Roberto Mancini has led resurgent Italy back into the top 10 of the FIFA rankings after a four-year absence.

The Azzurri are four-time World Cup winners but last featured in the higher echelons in the August 2016 rankings.

Failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup during Gian Piero Ventura's reign demonstrated their decline, but Mancini, who turned 56 on Friday, has engineered an impressive turnaround in fortunes.

Italy were 20th on the FIFA list when Mancini took over as head coach in May 2018, but winning all 10 of their Euro 2020 qualifying matches not only re-established them as a major force, it has seen their ranking soar.

Italy have reached the Nations League finals and are now unbeaten in 22 matches, their best such run since the year they won the World Cup in 2006.

They enjoyed an 11-game winning streak within the current sequence and will be seeded for the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Mancini praised his squad's efforts earlier this month, saying on RAI Sport: "The players have done a great job because it has not always been easy.

"We have tried to become more offensive with our play. You have to have the right mentality to do so and have a style of play that all the great teams have."

Italy climbed from 12th to 10th place in the new rankings, while Mexico also jumped two places, rising to ninth.

For Mexico the wait to rejoin the top 10 had been even longer than it was for Italy - with a nine-year span since they last featured.

Belgium remain top of the list, ahead of France and Brazil.

 

FIFA rankings top 10: 1 Belgium, 2 France, 3 Brazil, 4 England, 5 Portugal, 6 Spain, 7 Argentina, 8 Uruguay, 9 Mexico, 10 Italy.

Andy Robertson said he had never felt as much emotion after a game as he did following Scotland's penalty shoot-out success over Serbia that secured their place at Euro 2020.

Ryan Christie put Scotland ahead in the 52nd minute of the play-off final in Belgrade, but substitute Luka Jovic equalised at the end of normal time to force an additional half an hour.

David Marshall made a great save to deny Nemanja Gudelj in extra time and then kept Aleksandar Mitrovic's spot-kick out to send Scotland to their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.

Robertson, who has won the Premier League and Champions League with Liverpool, was overwhelmed after Steve Clarke's men booked a spot in Group D alongside England, Croatia and Czech Republic.

"I don't think I can [sum it up]. There was so much emotion going into the game, and then you get so close and they end up equalising," Robertson told Sky Sports.

"You have to pick yourself up for extra time, which we did. When you get to penalties, you always back Marshy and it's just whether the lads can hold their nerve, and they managed to do it.

"We've come so far with this squad and I back every one of them as they've come through a lot of criticism and a lot of negativity at times. We've stuck together and battled through it.

"I really hope everyone back home can see the positive side to this as we're absolutely delighted. I really hope that during a really tough time, we've managed to put a smile on a lot of faces.

"It's the most emotional I've been after a game but we can look forward to next summer now."

Robertson played through discomfort in his left hamstring during extra time, something Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will hope does not have ramifications amid a defensive injury crisis at Anfield.

The Scotland skipper missed time at the end of last season due to a left hamstring issue.

"I think I was next or seventh [to take a penalty] but my hamstring had seized up in the second half of extra time, just a bit of cramp and it was my left one so I was a bit worried it was going to cramp up," said Robertson

Christie's opener was his sixth goal involvement in as many appearances for Scotland and he hopes their success can be the starting point for more regular major tournament appearances.

"It's been a horrible year for everyone and we knew we could give something back to the country and I hope everyone back home is having a party tonight, because we deserve it," said Christie, his voice breaking due to emotion.

"We've been through so many years. We know it, you know it, everyone knows it. It's a monkey off the back and we can move on from here."

Scotland are now unbeaten in nine consecutive matches in all competitions, last going longer without defeat during a run of 11 games that ended in February 1930.

David Marshall was the hero as Scotland secured their place at next year's Euro 2020 by beating Serbia 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in their play-off final in a sodden Belgrade.

Scotland looked set to make it through to their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in normal time thanks to Ryan Christie's brilliant strike in the 52nd minute.

However, Luka Jovic, who replaced Nemanja Maksimovic in the 70th minute, converted a free header 20 minutes later and the teams could not be separated after an additional half an hour.

It went to a penalty shoot-out and Marshall saved Aleksandar Mitrovic's spot-kick to ensure Steve Clarke's men will go up against rivals England, Croatia and Czech Republic in Group D at next year's European Championship.

Northern Ireland fell short of qualifying for their second ever European Championships as Michal Duris' extra-time goal helped Slovakia to a 2-1 win in a Euro 2020 play-off final in Belfast on Thursday. 

Ian Barraclough's side had lost two Nations League games since their semi-final penalty shoot-out win over Bosnia-Herzegovina last month and they started slowly at Windsor Park, falling behind to Juraj Kuckar's 17th-minute strike. 

