Dani Ceballos wants to see Sergio Ramos marauding across Europe with Spain next year before going for gold in Tokyo.

The prospect of a European Championship and Olympic Games double has been shunted back by 12 months, and Ramos will be 35 by the time they take place.

But the captain of Real Madrid and Spain has indicated an appetite for playing in both, and Ceballos would love to see him flying the flag both in his home continent and in Japan.

The European Championship will be played across a host of countries, with Spain having home advantage for their three group games which will all be played in Bilbao.

Everything is conditional on the pandemic situation allowing such tournaments to go ahead, but Ceballos, who is also hoping to double up, sees Ramos as a leader who would lift Spain on the Olympic stage.

"Sergio has earned the right to decide by the performance he gives," said Spain midfielder Ceballos.

"I always want him in my team. He has been a fundamental player, he continues to be, and of course I would want to have him at the Olympic Games on my side."

The European Championship final is due to be played on July 11 in London, a mere 11 days before the Olympic men's football tournament begins in Tokyo.

Ceballos spoke of there being 15 days' difference and suggested that was "still compatible" with being able to take part in both.

Regardless of the exact gap between those events, it will be demanding for any player to fully commit to both.

Midfielder Ceballos just wants to make sure he has a chance of being involved regularly with Spain, which is why again this season he is on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid.

At Arsenal he is set for an integral role under Mikel Arteta's leadership, but there were no guarantees he would be a fixture in Zinedine Zidane's Madrid team.

"You know that to take part you have to play for your team," Ceballos said.

"When a player is happy in his team that is for the best and that is why I decided to stay for one more year at Arsenal where I could develop my game as normal.

"After confinement we have seen a Dani Ceballos that we all wanted. I have improved a lot and I am very happy to continue at Arsenal."

Luis Enrique has made it clear that Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets will not necessarily be at Euro 2020 if he does not maintain his form.

A winner of the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, Busquets has earned 118 caps for La Roja since making his debut in 2009.

He remains a key figure at the heart of midfield for club and country and captained the side that drew 0-0 with Portugal in Lisbon on Tuesday.

However, Busquets will be a month short of his 33rd birthday when the postponed Euro 2020 finals begin next June and his starting spot with Spain is already under pressure from Manchester City midfielder Rodri.

Luis Enrique cannot guarantee Busquets will be part of his plans next year if he is not able to sustain his performance levels.

"If he maintains the level of the last 11 years, he'll be at the Euros. If he lowers it, we'll see," said the Spain boss.

"He's a veteran and he's the first to know how this goes. In the end, there comes a time when age counts for everything.

"It's the rule of life. Nobody spends 28 years in the national team."

One player who has forced his way into Luis Enrique's plans is Wolves winger Adama Traore, who made his debut off the bench against Portugal.

The winger's speed, trickery and imposing physique make him a weapon unlike any other at Spain's disposal in attack, and his head coach is delighted to see him flourishing.

He also confirmed Traore's upper-body size is from genetics and general conditioning, not from hours of heavy lifting.

"His case his special. He doesn't lift weights – it's true what he says," the former Barca boss said.

"He's a footballer who doesn't only have speed and an enviable physical structure. It's skill, it's power, it's strength, it's the capacity to hold onto the ball.

"He's a very sensible and thorough person. I'm really glad he's doing well.

"There's no single tactic for a player. There are tactics that try to promote individual qualities from a collective vision.

"A profile like Adama's is unusual. Those qualities are hard to find at this level and we'll try to integrate him into our team."

Spain play their third game of Nations League Group A4 on Saturday against Switzerland at Real Madrid's Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

The match is due to go ahead despite Madrid having been put back into a state of alarm as a result of rising coronavirus cases over the past two months.

"The players can't be worried," Luis Enrique said. "We'd like the news to be otherwise, to be able to play with fans [attending].

"We're living in a bubble, with tests every few days, without contact with people from outside... there's a general wish that this can be resolved as soon as possible."

Phil Foden has put off-field issues behind him to make a superb start to what could come to be seen as a definitive season for the Manchester City youngster.

