Roberto Mancini has been given a significant vote of confidence by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) after signing a new contract that will keep him in charge of Italy until after the 2026 World Cup.

Mancini was appointed in May 2018, taking over from caretaker manager Luigi Di Biagio after he had replaced Gian Piero Ventura the previous November.

Ventura had failed to guide Italy to the 2018 World Cup, the Azzurri losing out to Sweden in a play-off.

It was the first World Cup Italy had missed since 1958 and forced the FIGC into a serious rethink before turning to Mancini, one of the nation's most-respected coaches.

He was initially appointed only until 2020, with an automatic extension to be granted upon qualification for Euro 2020, which Italy duly achieved with three matches to spare.

That triggered a two-year extension to run until after the 2022 World Cup, but the FIGC is seemingly so impressed with Mancini that they have deemed him worthy of a long-term deal.

Speaking at the end of the FIGC's federal council meeting, president Gabriele Gravina is quoted by ANSA as saying: "It is an investment of the federation for the future, and one that we owed to the fans.

"I am very happy, because as Roberto knows, it was an objective of the federation to continue this job and give it continuity in the future."

Mancini, who was also in attendance, added: "I am very happy, I thank the Federation and I thank the president.

"We have extended the contract, there will be many events and as the president said it is not easy to win, but we are trying to carry out a job that was started three years ago, which up to now has given good results.

"We have many young players to focus on, especially in the youth national teams, so our hope is that this work can bear fruit very quickly, we are very positive."

Mancini's Italy broke a longstanding national team record in November 2019 as they won 10 consecutive matches with a 3-0 result against Bosnia-Herzegovina, the streak eventually ending at 11.

They won all of their Euro 2020 qualifiers and their 10 victories in 2019 set a new record for the most wins in a calendar year for the national team.

Italy were drawn into Group A for the Euros, which start next month, meaning they will face Turkey, Wales and Switzerland for the right to reach the knockout phase.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin sounded a conciliatory note as plans for a European Super League unravelled in the face of wide-ranging backlash. 

Little more than a day after hitting out at a proposal he said was "fuelled purely by greed above all else," Ceferin indicated a willingness to move forward with the clubs that have backed out of the breakaway league. 

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham all confirmed they were ending their involvement with the European Super League after a popular uproar about the plans. 

“I said yesterday that it is admirable to admit a mistake and these clubs made a big mistake," Ceferin said in a statement. 

“But they are back in the fold now and I know they have a lot to offer not just to our competitions but to the whole of the European game.

“The important thing now is that we move on, rebuild the unity that the game enjoyed before this and move forward together.”

The English clubs' withdrawal from the venture leaves Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Milan and Inter to continue, but it is unclear what shape the proposal might take with half of its projected participants no longer involved. 

The European Super League said after the defections it would "reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project". 

UEFA plans to move ahead with the Champions League revisions announced Monday in the face of whatever threat might remain from the Super League proponents. 

Those plans include an increased field of 36 teams as the present format -  whereby there are eight pools of four – will be scrapped.

Instead, each team will play 10 group games before advancing to a last-16 knockout format. The changes are due to be introduced for the 2024-25 season.

The European Club Association (ECA) has condemned the proposed Super League while announcing a new executive committee including representatives from Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

A 12-team group including some of European football's biggest names confirmed plans for a breakaway competition on Sunday, with those founding members guaranteed to be involved every year regardless of their domestic performances.

The competition has received widespread criticism from governing bodies, former players and fan groups alike.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin branded the European Super League as a "disgraceful, self-serving proposal" fuelled by greed, as well as confirming players from the clubs involved will be banned from playing international football.

After a meeting of its executive board on Monday, the ECA made clear it remains the only "legitimate and fully recognised voice" for Europe's leading teams.

"The board was unanimous in its condemnation of the actions of the departing members, which it holds to be self-serving and to the detriment of the game's wellbeing and in clear opposition to ECA's values," a statement read.

"We believe that European club football can be reformed from within the system to achieve the collective best interests of all stakeholders in the game.

"The board reiterated ECA's clear position as the only legitimate and fully recognised voice of the leading clubs in Europe and, as such, has taken a number of decisions to ensure that it is able to continue to perform its role efficiently and effectively."

The ECA also announced PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi will be involved on a new-look executive committee, as well as Bayern representative Michael Gerlinger. Neither of the clubs were involved in the European Super League.

They will be joined by Edwin van der Sar (Ajax), Dariusz Mioduski (Legia Warszawa), Aki Riihilahti (HJK Helsinki) and Michele Centenaro (the ECA's independent board member).