They clawed their way back into the game three minutes from full-time, though, when Paddy McNair's low cross was diverted into his own net by Milan Skriniar. 

But there was to be no fairytale ending for the hosts as Duris powered home in the 110th minute to help Slovakia qualify for back-to-back European Championships and inflict a seventh defat in 11 games on Baraclough's side.

Dominik Szoboszlai's superb strike completed a remarkable late turnaround as Hungary secured their spot at Euro 2020 with a stunning 2-1 win over Iceland.

Having defended brilliantly amid a Hungary onslaught, Iceland looked to be heading to their second European Championship thanks to Gylfi Sigurdsson's 11th-minute opener, which came courtesy of Peter Gulacsi's howler.

Yet after substitute Albert Gudmundsson missed a glorious chance to wrap up the win in the 87th minute, Hungary struck twice to book their place at next year's finals.

Loic Nego had prodded in from close range, before star man Szoboszlai stole victory, thumping in off the upright to thwart Iceland in the most dramatic fashion.

North Macedonia qualified for Euro 2020 with an historic 1-0 victory over Georgia in Thursday's play-off match in Tbilisi.

Both sides were looking to reach the finals for the first time and join Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria in Group C.

It was visiting captain Goran Pandev whose goal settled a tense contest in the Georgian capital, in which there were just four shots on target throughout.

The Genoa forward struck after 56 minutes, prodding in from Ilija Nestorovski's pass after a fine run from Eljif Elmas.

Pandev, who will turn 38 shortly after next year's finals conclude, has scored a record 36 times in 114 games for his country.

Georgia, who had lost just once in 13 previous home games, failed to threaten Stole Dimitrievski's goal thereafter as North Macedonia reached their first major tournament.

Arsenal are seeking clarification after Kieran Tierney was told to self-isolate due to Scotland team-mate Stuart Armstrong's positive coronavirus test.

Southampton midfielder Armstrong tested positive while on international duty and will be quarantining for 10 days.

Tierney and Ryan Christie were identified as close contacts, along with two members of Scotland's support staff, and all must now self-isolate for two weeks.

The trio will miss the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final with Israel and the Nations League matches with Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

A 14-day quarantine would also see defender Tierney sit out Arsenal's Premier League clash with Manchester City on October 17.

However, the 23-year-old insists he was socially distant from Armstrong at all times and has tested negative for COVID-19.

"I'm so disappointed and frustrated to be in this situation," he said in a statement released by the Gunners.

"I have adhered to all regulations and made sure I was socially distancing from my team-mates in the hotel. I've also tested negative. I know Arsenal and the SFA [Scottish Football Association] are now in discussions with the Scottish authorities to gain a further understanding."

Arsenal said: "Our medical team have confirmed that Kieran was socially distant at all times from the player who tested positive and has broken no rules regarding COVID-19 protocols. We are currently seeking further advice and clarification of the details."

Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney is set to miss the Premier League clash with Manchester City after being told he must self-isolate due to a coronavirus case in the Scotland squad. 

Southampton midfielder Stuart Armstrong returned a positive result for a test conducted on Tuesday, the Scottish Football Association confirmed in a statement. 

Armstrong must quarantine for 10 days, meaning he will miss Scotland's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Israel and the Nations League matches with Slovakia and the Czech Republic. 

Tierney, Ryan Christie and two of Scotland's support staff have been identified as close contacts of Armstrong, meaning they must now self-isolate for 14 days. 

They will also sit out the coming international matches, while Tierney will miss the meeting between Arsenal and City on October 17. 

Celtic midfielder Christie will be forced to sit out the Old Firm clash with Rangers on the same day. 

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke said: "While this is obviously disappointing news the most important thing is the health and safety of the individuals involved and the wider group.  

"As soon as we were informed of the positive test, the Chief Medical Consultant immediately contacted the Scottish Government's clinical adviser, who in turn alerted the local Health Protection Team. 

"We have informed the respective clubs from whom we have borrowed the players and backroom staff and we now have to prepare for a huge match ahead tomorrow."

The Republic of Ireland's opening Nations League matches against Bulgaria and Finland gave Stephen Kenny "some food for thought" as he looks ahead to the "bigger picture" of their Euro 2020 play-off.

In Kenny's first two games as manager, Ireland drew in Bulgaria with a late Shane Duffy equaliser on Thursday and then lost 1-0 at home to Finland on Sunday.

But while frustrated not to take the three points in Dublin after a series of misses in the closing stages - including another Duffy header - Kenny's focus was already on a vital meeting with Slovakia.

Ireland must come through that fixture next month and then a subsequent play-off final to qualify for the European Championship in 2021.

For that reason, the Ireland boss was willing to name experimental line-ups – he changed his entire midfield for the meeting with Finland – in a bid to find his best side.

