their matches in the pool so far.

"We would have liked to win this match here, in France, in front of our audience," Benzema added.

"In the first half we made good moves, in the second half, with the red card, we fell back a little, which is normal when we play [with] one less."

France failed to bounce back from their surprise Euro 2020 elimination as they were held to a 1-1 draw in 2022 World Cup qualifying by Bosnia-Herzegovina, finishing with 10 men. 

Les Bleus, who went out in the last 16 of the European Championship after a shock penalty shoot-out loss to Switzerland, fell behind to Edin Dzeko’s 36th-minute strike in Strasbourg on Wednesday but were quickly back on terms following a fortuitous goal for Antoine Griezmann. 

Didier Deschamps' side would have been expecting to push on for a win to go six points clear of second-placed Ukraine, who drew 2-2 with Kazakhstan earlier on Wednesday, in the second half of the Group D clash. 

However, after a deadline-day switch from Sevilla to Chelsea failed to materialise, Jules Kounde was shown a red card for a lunge on Sead Kolasinac following a VAR check and France had to settle for a point. 

Kylian Mbappe missed the decisive penalty against Switzerland but went close to getting back on the scoresheet when his effort from the tightest of angles crashed behind off the near post in the 27th minute. 

Miralem Pjanic warmed the gloves of Hugo Lloris before Dezko seized upon a wayward Thomas Lemar pass and drilled a fine 20-yard effort through Presnel Kimpembe's legs and into the bottom-right corner. 

France were somewhat lucky to restore parity three minutes later. Dzeko headed a corner against Griezmann's back and following a VAR check it was clear Ibrahim Sehic had failed to keep the ball out after a slight touch off Dennis Hadzikadunic. 

Aurelien Tchouameni was sent on for his debut at half-time but France's plan was thrown into disarray following Kounde's late tackle on Kolasinac, who had to be replaced by Eldar Civic. 

Bosnia had a couple of chances to steal a famous win, but Smail Prevljak and Pjanic were unable to find the target with their efforts inside the final five minutes.
 

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.

It was well after the final whistle on deadline day but, eventually, Antoine Griezmann's return to Atletico Madrid was officially confirmed.

Two years after leaving, Griezmann has joined on a season-long loan from Barcelona, with the deal including an option to extend for a further year and a compulsory permanent transfer clause.

Earlier this month, Barca – in a straw-clutching move following Lionel Messi's departure for Paris Saint-Germain – made a rather big deal of Griezmann making his 100th club appearance. Not even two weeks later, he is gone.

On that landmark appearance, Griezmann hit the crossbar in a 4-2 win over his former club Real Sociedad, where he had developed into one of LaLiga's brightest attackers before joining Atleti in 2014. 

He went on to score 94 LaLiga goals for Diego Simeone's team before a long-rumoured switch to Barca went through. Yet he has never quite managed to scale the same heights at Camp Nou as he did at his previous home.

A disappointing first campaign marred by injuries and inconsistency left Griezmann playing catch up last term, though he did net 20 times across all competitions to finish as Barca's second-leading scorer.

Stats Perform assesses how Griezmann's efforts last season match up to his best campaign from his previous Atleti stint, as well as looking at what he could contribute to Simeone's attack.

 

GRIEZMANN AT HIS PEAK

Griezmann was a model of consistency throughout his time at Atleti, as he became the perfect, versatile forward for Simeone's disciplined side.

He partnered Mario Mandzukic, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa among others during his time at the club, transforming himself from a speedy winger to a centre forward with predatory instincts in the penalty area, as well as harbouring plenty of creative talents.

Though he played more games (54) and scored more goals (32) during the 2015-16 season, Griezmann's finest campaign at Atleti arguably came in 2017-18.

His tally of 19 LaLiga strikes was 11 more than any other Atleti player as he finished sixth in the scoring charts overall.

Griezmann added another 10 goals across the cup competitions, however, including a brace in the Europa League final to help Atleti beat Marseille 3-0 in Lyon.

Only Griezmann got into double figures for Atleti in terms of assists (13), while only Koke (81) created more chances than his total of 65.

Griezmann was clinical when opportunities came his way too, converting 52.38 per cent of the 42 "big chances" (an opportunity defined as one where they player should score) that were crafted for him, while he ranked top for attempts (124) as he averaged a goal every 133 minutes.

To cap off an exceptional domestic campaign, Griezmann put in a man-of-the-match display as France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final.