Meanwhile, UEFA announced plans for Champions League expansion on Monday, the tournament set to see an increase to 36 teams from the 2024-25 season onwards.

"We are pleased that UEFA club competitions reform has reached this important milestone," the ECA said on the structural changes to the competition. 

"The agreement of new competition formats will create a greater number of high quality, relevant, exciting European matches for fans and increase participation for clubs at all levels - principles and targets that ECA laid out back in the Spring of 2019 when we embarked on this reform journey. 

"Moving forward, the entire ECA executive board's focus will be on pursuing efforts to conclude arrangements with UEFA around its renewed relationship post-2024 as we look to shape European club football for the years ahead."

Bayern CEO and honorary ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who is to replace Andrea Agnelli as one of two representatives on the UEFA executive committee, made clear that the Bundesliga club support the revamped Champions League structure.

"Bayern has not been involved in the plans for creating a Super League. We are convinced that the current structure in football guarantees a reliable foundation," Rummenigge said. 

"Bayern welcomes the reforms of the Champions League because we believe they are the right step to take for the development of European football. The modified group stage will contribute to an increase in excitement and the emotional experience in the competition.

"I do not believe the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs that have arisen as result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Rather, all clubs in Europe should work in solidarity to ensure that the cost structure, especially players' salaries and agents' fees, are brought in line with revenues, to make all of European football more rational."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has branded the planned European Super League as a "disgraceful, self-serving proposal" fuelled by greed, as well as confirming players from the 12 breakaway clubs involved will be banned from international football.

The 'big six' from the Premier League have collaborated with Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Milan and Real Madrid to reveal plans for a new midweek club competition.

Those founder members would automatically qualify each season no matter where they finished in their respective domestic leagues.

Speaking during a conference call to reveal "dynamic" changes to UEFA's current European club tournaments, Ceferin made clear how results on the pitch should always decide who participates, rather than a "closed shop run by a greedy few".

"We began this project to modernise the competitions in 2019 judged by the principle it should be: an exercise in inclusive leadership," Ceferin told the media.

"At the start of the process, we were driven by a desire to help all UEFA club competitions into something even better than the spectacles we know today. With the unanimous support of the European Club Association (ECA), we consulted widely across the game.

"Teams will always qualify and compete in our competitions on merit, not a closed shop run by a greedy, select few. That was our decision from the beginning.

"Any club, any fans should still have the dream of participating in the Champions League based on their results on the pitch."

The European Super League plan has come in for widespread criticism and Ceferin did not hold back in his own assessment, as well making clear the ramifications it will have for players outside of club football.

"I must address the extraordinary situation that has developed on the eve of this announcement," he continued.

"I cannot stress more strongly at this moment that UEFA and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful, self-serving proposal in the past 24 hours from a select few clubs in Europe that are fuelled purely by greed above all else.

"Not only is the football world united, but society is also united, governments are united. It's part of our culture – we are all united against this nonsense of a project.

"We have the English FA, Spanish Federation, Italian Federation, Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, and also FIFA and all our 55 member associations unanimous in opposition to this cynical plan that are completely against what football should be.

"Our game has become the greatest sport in the world based on open competition, integrity and sporting merit. We cannot allow, and we will not allow that to change, ever. Never.

"As previously announced by FIFA and the six confederations, the players that play in the teams that might play in the closed league, will be banned from playing in the World Cup and the Euros. They will not be able to represent their national teams in any matches."

UEFA announced plans for Champions League expansion that will see an increase to 36 teams as the present format -  whereby there are eight pools of four – will be scrapped.

Instead, each team will play 10 group games before advancing to a last-16 knockout format. The changes are due to be introduced for the 2024-25 season.

"Whoever thinks the Super League and UEFA are all about money is not right. Super League is only about money, money of the dozen – I don't want to call them the dirty dozen," Ceferin said. 

"UEFA is about developing football, about financing what should be financed, that our football and our culture survives. Some people do not understand it.

"The reforms preserve the value of the domestic game by retaining the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification – this should, and will not, ever change.

"The European game is the greatest success story of the modern sport, and there's a reason why – because of its pyramid, it's long history. We are constantly adapting the European competition to ensure it is more and more interesting, more and more modern, but the principles cannot change.

"Solidarity is something that cannot change, but for some people solidarity doesn't exist, unity doesn't exist. The only thing that exists is their pockets."