The attacking midfielder was used with increased frequency by during the 2019-20 campaign by manager Pep Guardiola, who handed him his debut as a 17-year-old in 2017.

Foden was named man of the match as City won a third consecutive EFL Cup with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Wembley on March 1 and, after lockdown, he took on a more prominent place in the first team.

Injury and illness problems have complicated the early days of this season at the Etihad Stadium, with Guardiola claiming he only expects to have 13 fit senior players for the visit of Leicester City on Saturday.

The former Barcelona boss can therefore be thankful he has Foden in prime form.

The 20-year-old crowned a sweeping team move during Monday's 3-1 win over Wolves before scoring decisively in Thursday's 2-1 win at home to Bournemouth, where Foden also laid on the opener for City's latest bright young thing, Liam Delap.

MORE THAN A CUP SPECIALIST

The perfectly weighted pass for centre-forward Delap meant Foden had assisted in each of his past three starts in the EFL Cup, with no player creating more chances from open play in the competition since the start of last season than the England international's 14.

Against Bournemouth alone, Foden carved out five openings for his team-mates.

His adeptness in both the main aspects of attacking football is underlined by the fact that among all Premier League players since the beginning of 2019-20, only Kevin De Bruyne (eight matches) and Mohamed Salah (six matches) have scored and assisted in the same game more often than Foden, who has done so on four occasions.

Overall, Foden has been involved in 24 goals in his 34 starts for City in all competitions. Those 13 goals and 11 assists are not simply a matter of him "padding" against inferior opponents - just look at a crucial winner against Tottenham during the 2018-19 title run-in and his strikes as City claimed convincing wins over Arsenal and Liverpool earlier this year.

ENGLAND'S CREATIVE HOPE

Of course, given Foden made headlines at the start of the month for breaching coronavirus self-isolation protocols in the aftermath of his England debut in Iceland, it is worth pondering whether Gareth Southgate will decide a player he sent home in disgrace alongside Manchester United's Mason Greenwood is worth the hassle.

After his alleged antics in Reykjavik, the City favourite might have to make a compelling case when considering the other creative midfielders jockeying for position ahead of next year's European Championship.

In terms of goals and assists since the start of 2019-20, Foden is comfortably ahead of his contemporaries. Across 40 appearances, his 10 goals and 10 assists give him one more goal involvement combined than Jack Grealish.

The Aston Villa captain, who made his long awaited bow against Denmark in Foden's absence this month, has one more goal and two fewer assists over the same period, but has played 3,730 minutes to reach those figures, compared to the City man's 1,921.

The high-quality of team-mates Foden benefit from here are obviously a factor, but he is also considerably more efficient than Mason Mount and James Maddison, who starred with Chelsea and Leicester City in the upper echelons of the Premier League last term.

Mount has played 56 games - compared to Foden's 40 - and 4,008 minutes across all competitions and accrued eight goals and six assists.

Maddison has three goals and nine assists in 41 appearances (3,206 minutes).

UNDER-21 KING

Looking beyond his position, since his City debut in 2017, Foden has outperformed all English players under 21 in terms of goals and assists.

Including his contributions when featuring as a substitute, he has scored 17 times and set up 13 more. Counting matches up until he turned 21 last October, Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is next on this list with 22 goals involvements - bolstered by a phenomenal 19 assists.

Foden's partner in escapades Greenwood is next with 18 goals and four assists, while Callum Hudson-Odoi has laid on 11 and scored eight despite his injury woes for Chelsea.

Greenwood (2,767) and Hudson-Odoi (2,817) have played fewer minutes than Foden (3,258) over the period in question, as has Arsenal's Bukayo Saka (four goals and 13 assists in 3,085 minutes). Burnley's Dwight McNeil is the sixth on this list of Englishmen with bright futures, having scored five goals and set up 12 more in 5,592 minutes spanning 69 appearances.

The past week suggests Foden is back on track after a very public fall from grace, with the wider numbers suggesting the sky is the limit for club and country, as far as the 'Stockport Iniesta' is concerned. He might even get a better nickname soon.

Frank de Boer believes he has inherited a Netherlands squad that is even better than the one that reached the World Cup final a decade ago. 