 

PAST HIS BEST?

After making much of his call to stay put at Atleti – he took part in a mini-documentary to confirm his decision before the 2018 World Cup – Griezmann completed a €120million switch to Barca a year later.

It was not without controversy: Atleti insisted Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.

His first season at Camp Nou was one to forget, eventually ending with a humbling 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich on home soil.

Griezmann came into his second season with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Ronald Koeman. Playing 51 times in all competitions, including making 45 starts, he clocked up 3,904 minutes in total - the second most he has managed in a campaign since moving to Atletico.

A total of 20 goals sees him fall some way short of the 29 he managed in 2017-18, though his 12 assists come close to matching his Atleti peak.

His expected assists (xA) total of 8.99 does suggest the quality of opportunities he created was perhaps not wholly responsible for his final total. Given he was linking up with Messi, this is perhaps no surprise. It was, though, also the case in 2017-18, with Griezmann tallying an expected assists figure of 6.3, suggesting his Atleti team-mates were finishing chances they may not have been expected to.

Griezmann created more chances (67) last term than in his 2017-18 season, though his conversion rate of gilt-edged opportunities dropped to 39.39 per cent.

Only in 2018-19 (15.11) did Griezmann have a lower shot conversion rate than last term (18.02) while there was no international glory for him this time around either – he scored once as France dropped out of Euro 2020 in the last 16.

 

BACK WHERE HE BELONGS?

Griezmann was the main man at Atleti but had to play in the shadow of Messi at Barca, not to mention Luis Suarez before he moved on to Madrid.

Barca sold Suarez to Atleti last year and, well, the rest is history – the former Liverpool star scored 21 league goals as Atleti clinched their second title under Simeone.

Griezmann's haul of 13 goals would have put him as Atleti's second-highest scorer in LaLiga last term, four ahead of the next forward in Angel Correa, though midfielder Marcos Llorente plundered 12 in a more advanced role.

Of Atleti players, only Llorente (11), Yannick Carrasco (10) and Correa (8) provided more league assists than Griezmann's seven from 42 chances created in total.

While he has failed to score or create a single opportunity across Barca's three league games so far this season, Simeone must surely be confident he can get Griezmann operating at somewhere close to his former glory.

With city rivals Real Madrid failing to land Kylian Mbappe in the transfer window, Atleti will surely fancy their chances of reigning in Spain once again.

France will be without N'Golo Kante for their World Cup qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday, Didier Deschamps has confirmed.

The Chelsea midfielder aggravated an ankle injury during the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the weekend.

Sitting top of Group D with seven points from three games, Les Bleus resume their World Cup qualifying campaign with a trio of fixtures in early September.

However, the reigning world champions will be unable to call upon Kante for the first of those, which takes place in Strasbourg.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, head coach Deschamps said: "Kante will be too soon for tomorrow. 

"There are too many risks; he will not be used tomorrow."

 

Meanwhile, Hugo Lloris believes Kylian Mbappe will not be bothered by the recent speculation linking him with a blockbuster move to Real Madrid.

The forward has made a bright start to the Ligue 1 season with three goals in Paris Saint-Germain's first four games, including a brace in Sunday's 2-0 win over Reims as Lionel Messi made his debut for the club.

"As you could see, he was very focused in the last game. He is very professional," Lloris said.

"He was decisive in the first four matches. It shows that he respects his club and is ready to perform. 

"There is a lot of agitation around him, it's normal, but he knows how to make the difference to help the French team."

France are looking to bounce back having exited Euro 2020 in the round of 16 following defeat to Switzerland on penalties.

Lloris revealed that following positive discussions within the camp, he and his team-mates are hungry to make amends with a fresh approach.

"We highlighted what was less successful, but there were also good things –especially in the group stage – which were quite successful," the goalkeeper added.

"We switch to something new, fresh. Everyone must participate in giving a new impetus.

"We are positive. We have very little time to prepare for the match, but there is desire."

Kylian Mbappe's future is not being discussed within the France squad amid strong links to Real Madrid, according to Les Bleus duo Moussa Diaby and Aurelien Tchouameni.

Madrid have reportedly been in negotiations with Paris Saint-Germain in a bid to prise Mbappe from the Ligue 1 giants to the LaLiga powerhouse, though a transfer is yet to materialise.

