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

Diego Maradona dragged Argentina to World Cup glory, triumphed in Italy and Europe with Napoli and won countless individual honours.

Along the way, the footballing great – who died on Wednesday at the age of 60 – scored some of the greatest goals the game has ever seen.

No matter the occasion, or indeed the opponent, Maradona was often unplayable – as can be seen from our selection of his five greatest ever goals.

 

Argentina v England (June 22, 1986)

Hailed by many as the greatest goal of all time, Maradona picked up the ball inside his own half and dribbled past four England players before calmly rounding Peter Shilton.

The moment of magic arrived four minutes after the infamous 'Hand of God' goal and helped Argentina into the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup, which they went on to win.

 

Argentina v Belgium (June 25, 1986)

The goal scored by Maradona three days later, this time in the semi-finals, was not too dissimilar in that he had four opposition players between himself and the goal.

He slalomed between two of them, jinked past another – in the process taking out a fourth – and fired past Jean-Marie Pfaff for his second goal of the contest.

Napoli v Juventus (November 3, 1985)

Napoli ended their 12-year wait for a league victory over rivals Juventus thanks to Maradona's brilliance of a different kind. If the previous goals were all about neat footwork and clinical finishing, this was more to do with sheer audacity.

A large wall, set five metres from the ball, was not enough to stop the Argentine maestro delicately lifting the indirect free-kick into the one spot Stefano Tacconi could not reach.

Napoli v Hellas Verona (October 20, 1985)

This one was all about the technique - and the confidence to even think about taking it on. Maradona brought down the ball with his first touch, turned and sent a long-range drive flying over Giuliano Giuliani from a good 40 yards out.

What made it all the more special is that this strike came in a 5-0 thrashing of Verona, who were the reigning Serie A champions at the time.

Boca Juniors v River Plate (April 10, 1981)

Maradona spent a season with Boca Juniors before arriving in Europe and it soon became clear what a talent he would become.

His first spell at the club may have been short but he left behind plenty of memories, including a goal at the home of bitter rivals River Plate. With the angle against him, he squeezed in an effort with a masterful finish from the wing.

Diego Maradona's remarkable all-round World Cup record is one which may never be matched.

The Argentina legend died at the age of 60 on Wednesday, prompting tributes from across the football world.

Reflections of his career will see so many of Maradona's magical moments highlighted, though perhaps most memorable are his 1986 exploits in Mexico, a tournament which gave Argentina their most recent World Cup success.

Opta statistics help to illustrate Maradona's remarkable performances on football’s biggest stage and highlight how difficult his legacy at the tournament will be for a modern player to match. 

Maradona appeared in four successive World Cups for Argentina between the ages of 21 and 33, playing his first in 1982 before going on to represent his country in 1986, 1990 and 1994.

He ended his Argentina career having made 91 appearances and it was clear he thrived on the big stage - nearly one in four of those caps occurred during World Cups, where he enjoyed a win record in excess of 50 per cent.

He holds the record for the most number of appearances in the competition by an Argentine player (21), just ahead of Javier Mascherano (20) and Lionel Messi (19).

Maradona is one of just three players to captain his country in two different men's World Cup finals, having done so in 1990 as well as the 1986 tournament, where he stole the show.

The only other two players to achieve the feat are Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (1982 and 1986) and Dunga, who did so in successive tournaments after Maradona in 1994 and 1998.

The exploits of Maradona in 1986 will be hard to top. He had 10 goal involvements (five goals and five assists) in seven games and no player has done that since at a single edition of a World Cup.

No other player at the tournament in Mexico managed more than six goal involvements, highlighting his level of superiority.

Only Gabriel Batistuta (10) has scored more World Cup goals for Argentina than Maradona, who ended his international career with a total of eight.

Maradona is also one of only three Argentina players to have scored in three separate World Cups (1982, 1986 and 1994), alongside Messi (2006, 2014 and 2018) and Batistuta (1994, 1998, and 2002).

As well as eight goals, Maradona had eight assists in his 21 appearances over the four tournaments he played in. Across all World Cups staged since 1966, no other player has accumulated as many.

Maradona won 152 free kicks across his four World Cups, the most in tournament history.

That is more than twice as many fouls won by any other player, with Brazil's Jairzinho ranking second with 64.

On average he won more than seven fouls per game in his World Cup career, or one every 12 minutes and 46 seconds. 

He was the most fouled player across three consecutive competitions from 1982 to 1990, with this total from 1986 (54) remaining the highest single figure from one World Cup. 

Amazingly, his individual totals from 1990 (50) and 1982 (36 from just five games) also rank individually as second and third all time.

As well as being the most fouled player, Maradona has also provoked more cards than any other player at World Cups since yellow and red cards were first introduced in 1970. 

Fouls on him resulted in 12 cards being dished out, ahead of Arjen Robben (11) for the most in tournament history.

Though as well as forcing his opponents to pick up bookings, Maradona was also prone to being cautioned himself – he is the only player to be booked in two separate World Cup finals (1986 and 1990).