The new Oranje coach, confirmed as Ronald Koeman's successor, was on Bert van Marwijk's coaching staff at the 2010 World Cup when Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder et al made the final, only to be beaten by Spain after extra time. 

The Netherlands missed out on qualification for the previous World Cup in 2018 - having also been absent from Euro 2016 - but De Boer is bullish about the future having signed a two-year contract that will take in next year's delayed European Championship and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

"This selection is perhaps even more talented than that of 2010," De Boer told reporters. 

"I do see similarities with that group. Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben were in top form, we had Rafael van der Vaart and also defensively it was good with the block - Mark van Bommel [and] Nigel de Jong. Very solid, and so does the current selection. There is a lot of potential, especially in terms of width." 

The Netherlands were at a low ebb when Koeman took over in February 2018 but he led them to the Nations League final and guided them to Euro 2020 - a competition that has been postponed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Koeman will not be in charge for that having left to take over at Barcelona, though former Ajax, Inter, Crystal Palace and Atlanta United coach De Boer accepts he shares similarities with his predecessor. 

"When the rumours about a possible departure of Koeman to Barcelona came, I had a brief talk with my agent about the Dutch national team, just to see how I might feel about that," De Boer added. 

"I am not Ronald Koeman 2.0, but there are of course some similarities. I do want to follow the path of his method." 

De Boer made 112 appearances for his country and won four straight Eredivisie titles with Ajax at the start of his coaching career. 

However, he has failed to emulate that success in his stops with Inter, Palace and MLS side Atlanta, so his appointment as coach of the national team has raised eyebrows. 

"It doesn't interest me whether I was the first, second or sixth choice for the Oranje, this job is very honourable and if I am asked to do this job, I like to do this job," De Boer said. 

"You always have supporters and opponents and you always hear the opponents loudest. But I think there is also a very large group of people who are very satisfied.  

"I hope that I will not betray the confidence of the KNVB [Royal Dutch Football Association] and the supporters."

Ronald Koeman said "it feels very special" to be appointed head coach of his "dream club" Barcelona.

Barca on Wednesday announced Koeman as the successor to Quique Setien, who was let go following the 8-2 hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals on Friday.

Koeman, who spent six years at Camp Nou as a player under Johan Cruyff and served as an assistant to Louis van Gaal for two, has left his role as head coach of the Netherlands to sign a two-year contract with the Catalan giants.

"It was an honour to be the national coach of the Netherlands. Over the past two and a half years, I have done everything I can to achieve success with Oranje," he said in a statement published by the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB).

"I look back with pride on what we have achieved together in that period. The Dutch national team has a bright future, I am convinced of that.

"Everyone knows that Barcelona is my dream club. It feels very special to me to be able to become a coach there."

Koeman was appointed Netherlands boss in 2018, after they failed to qualify for that year's World Cup following the disappointment of missing out on a place at Euro 2016.

The 57-year-old had an immediate impact, gaining Oranje a place in the inaugural Nations League Finals – where they were beaten to the trophy by Portugal – by winning a group that included World Cup winners France and Germany.

Arsene Wenger dismissed a report he will take over from Koeman ahead of Euro 2020, which was postponed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dwight Lodeweges has been named interim Netherlands boss until a permanent successor is appointed.

KNVB director of football Eric Gudde said: "We regret Ronald's decision, but respect his choice.

"In the period Ronald has been national coach, he has achieved very good results with the Dutch national team. He has given Oranje colour in its cheeks again after a number of difficult years and we are very grateful to him for that.

"Meanwhile, the group of players has developed tremendously, in that respect we can continue on the same patch."

Koeman is set to oversee a significant overhaul of the playing staff at Barcelona after their Champions League humiliation and Real Madrid dethroning them in LaLiga.

The majority of senior players are reported to be up for sale, with Lionel Messi alleged to be seeking an exit from Camp Nou.

Sporting director Eric Abidal had his contract terminated by mutual consent on Tuesday so Koeman will work alongside Ramon Planes, who was promoted as the Frenchman's replacement on Wednesday.

Ronald Koeman has been hired as Barcelona's new head coach following Monday's dismissal of Quique Setien.