"We wanted to win - my first game at home, of course we wanted to win - but, for us, there's a bigger picture. That's Slovakia." Kenny explained to Sky Sports.

"We were a bit experimental in the games, I think that's evident. We want players to really put their hands up and put themselves in the picture for Slovakia.

"We need to increase our attacking options, for sure, for the game against Slovakia.

"We wanted to do that and some players did quite well. That gives us some food for thought for the game next month."

Having struggled to break Finland down before the break, Ireland preyed on the visitors' sloppiness at the back to muster big second-half chances.

They could not take their opportunities, however, and Kenny reflected: "We probably had four or five really good chances today.

"When you get them, you have to take them. It's as simple as that. We're disappointed, obviously, to lose the game."

Northern Ireland have appointed Ian Baraclough as their new manager to succeed Michael O'Neill.

Baraclough, 49, has served as the country's Under-21 boss for the last three years.

His promotion to the senior role was confirmed on Saturday by the Irish Football Association.

O'Neill joined Championship side Stoke City in November 2019 after eight years in charge of Northern Ireland.

He initially combined the position with the national team job before stepping down in April this year.

O'Neill had hoped to lead the team into the Euro 2020 play-offs, but decided against carrying on when they were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Baraclough will instead have that task, with Northern Ireland to play Bosnia-Herzegovina in the semi-finals on October 8.

The former Motherwell and Scunthorpe United manager's first game in charge will come before that, though, with an away fixture against Romania in the Nations League on September 4.

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."

England manager Gareth Southgate feels UEFA's approach to tackling racist incidents in stadia is unacceptable and he would not hesitate to lead his team off the pitch if required in future.

The subject of racism in society has been at the fore of global discussion since George Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25. A police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes, sparking protests across the United States and beyond.

England players were subjected to racist abuse during Euro 2020 qualifiers in Montenegro in March 2019 and in Bulgaria last October.

UEFA's three-step procedure for tackling such incidents was initiated during the game in Sofia, with the match twice stopped and announcements made over the stadium's public address system.

The last resort would have been to abandon the match, and Southgate said he would be ready to ensure that step was followed if he found England in a similar situation again.

"It's a strange situation when you're on the side of the pitch, because there are times where you're really attuned to the noise and there are other times where there are obviously chants going on that you can't quite distinguish," Southgate told Sky Sports.

"And in Bulgaria there were moments where it was really clear, when Tyrone Mings had the ball, and I think we were waiting anyway for the situation. In Montenegro that wasn't so clear. We felt a bit underprepared in Montenegro, we didn't even know anything about the UEFA protocols at that time, so we took it upon ourselves over the next period to really prepare ourselves for that night in Bulgaria as a group of players and as a staff.

"We had a long discussion with the players days before the game regarding how they saw it, what they wanted the approach to be, that they were clear we were there to support, that we had the backing of the FA regarding whatever we thought was necessary, but there's also a requirement to follow the regulations as well. We're in a competition, we've got to follow some of those guidelines.

"So we were in a position we wanted and we did the right thing, not just to do something to be seen to be trying to be the heroes and make a stance if it wasn't necessary, but as the evening was going on there were moments in the first half where we didn't think we'd get through the game.

"We had a long discussion at half-time, bearing in mind it really dominated the thinking - thankfully we were well ahead in the game we didn't have to think about the match by that point - and the players were very clear had there been another incident in that second half we were prepared to walk.

"I've heard people say there was abuse in the second half. None of the players were conscious of that, we weren't conscious of that, a big section of the ground were evicted at half-time, so we didn't feel on the night that the next step was appropriate.

"We wouldn't hesitate to go to the next step if we were in that situation again, and I agree, I don't think the protocol of allowing people almost two free hits is really acceptable.

"I agree we've always got to get further and frankly when we're at the point where we're having to take action on the pitch it's gone too far anyway. The situation's got to be addressed before we even get into the stadiums, in society."

Southgate said he had not spoken to any of the Three Lions' black and minority ethnic players about Floyd's death because he knew where they stood on the matter, adding: "It's occupied a lot of my thinking over the past week."

After Raheem Sterling spoke of the need for greater black representation at the top level in the Premier League and FA, and Kick It Out's Troy Townsend criticised the lack of diversity in coaching positions, Southgate said the time has come for significant and sweeping changes.

"I think that's clear across every level of the game and every level of society," he said.

"People have spoken brilliantly this week, [Sport England board member] Chris Grant is somebody who I've met a number of times, has lectured me on a couple of courses and went on about the institutional racism he feels exists in sporting bodies and sporting governance. I think all of those areas are where we've got to focus our attention.