In the 1986 tournament, he played a part in an astonishing 56 per cent of his team's 101 shots. He had 30 of them himself, and played the final pass on 27 other occasions.

The only game where he failed to score or assist at least one goal was in the round of 16 match against Uruguay, but even then he still managed to hit the woodwork from a stunning direct free-kick.

He led the assist rankings with five at Mexico 86 and with five goals he was the second highest scorer behind Gary Lineker, who netted six.

Maradona remains the only player since 1966 to have to have scored and assisted as many as five goals in a single World Cup, a record that looks particularly tough to beat.

Famed for his dribbling prowess, no player has beaten an opponent more times in a single World Cup than Maradona did in 1986. 

The attacker successfully took the ball around an opponent 53 times, averaging eight per game. Four came in just one single move, the goal of the century against England in the quarter-finals.

He travelled 51 metres with the ball in 10 seconds to net one of only four World Cup goals since 1966 where a player travelled as far before scoring.

Jarizinho had 47 successful take-ons in 1970, while the closest anyone has come to breaking that Maradona record since his retirement was when Messi had 46 in 2014 and Eden Hazard 40 in 2018.

The stats from that match with England sum up Maradona's overall impact in Mexico. He attempted the most shots of any player on the pitch (seven), the most shots on target (three), most chances created (five) and most completed dribbles (12), as well as winning seven fouls. 

Until 2018, Maradona also held the record for the most dribbles (105) in World Cup matches, a number was fittingly eclipsed by his compatriot Messi (110).

Wherever you stand on football's GOAT debate, you can't deny the legacy of Diego Maradona.

Some would place him behind Lionel Messi as Argentina's greatest ever footballer, and short of Pele in the sport's pantheon of the mighty; others would say Maradona eclipses them all. It's a debate that has raged for decades, and one that is not likely to be settled for some time.

But nobody can argue that Maradona – who died on Wednesday at the age of 60 – produced a string of performances to rival anything the World Cup has ever witnessed in Mexico in 1986.

From the group stage to the final with West Germany, via the 'Goal of the Century' and a brazen moment of cheating, Maradona was so far above his contemporaries that the sheer idea of anyone else winning the Golden Ball was laughable.

Argentina beat South Korea, drew with Italy and defeated Bulgaria in their group, then saw off Uruguay, England and Belgium in the knockouts before a 3-2 final defeat of West Germany. 

As Opta data shows, Maradona was the beating heart of the Albiceleste's second World Cup triumph.

TAKE MY BREATH AWAY

Gary Lineker was the only player to score more goals (six) at the 1986 World Cup than Maradona (five). That's about the only category where he did not come out on top.

He added five assists to those five goals in his seven appearances, giving him the most goal involvements (10) of any player, ahead of the USSR's Igor Belanov (eight), and Lineker, Careca and Preben Elkjaer Larsen (six).

It stands to reason that Maradona also created more goalscoring chances (27) than any other player. Next on the list was France's Alain Giresse (24), then Klaus Allofs (23), Michel Platini (19) and Careca (17).

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

Everyone, most famously West Germany, tried to man-mark Maradona out of the equation. None succeeded.

He completed 53 dribbles across the tournament, a tally that puts the rest of the competition to shame. The next highest number was recorded by USSR's Ivan Yaremchuk, who managed 16.

Of course, that kind of dazzling play will always attract a more prosaic approach from the opposition. Maradona was fouled 53 times, more than double the number of anyone else (Enzo Francescoli was next on 27 fouls won).

EDGE OF HEAVEN

Maradona's all-round impact on proceedings could only come from a player given freedom to drop deeper and seize the ball from lesser men. It's incredible, then, that he managed 44 touches in the opposition box, eight more than the next-highest on the list, Brazil's Careca. Lineker, winner of the Golden Boot, had 31 such touches.

Lineker and England have, of course, never forgotten Maradona's impact on their 2-1 quarter-final defeat in Mexico City. It was the scene of his greatest goal – a mazy, miraculous waltz through the heart of the opposition that ended with the bamboozling of goalkeeper Peter Shilton – and his crowning moment of infamy, when 'The Hand of God' punched Argentina into the lead.

Perhaps that wasn't such a one-off, though. Since 1966, no player has committed as many handballs at the World Cup as Maradona (seven) – and they're just the ones the referees spotted.

Wherever you stand on football's GOAT debate, you can't deny the legacy of Diego Maradona.

Some would place him behind Lionel Messi as Argentina's greatest ever footballer, and short of Pele in the sport's pantheon of the mighty; others would say Maradona eclipses them all. It's a debate that has raged for decades, and one that is not likely to be settled for some time.

But nobody can argue that, in Mexico in 1986, Maradona produced a string of performances to rival anything the World Cup has ever witnessed.

From the group stage to the final with West Germany, via the 'Goal of the Century' and a brazen moment of cheating, Maradona was so far above his contemporaries that the sheer idea of anyone else winning the Golden Ball was laughable.