Roberto Mancini has set his sights on World Cup glory with Italy, though his first aim may well be to push for enlarged squads at Euro 2020.

Italy made it three wins from three to start their World Cup 2022 qualification campaign by seeing off Lithuania by the now familiar scoreline of 2-0. 

Goals from Stefano Sensi and Ciro Immobile bookended the second half on Wednesday, as Italy took a three-point lead in Group C.

The Azzurri have won their last five matches 2-0, and are unbeaten in 25 games under Mancini, which brings him level with Marcelo Lippi's best haul – only Vittorio Pozzo (30) has managed a better such streak.

Lippi guided Italy to a 2006 World Cup success, and Mancini did not shy away from wanting to emulate one of his predecessors.

"I'm happy we are top of the group, it's pleasing, but records are standalone issues compared to real results," he told reporters.

"I hope to match Lippi at the World Cup, maybe in December 2022."

With three qualifying wins under their belt, Italy's focus will now switch to the upcoming Euros, rearranged from last year.

Mancini picked a 38-man squad for this latest round of internationals, and suggested it would be prudent for UEFA to accommodate larger squads than the usual 23 at this year's tournament. 

"I think it could be a good idea to be able to name bigger squads for Euro 2020," Mancini said.

"I think it could be the right thing to do. The problem would above all be if a couple of players had problems in the tournament, as it's difficult to call them back after that, when players are on vacation."

Italy recorded 29 shots against Lithuania, with 11 of them on target – the excellent Tomas Svedkauskas pulling off nine saves.

Immobile, who scored from the spot with the last kick of the game, was particularly wasteful, sending a close-range header wide after seeing two efforts saved by Svedkauskas.

The 31-year-old Lazio forward has scored eight goals in World Cup qualifiers, the joint-third most in Italy's history – along with Daniele De Rossi – and Mancini believes fatigue played a big part in Immobile's profligate display.

"Ciro gave everything he could today," Mancini added. "The players aren't in the best shape right now, they are lacking sharpness, but the goals will come more consistently for him."

Andrea Pirlo must not let the disappointment of Juventus' shock defeat to Benevento linger for too long, Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has warned. 

The rookie Juve boss saw his team waste a chance to reduce Inter's advantage over them at the Serie A summit to seven points, with Adolfo Gaich sealing a 1-0 triumph for Filippo Inzaghi's side. 

Questions over Pirlo's leadership have already been asked and will persist, as the prospect of a 10th successive Scudetto disappears almost over the horizon.

It would take an Inter implosion and for Juventus to suddenly become infallible for the Bianconeri to catch the Nerazzurri. Neither prospect looks likely.

Mancini understands the pressure Pirlo is under and advised him to adopt a positive mindset to overcome his difficulties. 

"It is a delicate moment for him, but it is the life of all the coaches," he told a media conference. 

"The frustration must last as little as possible, then you have to think positively knowing that this happens in football. 

"He is young and he has started [his managerial career] in a big club. He has a bit of difficulty but he has begun a path."

Mancini was speaking ahead of Italy's World Cup qualifying campaign, which kicks off at home to Northern Ireland on Thursday before visits to Bulgaria and Lithuania in Group C. 

Federico Chiesa is expected to play an important role for the Azzurri after his impressive season for Juventus. 

The 23-year-old has scored six league goals for the club since arriving on loan from Fiorentina in October, while only Alvaro Morata has made more assists (eight) than his six. 

He has also created three more chances (38) for his team-mates than any other Juve player in the top-flight this season. 

"I am happy because in the last two months he has improved a lot, but he can still improve more," Mancini said. 

"He still has room to improve and become a player capable of scoring plenty of goals and providing plenty of assists."

Mancini will be joined in the dugout by Daniele De Rossi, who recently joined Italy as a technical coach. 

De Rossi, who earned 117 caps for the Azzurri and won the 2006 World Cup, retired from playing in January last year after a brief stint with Boca Juniors in Argentina.

The 37-year-old made 616 appearances in a distinguished career with Roma and Mancini expects his experience to be invaluable.

"We talked about it some time ago, when he stopped and then decided to go to Boca," Mancini said. 

"We needed a person who could help us on the pitch, given the many commitments, and we made this decision. 

"He was an important player for the national team, a world champion. He needs to gain experience because he wants to be a coach. I think it was the right choice."

Gianni Infantino says FIFA must be open to revolutionising the international calendar, after Arsene Wenger proposed radical changes.

Speaking on beIN SPORTS this week, former Arsenal manager Wenger claimed more focus had to be put on FIFA's flagship competitions, including the World Cup.