The Dutchman leaves his role as head coach of the Netherlands, having agreed a two-year deal at Camp Nou.

Setien's sacking was confirmed after just seven months in charge, as he paid the price for Barca's failure to win LaLiga and their 8-2 Champions League humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich.

That quarter-final defeat last Friday was Barca's worst since 1946 and others could yet follow Setien out of the door.

First-team technical secretary Eric Abidal has also left after his position came under severe scrutiny, while president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed the club's elections have been brought forward to March but has resisted calls to step down. The incumbent will not be able to stand for presidency again.

Before Koeman was confirmed, Barca announced the appointment of Ramon Planes to replace Abidal.

Changes are coming for Barca and the arrival of Koeman, who spent six years with the club as a player until 1995 and was also Louis van Gaal's assistant from 1998 to 2000, is chief among them.

Koeman had been working as head coach of his whom nation, having taken charge following Dick Advocaat's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

His impact with the Oranje was swift, leading them to the Nations League final last year and winning six of eight Euro 2020 qualifiers – their solitary defeat coming to Germany in March 2019 – en route to securing a place at the finals.

Koeman was approached by Barca when Ernesto Valverde was sacked in January but turned them down, citing his commitment to leading the Netherlands through Euro 2020. However, the tournament was postponed by a year due to coronavirus and Koeman's personal circumstances shifted when he was hospitalised for heart surgery in May.

Barca will now hope Koeman can elicit a similar response at Camp Nou as he did with his national team, but he is facing an uphill battle.

Captain and talisman Lionel Messi has reportedly told the club he wants to leave as soon as possible, while Gerard Pique has called for wholesale changes and even offered to move on for the benefit of the team.

Barca will also be without Marc-Andre ter Stegen until November after the goalkeeper had knee surgery, and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis is likely to make significant spending in the transfer market difficult.

Koeman will not have long to implement any changes, either. The 2020-21 LaLiga season is due to begin in a little under a month's time.

It is widely thought Koeman is seen as a stop-gap until the club can convince former midfielder Xavi – now coach of Al Sadd – to return, having so far been unsuccessful in their attempts to bring him back. Presidential candidate Victor Font has named the ex-Spain star as a top target should he win the election.

Mauricio Pochettino had also been mentioned as a possible option and was apparently favoured by Bartomeu, but media reports claim the board refused to sanction his appointment due to his connections to local rivals Espanyol and disparaging comments he had previously made regarding the Blaugrana.

Ronald Koeman has been hired as Barcelona's new head coach following Monday's dismissal of Quique Setien.

 

 

Former Juventus and Arsenal defender Stephan Lichtsteiner has retired from football.

The 36-year-old had planned to play for Switzerland at the Euro 2020 finals before calling time on his career, but with the coronavirus pandemic forcing the tournament to be postponed to 2021, he has chosen not to continue playing for another year.

Lichtsteiner had spent the 2019-20 season with Augsburg, making 20 appearances in the Bundesliga as Heiko Herrlich's side finished 15th.

"The plan would have been to retire after the European Championship in 2020," Lichtsteiner, who was Switzerland captain, said in an interview published by the Swiss Football Association.

"After UEFA's decision to postpone the European Championship to 2021, it became clear to me that the time had come and I didn't want to add another year.

"The length of a footballer's career is limited. I was allowed to play at a high level until I was 36. Now, it's time to take a new path. It was a cool time that I really enjoyed."

Lichtsteiner earned 108 senior caps for Switzerland and competed at five major tournaments: Euro 2008, co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria, the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, and Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, at which he was captain under Vladimir Petkovic.

"Every tournament was an incredible event," he said. "I always felt a tingling feeling. It was a shame we narrowly missed out on the quarter-finals in the last three tournaments, which were of a high level.

"If you're able to play more than 100 international matches, that makes you proud. Every single game was an honour. And each one felt like it was the first, in terms of nervousness!"

Lichtsteiner's most successful spell came in his seven years with Juventus, where he won seven Serie A titles in a row, lifted the Coppa Italia four times and twice reached the Champions League final.

"We were able to build a generation of winners and won 14 trophies in seven years. That was definitely the most formative and successful phase of my career. The downside were those two lost Champions League finals," he said.