Mbappe has one year remaining on his contract but Madrid are determined to sign the 22-year-old – who has scored 133 goals in 174 games for PSG, at a rate of one goal every 102.46 minutes – before the end of the transfer window.

The intense speculation comes with Mbappe away on international duty as France prepare for three World Cup qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina (Wednesday), Ukraine (Saturday) and Finland (September 7).

When asked about Mbappe's future, Diaby – who could make his France debut – told reporters: "I spoke with Kylian. He congratulated me on my first call up.

"We ate, we laughed together. We didn't talk about his future. His situation is his own business. I have nothing to say about that."

Diaby played alongside Mbappe at PSG before the 22-year-old left the French capital for Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in 2019.

"He is an extraordinary player," Diaby said. "I don't think that Kylian is still considered a 'youngster' because of what he does on the pitch.

"I have to take a leaf out of his book and ask him for some advice to reach my full potential. Try to be like Kylian. When he came the first time, it couldn't have been easy either. By asking him for some advice, everything can go well for me."

Monaco's Tchouameni, who also received his first international call-up amid links with Chelsea and Manchester United, added: "Quite honestly, we didn't talk about that [Mbappe's future].

"We talked about the different results of our teams in the last weekend. We didn't talk about the transfer market with Kylian anyway."

Aurelien Tchouameni said he is inspired by Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante as the Monaco sensation continues to be linked with Chelsea and Manchester United.

Tchouameni is reportedly wanted by Premier League giants Chelsea and United following his exploits in Ligue 1.

Before the weekend's fixtures, the 21-year-old midfielder ranked first in possessions won (209) and tackles won (52) in the top five European leagues in 2021, while he was tied for fifth in duels won (221).

Tchouameni's performances under Niko Kovac earned a France call-up for the first time as Les Bleus face Bosnia-Herzegovina in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday before continuing their road to Qatar 2022 against Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on September 7.

Amid speculation over his future heading into the international break, Tchouameni was asked about his inspirations, and he told reporters: "I followed a lot what [United midfielder] Paul [Pogba] was doing. Since he started his career.

"Now I have the chance to be with him and [Chelsea midfielder] N'Golo [Kante]. They are players who are very successful at their clubs, so I try to see what they do and take inspiration from their strong characteristics.

"There are also some players I didn't get to see play at the time, like Patrick Vieira. Foreign players too, like [Manchester City and Belgium midfielder] Kevin De Bruyne. I try to look at everything that is good in the midfield and their characteristics to inspire me."

Meanwhile, France head coach Didier Deschamps will be without Dayot Upamecano for the three World Cup qualifiers after the Bayern Munich centre-back suffered a right thigh injury.

Upamecano has been replaced in the squad by Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet.

France head coach Didier Deschamps said Kylian Mbappe's transfer saga is "not deal" as Les Bleus prepare for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Mbappe wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are reportedly trying to reach an agreement with the Ligue 1 giants.

Despite Mbappe being out of contract at the end of the season, Madrid are believed to have offered €180million for the France international.

As world champions France gear up for qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina (September 1), Ukraine (September 4) and Finland (September 7) on the road to Qatar 2022, Deschamps was asked about Madrid target Mbappe.

"I can't answer for [Kylian Mbappe]," Deschamps told reporters. "It is better to ask him the questions [on his future].

"The only factual thing is that the transfer market closes on Tuesday. The September games are brought forward and that coincides with the day before the game for us. Is that ideal? Obviously not. I'm not going to fight with that.

"Kylian, as well as other players, may be in a situation where they have to change clubs. I will try to be conciliatory as much as possible because their future is at stake. It's their decision, it's their career.

"I am not in their shoes, I can at most give an opinion. The decision is theirs."

Mbappe has scored 133 goals and provided 58 assists across 174 games over four years at PSG since arriving from Monaco.

The 22-year-old's 191 goal involvements since his debut rank third among players in Europe's top five leagues in that time, behind Messi (236) and Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandowski (213).

Mbappe was on target as Mauricio Pochettino's PSG overcame Brest 4-2 in Ligue 1 last week.

PSG's Mbappe scored his fourth Ligue 1 headed goal, his first with for club and his first since March 2017 with Monaco at Caen.

Mbappe has been decisive in eight consecutive Ligue 1 games (eight goals, three assists), his second-best run in the top-flight, behind February-November 2020 (10).

A World Cup winner, Mbappe has scored 17 goals in 48 appearances for France since debuting in 2017.