The Frenchman is currently serving as FIFA's chief of global football development.

Wenger put forward a plan to host major tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championship every two years, to give more players the opportunity to play at these events during their prime years.

Such changes would mean major alterations to the calendar, but Infantino insists FIFA will rule nothing out, and decisions could be taken within the next 12 months.

"We need to be open to everyone, to everything, to every proposal, every idea," said the FIFA president.

"Arsene Wenger is not only a successful and brilliant manager, he is a professor of football but besides that we have, of course, our bodies and we will debate and discuss the calendar, starting now, because we need to come to a decision in the next few months, the sooner the better, by the end of the year or in the course of next year, for everyone to be able to plan."

The international schedule is not the only item up for debate, with Infantino also interested in a possible merger of North America's leading leagues – Major League Soccer (MLS) and Liga MX.

MLS commissioner Don Garber commented in December that a merger was "a long way away", while FIFA has previously ruled out leagues spread across regions or continents, rather than individual countries.

However, Infantino seemingly sees things differently, as he stressed the need for other areas of the globe to challenge the quality on show in Europe.

"I think the potential in the United States and Mexico is enormous, each country by itself," he said.

"But of course if you could bring those two together that would be incredible and that could quite well be the best league in the world.

"Any discussion about organising such a competition, of course respecting the rules of member associations and FIFA and with the agreement of all stakeholders, any discussion in that respect is interesting and we see that in a positive light.

"Of course if we want club teams to be at the highest level around the world and not just in Europe, we need to have new ideas.

"We see the potential in North America, the economic potential and the potential in footballing terms. I trust them to take the best decisions in that regard."

Ousmane Dembele has been called up to the France squad for the first time since November 2018 for their World Cup qualifiers later this month. 

The Barcelona forward has scored eight goals in 34 appearances across all competitions this season, and has done enough to convince Didier Deschamps he deserves another chance at international level. 

The 23-year-old's last appearance for Les Bleus came as a substitute in a 2-0 Nations League defeat to Netherlands more than two years ago. 

He is joined in the squad for the games against Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina by Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele and Atletico Madrid's Thomas Lemar.

Ndombele has not played for his country since June 2019, while Lemar last featured for the World Cup winners in November of the same year. 

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, who has only just returned to training after missing six weeks with a thigh injury, is also included in Deschamps' penultimate squad ahead of the rearranged Euro 2020. 

Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola has been recalled, but there was no place in the 26-man squad for Corentin Tolisso, Dayot Upamecano, Nabil Fekir or Steven Nzonzi.

France begin their qualifying campaign at home to Ukraine on March 24 before away games with Kazakhstan on March 28 and Bosnia-Herzegovina three days later.

 

France squad:

Alphonse Areola (Fulham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mike Maignan (Lille); Lucas Digne (Everton), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea); N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham Hotspur); Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).

Joachim Low will step down as Germany head coach after Euro 2020, ending a 15-year stint in the role with the national team that included a World Cup triumph.

Appointed in 2006, Low led Germany to global glory in 2014 when Mario Gotze's extra-time goal earned a 1-0 victory over Argentina in the final.

Germany consistently challenged at the business end of international tournaments during Low's reign, until the 2018 World Cup, when a group-stage exit raised the first major doubts about the coach's continuing hold on his job.

Low was due to reach the end of his current contract following Germany's 2022 World Cup campaign.

A new face will be in charge for Qatar 2022, however.

Low said: "I take this step very consciously, full of pride and enormous gratitude, but at the same time I continue to be very motivated as far as the upcoming European Championship tournament is concerned.

"I am proud, because it is something very special and an honour for me to be involved with my country."

Low was previously assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann, who had two years in charge of Die Mannschaft before leaving his post after Germany's run to the semi-finals at their home World Cup in 2006.

Germany were runners-up to Spain at Euro 2008 and reached the semi-finals of Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, as well as advancing to the last four at the 2010 World Cup.

Low spoke of his joy at having the chance to lead Germany's elite players on the world stage.

In a statement issued by the German Football Association (DFB), he added: "I associate them with great triumphs and painful defeats, but above all many wonderful and magical moments - not just winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"I am and will remain grateful to the DFB, which has always prepared an ideal working environment for me and the team."

Low, who is 61, is eager to go out on a high.

A 6-0 defeat to Spain in the Nations League last November has prompted him to consider recalling Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, senior players that he exiled after the World Cup disappointment three years ago, and it could be there is a final flourish to come from Low.