Lichtsteiner, who spent 2018-19 with Arsenal, is now planning for a career in coaching but is also considering a future "in the economic sector".

"I am open and currently being inspired by various things," he said.

Spain have announced they will travel to Portugal for a friendly on October 7. 

The fixture between the neighbouring countries will be staged in Lisbon ahead of both featuring in Nations League games during the October international window. 

Luis Enrique's squad are scheduled to host Switzerland on October 10 before travelling to Ukraine three days later - Germany are the other team in Group 4. 

Defending champions Portugal, meanwhile, are away to France on October 11, followed by a home game against Sweden.

Spain are also set for friendly duty against the Netherlands in November, with that meeting originally set to take place in March before the coronavirus pandemic caused major changes to the schedule.

Euro 2020 was pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 crisis, with the tournament now set for June and July in 2021.

Olivier Giroud has set his sights on overtaking Michel Platini as France's second-highest goalscorer as the Chelsea forward aims to win 100 caps for Les Bleus.

Giroud – who reached the Euro 2016 final with France before winning the 2018 World Cup – has scored 39 international goals in 97 appearances.

The 33-year-old has been a stalwart of Didier Deschamps' squad and needs just three more goals to overtake Platini and move second in the all-time list, behind Thierry Henry, who netted 51 times between 1997 and 2010.

Now, Giroud has set his sights on becoming only the eighth centurion in France's history, as well as matching Platini's goal haul.

"I had the chance to make a Euro final and win the World Cup," he said in an interview with Canal+.

"I'm still thirsty for trophies and to break records in the French team. It would be good to pass 100 caps, and then try to get past Platini in second place in the team's top scorers rankings.

"These are goals and the Euro next year is of course a goal."

Giroud scored six goals as France successfully qualified for Euro 2020, only for the tournament to be pushed back a year due to coronavirus.

There was plenty to digest following UEFA's Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday.

European football's governing body finalised decisions for the completion of its 2019-20 club competitions, as well as details for its international competitions.

With so much to take in, we have broken down the key outcomes for the Champions League, Women's Champions League, Europa League, Euro 2020 and the Nations League.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:

- Lisbon will host an eight-team tournament between August 12 and 23, with the final to take place at Benfica's Estadio da Luz.

- The remaining last-16 ties will take place at venues yet to be determined. If Portugal hosts these matches as well, Porto and Guimaraes will host games if necessary.

- Quarter-final and semi-final contests will be played as single-leg ties as opposed to the traditional two-leg showdowns.

- The draw for the quarters and semis will take place at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon on July 10.

- Extra time and penalties will be used as deciders for matches ending in a draw and teams will be allowed to make five substitutions (as will those in the Europa League) in line with temporary changes to the Laws of the Game.

- Istanbul, which was supposed to host the showpiece game, will now be the final venue for 2021.

- Newly transferred players will not allowed to be registered for the remaining rounds.

- The group stages of the 2020-21 Champions League will be begin in October, with September traditionally the start date for the competition proper.

- Qualifying rounds for next season's Champions League and Europa League will be played as single-leg fixtures, bar the play-off round of the Champions League.

EUROPA LEAGUE:

- Europe's secondary competition will take place as a straight knockout tournament from the quarter-finals onwards, with Germany to host matches between August 10 and 21.

- Matches will be played in Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen.

- The six last-16 ties that have a second leg to be played will take place a venue yet to be concerned. 

- The last-16 contests between Inter and Getafe, and Sevilla and Roma will be single-leg affairs.

- Gdansk will host the 2021 Europa League final, having been originally slated to put on this year's showpiece.

- The 2020 Super Cup will take place at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on September 24. Porto was originally supposed to have the game.

- As with the Champions League, the Europa League group phase starts in October.

WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:

- Like the men's tournament, the Women's Champions League will be completed as a straight knockout tournament from the quarter-finals.

- Matches will take place in Spain, with the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao and the Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastian putting on games between August 21 and 30.

- The draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals will be held in Nyon on June 26.

- Gothenburg will be the host venue for the 2021 final.