"This feeling that Troy spoke about that people feel there aren't the opportunities there so young black people will refrain from taking qualifications or getting themselves prepared because they feel there is a ceiling to what's possible.

"We need their voices in those decision-making areas and we need to show people the opportunities do exist and that's got to be at every level of the game."

The next UEFA executive committee meeting has been delayed until June 17 due to unresolved issues with proposed venues for next year's Euro 2020.

The meeting had initially been scheduled to take place on May 27.

Euro 2020 was due to get under way across 12 different locations in June but was pushed back by 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Amsterdam, Baku, Bilbao, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome and St Petersburg were scheduled to host games.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told beIN SPORTS on Sunday that nine cities have affirmed their commitment to hosting matches in 2021, though there were issues with the remaining three.

"We've had conversations with nine cities and everything is set," said Ceferin.

"With three cities, we have some issues. So we will discuss further. In principle, we will do it in 12 cities but if not, we are ready to do it in 10, nine or eight."

In order to gain greater clarity on the circumstances surrounding host venues for the tournament, the executive committee will meet three weeks later than planned.

A UEFA statement released on Monday read: "UEFA today announced that the next meeting of its executive committee, originally scheduled for May 27, has been postponed to June 17, 2020, due to the existence of some remaining open points regarding a small number of proposed venues for the rearranged UEFA Euro 2020 next year."

Euro 2020 was delayed to create space for the completion of domestic leagues, the majority of which have been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Bundesliga returned behind closed doors last weekend, while Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A clubs have been permitted to return to group training – though some restrictions remain in place – this week.

Top flights in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland were ended prematurely.

Sweden head coach Janne Andersson trusts FIFA and UEFA to come up with appropriate plans over how to restart football following the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, FIFA proposed that teams will be allowed to use five substitutes per match due to a congested schedule when action resumes.

Teams are facing a fixture pile-up when they finally return and FIFA hopes to ease players' workloads by permitting an additional two changes during a match, or six substitutions in total if games go to extra time.

Competitions would have the option to implement the new temporary rule until the end of next season, while it would also apply to national team matches up to and including December 31, 2021.

Andersson is aware tournament organisers like the world governing body and UEFA, who have postponed Euro 2020 until next year, face a challenging task.

"It is not an easy job to fit in the games and tournaments that have been postponed due to the spread of the virus," Andersson told Stats Perform when asked about the five substitutions plan.

"I trust that FIFA and UEFA will find a good way to handle this.

"I am no medical expert and I don't like to speculate. Limiting the virus and the health of people is the most important thing right now. 

"My hope is that we can start playing football as soon as possible."

Sweden qualified for Euro 2020 by finishing second to Spain in Group F, with Andersson acknowledging his team could look very different by June 2021, the revised start time.

"A year is a very long time in football," he said. "A lot of the preparations can be used in 2021 but of course both our team and the teams we are playing can look different in a year. 

"It gives a bit of time to look even closer at details in tactics and we are trying to use this extra time in the best way possible."

On the impact of a busy fixture calendar leading up to the tournament, he added: "I trust that both the players and their clubs will adjust to whatever circumstances the season will be finished in."

Andersson, who took charge of Sweden in the aftermath of Euro 2016, is currently furloughed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added: "I have worked in football for over 30 years. This is the longest break I have ever taken from the game that I love. 

"I am together with my colleagues working on how we can be even better to explain how we want our players to act on the pitch and prepare ourselves for the upcoming games this fall.

"I am no medical expert but I trust the Swedish authorities know what they are doing [with their approach to the lockdown]."

UEFA has paid out €70million of benefits in advance to clubs that released players for European Championship qualifiers and the Nations League.

Following a meeting of its executive committee on Thursday, UEFA announced payments that were scheduled to be made upon completion of the Euro play-offs – which were postponed in March amid the coronavirus pandemic – have been brought forward.

According to the governing body, 676 clubs from its 55 member associations will receive amounts ranging from €3,200 to €630,000 for allowing their players to participate.

The funds form a chunk of a €200m pot UEFA distributes to teams as part of the memorandum of understanding with the European Club Association (ECA).

The remaining €130m will be shared among clubs that release players for the European Championship, which was pushed back from June and July this year to 2021 as result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"European clubs are an integral part of the success of our national team competitions," said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

"As a result, a share of our national team competition revenues is distributed to the clubs which release players for those matches.

"In these difficult times when many clubs are facing financial issues, especially with their cash flow, it was our duty to make sure that clubs receive these payments as quickly as possible."

ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli said: "This represents a much-needed liquidity injection into club finances and is a result of ECA's joint work with UEFA on safeguarding clubs at this time of existential threat.

"Whilst public health remains our primary concern, securing financial, legal and regulatory relief in advance of restarting football across Europe, once it is safe to do so, is of paramount importance to ECA and its members."

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