"I still feel the unconditional will, great energy and ambition for the upcoming European Championship," he said. "I will do my best to make our fans happy and successful at this tournament. I also know that this applies to the entire team."

National teams director Oliver Bierhoff said: "Joachim Low and I have worked closely together for almost 17 years. We were able to experience so much together and also endure together.

"It is a special relationship that is characterised above all by absolute trust. Under Jogi, the national team once again stood for the joy of playing attractive and attacking football.

"This team and its players have developed incredibly with him. I regret that our professional paths will separate after the Euros.

"We will remain close on a personal level, but I'm not thinking about that now because I know that Jogi's full concentration and energy in the coming weeks and months will only be used to prepare for the European Championship. We will continue to have a big common goal in the summer."

The Euro 2020 finals, delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 crisis, will run from June 11 to July 11, with Germany in a tough first-round group that also includes France, Hungary and Portugal.

Joachim Low will step down as Germany head coach after Euro 2020, ending a 15-year stint in the role with the national team that included a World Cup triumph.

Jamaica’s World Cup campaign is set to be bolstered by the addition of West Ham striker Michail Antonio, who reports say, is to accept an invitation from the Jamaica Football Federation to represent the Reggae Boyz.

Russia will be barred from competing as a nation at the Olympic Games, Winter Olympics and football World Cup over the next two years after the Court of Arbitration for Sport partly upheld a suspension imposed for breaching anti-doping rules.

In 2019, Russia was handed a four-year ban from major international sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

WADA declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant over inconsistencies in anti-doping data discovered during an investigation.

At the time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reiterated its support for Russia's ban, which meant athletes would be unable to compete under the Russian flag at the 2020 Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games.

In a landmark move on Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirmed Russia would be banned, albeit with the time frame cut from four years to two.

That will still discount Russia from participating in the Tokyo Olympics – pushed back to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic – plus the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, and the next World Cup.

Russia will, however, be able to compete at the Euro 2020 football finals, which is also scheduled to take place next year, having been another event impacted by COVID-19.

This is because WADA's international standard for code compliance by signatories does not list UEFA as a "major event organisation".

Russian athletes wishing to compete at the Tokyo and Beijing Games will be able to do so, but only under a neutral banner.

CAS stated in its announcement: "This panel has imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the non-compliance [to the WADC] and to ensure that the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping is maintained.

"The consequences which the panel has decided to impose are not as extensive as those sought by WADA. This should not, however, be read as any validation of the conduct of RUSADA or the Russian authorities."

CAS also said that its ruling aims to "effect cultural change and encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport".

In order to be reinstated at the end of the two-year ban, it was also ruled that RUSADA must pay a contribution of $1.27million to WADA, in respect of the costs incurred in investigating the authenticity of the data retrieved from the Moscow laboratory in January 2019.

RUSADA, under supervision from WADA or the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), was told it must conduct investigations into any cases impacted by the deletions or alterations of the Moscow laboratory data.

The Russian organisation must also provide any other support requested by WADA to assist in determining whether athletes whose samples are listed in the Moscow laboratory database have a case to answer.

Gareth Southgate will not set strict boundaries when it comes to team discipline but the England boss expects his players to be "reliable" and "good ambassadors".

Harry Maguire, Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood have all been involved in high-profile incidents in recent months that led to them being dropped from Three Lions duty. 

A breach of coronavirus isolation rules while in Iceland proved costly for Manchester City playmaker Foden and Manchester United forward Greenwood in September. 

The pair appeared to be shown in a Snapchat video posted by one of the women they were said to be socialising with at England's team hotel in Iceland, a meeting then forbidden under the country's strict rules in response to COVID-19.

Both were sent home and missed a subsequent game against Denmark, although Foden was recalled for England's matches against Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Iceland last month. 

Maguire was also in the headlines for the wrong reasons in August after he was arrested while on holiday on the Greek island of Mykonos.

The 27-year-old – who was originally selected, then dropped from the October internationals – is appealing a suspended prison sentence after he was found guilty of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery.

While Southgate is not prepared to lay down strict rules for his players, he does expect them to conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times. 

"I would think every club is going to want to minimise the issues," he told a media conference. 

"On a broader level, I mentioned the responsibilities of being an England player. That shows the change of landscape for any players involved with us. 

"We want the country to connect with the team, be proud of the team and that they are good ambassadors for everything we are trying to do. 