EURO 2020/NATIONS LEAGUE:

- All 12 original host cities for Euro 2020 will remain in place for the rescheduled tournament taking place next year.

- The updated match schedule was also approved by the ExCo and UEFA said all existing tickets purchased by supporters will remain valid.

 - International windows in October and November 2020 will feature triple-headers so that postponed Euro 2020 play-off qualifiers can be played at the beginning of the respective windows on October 8 and November 12.

- Group-stage games for the 2020-21 Nations League will take place on the following dates: September 3/4/5 and 6/7/8; October 10/11 and 13/14; November 14/15 and 17/18.

All 12 host cities for Euro 2020 will remain the same when the tournament takes place a year later than planned in 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis.

A meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee was held via videoconference on Wednesday.

After their deliberations, European football's governing body announced a host of decisions, including on how the Champions League and Europa League would be completed.

It was also confirmed the original 12 venues would host matches in the rescheduled Euros.

The meeting had been postponed in May after UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said nine cities had affirmed their commitment to hosting, though there were issues with the remaining three.

But those concerns have been alleviated and, along with confirming the 12 venues, an updated match schedule was also approved.

The tournament will begin with a game between Italy and Turkey in Rome on June 11, 2021 with the final taking place a month later in London on July 11.

Baku, Copenhagen, Munich, Budapest, Amsterdam, Dublin, Bucharest, St Petersburg, Glasgow and Bilbao are the other host cities.

"All existing tickets remain valid for the tournament in 2021," added a UEFA statement.

"Existing ticket buyers who nevertheless wish to return their ticket(s), will have a final opportunity to request a refund from June 18 to June 25.

"The Executive Committee expressed its appreciation to the host associations, cities and their authorities for their continuous support and commitment in organising the postponed Euro 2020."

Four spaces in the 24-team competition remain up for grabs as the play-offs are yet to take place.

The October and November international windows are to become triple-headers rather than double-headers, meaning those ties can be played on October 8 and November 12.

Meanwhile, a new season of Nations League action will begin on September 3, with group-stage matches taking place at regular intervals until November 18.

"UEFA took a bold decision when it decided to postpone Euro 2020," said Ceferin.

"But in doing so, we created the space which has allowed domestic club competitions across the continent to resume, where possible, and play to a conclusion. 

"While the game has suffered huge difficulties as a result of the pandemic, those blows would have landed much harder if we had not shown leadership in those early days."

Giorgio Chiellini plans to play at least one more season before retiring as he aims to sign off in style with Italy at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament.

The Juventus defender has missed the majority of the 2019-20 season after suffering a serious knee injury in August, though he returned to action prior to the coronavirus-enforced suspension.

While he will turn 36 in August, Chiellini has no intention of hanging up his boots in the near future, suggesting there is a possibility of him carrying on beyond the 2020-21 campaign.

In an Instagram Live chat with actress Martina Colombari, the wife of former Milan and Italy defender Alessandro Costacurta, the centre-back also revealed how a move into coaching is unlikely once his playing days are finally over.

"I will play another year, then I'll see how I feel and how my legs hold up," Chiellini said.

"I could retire next summer or have another season after that. I would like to continue in football, probably more a directorial role than management, but you never know in life.

"I hope to get there [Euro 2020] in excellent condition to live this last international event to the fullest.

"We have experienced players and many strong youngsters. Ending with a great European [Championship] would be a great satisfaction, closing the circle."

Chiellini admitted the injury was a huge blow but embraced the "challenge" of making a full recovery, something that may not have been the case at an earlier stage in his career.

"At the beginning it was difficult, accepting an injury is not easy, but I'm glad I had it at 35 because you have a different maturity. I found it as a challenge with myself," he explained.

Sven-Goran Eriksson believes his England starting XI was stronger than the current generation, but feels Gareth Southgate's overall squad is more impressive.

Eriksson became the first non-British manager to be appointed England boss when he left Lazio to take over in 2001, turning around their qualification campaign for the 2002 World Cup and securing a spot at the tournament in Japan and South Korea.

With the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Michael Owen, the Three Lions were fancied to make an impact.