Olivier Giroud was dropped by France boss Didier Deschamps on Thursday in a move that casts early doubt on the striker's World Cup prospects.

The decision to omit France's second highest goalscorer of all time was taken by Deschamps ahead of the three World Cup qualifiers that await Les Bleus in early September.

Giroud, who turns 35 at the end of next month, has scored seven times for his country in the past 12 months but did not find the net at Euro 2020.

Pre-tournament comments, which were interpreted as Giroud criticising Kylian Mbappe, saw the veteran forward complain of a lack of service.

Mbappe was disappointed with those remarks, particularly with Giroud making them in public rather than in the dressing room, and it remains to be seen whether they have played their last game together at international level.

Les Bleus were favourites going into Euro 2020 but went on to lose on penalties to Switzerland in the second round, and now they must focus on qualifying for the World Cup, as holders.

They face Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine and Finland in the first seven days of September.

Speaking about Giroud, who has swapped Chelsea for Milan since last season, Deschamps said: "It's my choice today. It's up to Olivier to perform, he's still available.

"His situation has changed with his transfer to Milan, where he's found a lot more game time."

Giroud insisted during the European Championship that he intended to play on for France beyond the tournament.

"I'm not finished, far from it. Count on me, grandpa is not dead!" Giroud, who was one of the key members of France's World Cup-winning squad in 2018, told Le Figaro.

"I'm almost 35 but have the hunger of a 20-year-old guy. I know how to do it with the team."

Deschamps handed first call-ups on Thursday to Giroud's Milan team-mate, left-back Theo Hernandez, Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and Roma playmaker Jordan Veretout, along with Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby.

He also recalled Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, who has been involved in both Premier League games for the Red Devils this season after overcoming a long-term injury, and Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano.

France squad: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (Milan), Steve Mandanda (Marseille); Lucas Digne (Everton), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Jules Kounde (Sevilla), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea); N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Jordan Veretout (Roma); Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).

On August 9, 2016, Manchester United completed a deal that was expected to transform them back into title regulars.

Paul Pogba – who had left United in 2012 – arrived in an £89.3million (€105m) deal from Juventus, a then-world record transfer fee.

Five years on, Pogba seems to be at something of a crossroads in not just his United career, but as a player altogether.

Like in 2016, Pogba heads into the 2021-22 season on the back of an impressive European Championship with France.

Unlike in 2016, Les Bleus failed to go deep in the competition, dropping out in the last 16 stage to Switzerland.

That game in June perhaps provided the perfect summary of Pogba the player. A global superstar in his own right, the 28-year-old has perhaps never hit the heights his talent suggested, or at least not on a consistent basis.

An exquisite long-range strike put France 3-1 up against Switzerland, yet it was Pogba who dawdled on the ball and was robbed of possession as Les Bleus contributed to their own downfall in Bucharest.

But just how has Pogba fared in the five years since he arrived back at Old Trafford, and what could come next?

 

HIS UNITED RECORD

Pogba has made 199 appearances in all competitions for United in his second spell at the club, with Marcus Rashford (252), David de Gea (216) and Anthony Martial (208) playing more games in that time.

Indeed, only De Gea and Rashford have played more minutes than Pogba's 15,708. While he has struggled at times with niggling injuries, he has more often than not been consistently available throughout his time at Old Trafford, with De Gea and Rashford the two players to start more games than the former Juve star (174).

Pogba has played 134 times in the Premier League since 2016, helping United to 73 victories –  a win percentage of 54.5 per cent.

He has missed 56 league games, with United's win percentage dropping down to 50 per cent in those matches, underlying that he is perhaps more crucial than some of his critics would suggest.

It has to be said, however, that Bruno Fernandes' arrival in 2020 did see Pogba take a back seat.

The Portugal playmaker has already netted more goals (40) in all competitions than Pogba (38), in 119 fewer appearances, though 21 of Fernandes' goals have come from the penalty spot.

Rashford, with 39, is the only United player to record more assists than Pogba, who has teed up as many as he has scored, while the Frenchman's 301 chances created is a team-high, 66 clear of second-placed Rashford.

Pogba ranks in the top three for dribbles attempted (624), with 393 of these being successful, displaying his ability to carry the ball through the thirds, and his total of 11,723 passes is way clear of Nemanja Matic in second (9,849).

 

PARIS FOR PAUL?