"Reliability is part of our criteria. I'm not going to say this is the line, and anyone who crosses it we don't consider, but we're always observing how professional they are and how they will be if they are away with us for 35-40 days. All of that has to come into our thinking."

Southgate was speaking after England were drawn against Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra and San Marino in Group I for 2022 World Cup qualifying. 

That means a meeting with Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, who has started the season in scintillating form for Bayern Munich.

After 55 goals across all competitions last term for the Bundesliga and Champions League winners, Lewandowski has already plundered 15 goals this campaign. 

Southgate is an admirer of the 32-year-old and says his defenders will relish the opportunity to try and shackle one of the world's best strikers. 

"He's an incredible finisher," Southgate added. "I love the way he plays. He's got an excellent all-round game, protecting the ball, bringing others into play. All different types of finishes. 

"He's a huge talisman for Poland. It's a great challenge for our defenders to come up against centre-forwards like that.

"In the modern game, there are not so many number nines, but Lewandowski is absolutely in that mould."

Gareth Southgate fears England's top stars will be burnt out by the time the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament comes around next year.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has been critical of the Premier League for their refusal to follow other European leagues and sanction the use of five substitutes.

This season's matches have been squeezed into a shorter timeframe due to the impact of the coronavirus, which delayed the completion of the 2019-20 season.

Speaking at a media conference following the draw for the World Cup qualifying groups for Qatar 2022, the England manager joined Klopp in expressing his fears over the workload placed on some players.

"I think all coaches are concerned about the number of matches," Southgate said.

"It's not one area in particular, it’s the overall volume. We're in a shortened season. No winter break, which was deemed to be a good idea last year.

"We've got the issue over the substitutions. We've known that. When the debate comes up, we were on to how difficult September would be as soon as the leagues restarted again.

"Everyone else came to that decision, a bit later. Jurgen will be like me, looking at what will March be like.

"For the top players in particular, they are the ones that play European, International and league football.

"What we’ve tried to affect, we lobbied UEFA for five substitutes. I know there are talks about the FA Cup going that route.

"I would think Jurgen would be frustrated because in Germany, they work so closely together. I see the logic in what they're saying.

"A compact season like this is always a concern, with what you will get at the end of it."

Southgate admitted it was challenge of his job to have a constructive dialogue with Premier League managers, who he acknowledged are under intense pressure, over the handling of players.

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho recently questioned whether Southgate bowed to pressure from Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola when Raheem Sterling pulled out of England squad through injury.

Sterling then appeared in City's next match against Tottenham while Spurs had three players who all featured in games for England.

Southgate added: "We have the most intense competition at the top of our league.

"We have some very successful managers who have huge motivation, all of our clubs with huge motivation and responsibilities.

"Nearly all of our squad are playing in England, and our league is very different. It’s one of the additional situations as England manager you have to deal with.

"It's always important to have respectful relationships, but the reality is our objectives are different. They are the clubs' players, we have to respect that."

England will face Robert Lewandowski and Poland in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Gareth Southgate's side have been drawn in Group I, also alongside Hungary, Albania, Andorra and San Marino.

World champions France are in Group D with Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.

The Netherlands headline a tricky Group G, which also includes Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, Latvia and Gibraltar.

Croatia, the beaten finalists two years ago, are in an intriguing Group H with Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta.

Spain will face Sweden, Greece, Georgia and Kosovo in Group B, with Portugal in Group A along with Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan.

Belgium, the world's top-ranked side, face Euro 2016 quarter-final opponents Wales, and Germany will meet Romania and Iceland.

The matches will take place from March to November next year, with the 10 group winners advancing automatically to the finals in Qatar and 10 runners-up heading into the play-offs.

World Cup 2022 UEFA qualifying draw:

Group A
Portugal
Serbia
Republic of Ireland
Luxembourg
Azerbaijan

Group B
Spain
Sweden
Greece
Georgia
Kosovo

Group C
Italy
Switzerland
Northern Ireland
Bulgaria
Lithuania

Group D
France
Ukraine
Finland
Bosnia-Herzegovina
Kazakhstan

Group E
Belgium
Wales
Czech Republic
Belarus
Estonia

Group F
Denmark
Austria
Scotland
Israel
Faroe Islands
Moldova

Group G
Netherlands
Turkey
Norway
Montenegro
Latvia
Gibraltar

Group H
Croatia
Slovakia
Russia
Slovenia
Cyprus
Malta

Group I
England
Poland
Hungary
Albania
Andorra
San Marino

Group J
Germany
Romania
Iceland
North Macedonia
Armenia
Liechtenstein

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