But they were beaten by eventual champions Brazil in the last eight. Two years later they fell at the same hurdle in Euro 2004 to Portugal, who also sent England packing in Eriksson's final tournament in charge – the 2006 World Cup.

One of the main legacies of Eriksson's time in charge was a perceived inability to get the best out of England's so-called 'golden generation', but he thinks Southgate has more options at his disposal.

When asked if he feels the current England team was better than his, Eriksson told Stats Perform News: "Maybe not, but they have more choices today than we had.

"Number 20, number 21, the quality went down a bit. It's easier today, there are many hugely talented football players.

"They did well at the last World Cup, they will be even better in the next Euros. It's a new generation. They are young, they are good.

"They have a lot of quality all over. It looks like a very hungry team. They have a lot of pace and that's important.

"If you defend well, then you will be very strong in counterattacks and then, you have a born goalscorer [Harry Kane], and you need that man who can score [many] goals in a major tournament."

Recently, Eriksson was criticised by Ferdinand for apparently urging the former Manchester United centre-back to not play out from the back – but the Swede insists that was not the case.

"He was one of the best central defenders in the world, maybe the best, and as he rightly said, he could play," Eriksson added. "He was a very modern central defender. Football was different then.

"Everybody wants to play like Barcelona, but not everybody should. Not everyone can play like Ferdinand. But that back four was very, very strong.

"I always in all my career was very keen not to lose the ball when we have it in our own half of the pitch: you give opportunities to your opponents to create.

"If you're going to lose it, then do so up front, but if we could play in a secure way from behind, then do it, if not then don't make life difficult for us. But I never ever said don't play from the back."

Euro 2020 was due to start on Friday, but due to the coronavirus pandemic it was postponed for 12 months in March.

England will face Croatia, Czech Republic and as yet undetermined third team, who will be decided by the qualification play-off, when the tournament takes place from June 11, 2021.

Ronald Koeman said "everyone knows it's my dream to coach Barcelona", but the Dutchman remains focused on the Netherlands.

Koeman had been linked to Barca after Ernesto Valverde was sacked, before the LaLiga champions eventually turned to Quique Setien in January.

Former Barca defender Koeman previously revealed his Netherlands contract contains a clause that allows him to depart for Camp Nou following Euro 2020, though the European Championship has been pushed back 12 months due to coronavirus.

Koeman, who underwent heart surgery in May, addressed the Barca speculation and his future.

"I had a phone call [from Barca], as I've explained many times. But I want to keep my word with the national team, I thought we'd have Euro 2020 this summer," Koeman told Catalunya Radio.

"I'm happy with how things are with the national team and for me, that's the most important thing at the moment. None of us know what will happen in the future.

"In my contract, there is a clause that will let me leave the national team job after the Euros but now's not the time to be thinking about that. Everyone knows it's my dream to coach Barca.

"Hopefully I might have the opportunity to do so in the future. But as always, that depends on your performance and successes as a coach - you need a lot of experience to coach a team like Barca."

LaLiga leaders Barca were two points clear of bitter rivals Real Madrid when the 2019-20 season was postponed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's really difficult for me to say what I think about Barca," said Koeman, who won four LaLiga titles and the European Cup/Champions League during his time at Camp Nou. "Today's Barca isn't the same as [Pep] Guardiola's, but it's still a fantastic team.

"Because of [Frenkie] De Jong, I've been watching more of their games. I hope they go on to win LaLiga. As for the Champions League, they'll need to improve to be in a chance of winning it."

Netherlands international midfielder Frenkie de Jong joined Barca from Eredivisie champions Ajax at the start of the season.

De Jong had scored two goals and supplied as many assists in LaLiga before the league's suspension.

Koeman added: "I think De Jong is a player who can adapt to a new position in midfield, playing a little further forward. But I still think his best position is just in front of the back four - where [Sergio] Busquets plays. That's his best position- where he plays for the national team and where he played with Ajax.

"It's not a bad thing to adapt to other positions. He's still only young and you have to give young players time. In no time he will show his quality with Barca. He's done that with Ajax and with the national team. I'm in no doubt that he's the right player for Barca. He knows he can do more, but he's taking it all with calm because he's happy at Barca."

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