With just 12 months left on his contract, talks of a move away for the Frenchman at the end of his deal continue – Paris Saint-Germain his most likely destination, given their reported interest last year.

PSG already have a wealth of midfield options, though, including former team-mate Ander Herrera, Euro 2020 winner Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes.

Pogba completed 1595 passes last term, yet the PSG trio, along with Idrissa Gueye, averaged out at 2126 successful attempts – perhaps aided by their domination on the ball in Ligue 1.

Despite this, only Paredes (322) completed more passes in the final third than the United midfielder's 282, suggesting a different dimension Pogba could bring to Mauricio Pochettino's midfield.

Pogba also won 255 duels, recovering possession 242 times when doing his defensive duties for Solskjaer. Idrissa Gueye, PSG's best performer in this area, only managed 201 successful duels and 208 recoveries in two games more.

However, Verratti, who featured in 11 fewer games than Pogba, was victorious in 233 duels and made 174 recoveries  – could the pair form Pochettino's pivot next season?

While Pochettino now also has Georginio Wijnaldum, who made 262 recoveries albeit in six more games for Liverpool last year, to call upon, Pogba would add undoubted quality to the French giants in every midfield aspect.

Draymond Green turned on Team USA's critics after landing another basketball gold medal at the Olympic Games, saying: "Somebody needs to teach these people some loyalty."

A sketchy start to the Tokyo 2020 mission was followed by steady improvement from Gregg Popovich's team, and an 87-82 win over France in Saturday's final tied up a fourth successive gold-winning campaign.

Pre-tournament losses to Australia and Nigeria hinted at teething problems in fusing together a new-look squad, and an early-group stage loss to France only fuelled doubts that this side might come up short.

But the United States team came good when it mattered, fending off a France side who kept coming back for more in the gold game. 

Golden State Warriors power forward Green has now played on two of the Americans' triumphant men's basketball Olympic teams, and he was keen to hit out at what he called "a lot of doubters".

"You turn on American sports talk, TV, or whatever, and you got guys like Kendrick Perkins doubting us," Green said.

Perkins, 36, is a former NBA championship winner with the Boston Celtics who now works as a television game analyst and commentator.

"Somebody needs to teach these people some loyalty. How about you cheer for your country?" Green said.

"When a guy doesn't play they say, 'Oh you need to represent your country', and then you lose, hit a little bump in the road, and everybody is mad in America. You are an American too, act like it.

"Do your job. I do some media stuff, I understand doing your job, but when you talk about a special group, you better be sure you are right, and a lot of people got it wrong.

"And trust me, I will be posting those guys, I'll be posting everyone I find who said something. No one holds anyone accountable any more, but I will."

 

Kevin Durant was the driving force behind the USA's success, scoring a game-high 29 points in the final and being a powerful presence during the tournament.

Like others, Green said that Durant "carried" the team, but he also pointed to the efforts of Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker and Jrue Holiday as being significant.

"It's a challenge to do special things," Green said. "I know it seems as if it has come easy for so long, but I played in 2016. It wasn’t easy then, it wasn’t easy this year.

"If it's worth having, you have to fight for it. We fought, they fought, I think the better team came out with the gold medal."

With families unable to join the team in Tokyo, and the Games coming on the back of a taxing NBA season, Green suggested this was a win to savour perhaps more than the Rio success, where there were no issues as imposing as the ongoing COVID restrictions.

"Don't get me wrong, I don't take either one for granted, but this one feels sweet," Green said. "It feels a lot sweeter."

Kevin Durant dazzled as Team USA won a fourth successive Olympic men's basketball gold medal, edging out France 87-82 in Saturday's final.

A game-high haul of 29 points from Brooklyn Nets superstar Durant saw the United States to a victory that avenged their opening group-stage loss to France.

It meant the USA kept up their strong recent record on the Olympic stage, with Durant securing a third gold medal of his career.

Jayson Tatum weighed in with 19 points, while France had five players in double figures but nobody in their ranks scored more than the 16 points managed by both Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.

The USA led by 11 points at 71-57 in the third quarter, but an impressive France cut that advantage to three points at 73-70 with 5:42 remaining of the fourth after Frank Ntilikina drained a three-pointer

France again reined in a double-digit lead to get back to 85-82 in arrears with 10 seconds remaining, but a foul by Gobert on Durant gave the USA's star man the chance to put the game away, which he seized by making both his free throws.

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