Argentina beat South Korea, drew with Italy and defeated Bulgaria in their group, then saw off Uruguay, England and Belgium in the knockouts before a 3-2 final defeat of West Germany. As Opta data shows, Maradona was the beating heart of the Albiceleste's second World Cup triumph.

 

TAKE MY BREATH AWAY

Gary Lineker was the only player to score more goals (six) at the 1986 World Cup than Maradona (five). That's about the only category where he did not come out on top.

He added five assists to those five goals in his seven appearances, giving him the most goal involvements (10) of any player, ahead of the USSR's Igor Belanov (eight), and Lineker, Careca and Preben Elkjaer Larsen (six).

It stands to reason that Maradona also created more goalscoring chances (27) than any other player. Next on the list was France's Alain Giresse (24), then Klaus Allofs (23), Michel Platini (19) and Careca (17).

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

Everyone, most famously West Germany, tried to man-mark Maradona out of the equation. None succeeded.

He completed 53 dribbles across the tournament, a tally that puts the rest of the competition to shame. The next highest number was recorded by USSR's Ivan Yaremchuk, who managed 16.

Of course, that kind of dazzling play will always attract a more prosaic approach from the opposition. Maradona was fouled 53 times, more than double the number of anyone else (Enzo Francescoli was next on 27 fouls won).

EDGE OF HEAVEN

Maradona's all-round impact on proceedings could only come from a player given freedom to drop deeper and seize the ball from lesser men. It's incredible, then, that he managed 44 touches in the opposition box, eight more than the next-highest on the list, Brazil's Careca. Lineker, winner of the Golden Boot, had 31 such touches.

Lineker and England have, of course, never forgotten Maradona's impact on their 2-1 quarter-final defeat in Mexico City. It was the scene of his greatest goal – a mazy, miraculous waltz through the heart of the opposition that ended with the bamboozling of goalkeeper Peter Shilton – and his crowning moment of infamy, when 'The Hand of God' punched Argentina into the lead.

Perhaps that wasn't such a one-off, though. Since 1966, no player has committed as many handballs at the World Cup as Maradona (seven) – and they're just the ones the referees spotted.

Former Italy, Juventus and World Cup-winning boss Marcello Lippi said he is "definitely done" with coaching.

Lippi has been without a job since resigning as China head coach in November last year following a 2022 World Cup qualifying defeat to Syria – his second stint in charge of the Asian nation lasting just six months.

The 72-year-old tasted silverware with Italy, Serie A giants Juventus and Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande but the Italian great will not be returning to the dugout.

"I'm definitely done with the coaching job," Lippi told Radio Sportiva. "That's right, it's enough.

"Maybe I could be useful in other roles, let's see. But nothing until spring."

After spells with Atalanta and Napoli, Lippi took charge of Juventus in 1994 – guiding the Bianconeri to three Serie A titles and the club's last Champions League trophy in 1995-96.

Across two stints as Juve coach, sandwiched in between a one-year tenure with rivals Inter, Lippi won five Serie A trophies, four Supercoppa Italiana crowns, the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and Coppa Italia.

After leaving Juventus in 2004, Lippi helped Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 and he was re-appointed by the Azzurri in 2008 following two years away from the national team.

In China, Lippi joined Guangzhou Evergrande in 2012 and claimed three Chinese Super League titles and the AFC Champions League trophy to go with Chinese FA Cup and Chinese FA Super Cup success.

 

Brazil's men's and women's teams have been paid at the same rate since March and will continue to be treated equally moving forward, CBF president Rogerio Caboclo has announced.

In what the CBF described as an "unprecedented measure", Brazil Women - led by captain Marta - receive the same daily wages and prize money as the five-time men's world champions.

Caboclo revealed the change at a news conference as Duda Luizelli and Aline Pellegrino were hired as the CBF's new women's football coordinators.

"Since March of this year, the CBF has paid an equal value in terms of prizes and daily rates between men's and women's football," Caboclo said.

"The men's players earn the same as the women's players during their call-ups. What they receive daily, the women also receive.

"What the men will gain by winning or advancing at the Olympics next year will be the same as the women will have.

"What men will receive at the next World Cup will be proportionally equal to what is proposed by FIFA.

"There is no more gender difference, as the CBF is treating men and women equally."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino expressed joy at the announcement of ground-breaking law changes that should improve the rights of workers in Qatar, host nation of the next World Cup.

It was confirmed on Sunday that the Emir of Qatar had abolished certain restrictions in place for migrant workers in the country, with two new laws passed by authorities.

The changes mean workers are no longer unable to change jobs without their employer's permission, while a monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyal – plus basic living allowances for some workers – has been introduced.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International hopes these steps will "strike at the heart of the abusive kafala system", a practice that requires so-called unskilled labourers to have a sponsor – predominantly their employer – in the country.

The kafala system had been widely criticised by campaigners for allowing some employers to exploit workers.

Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, though their selection was shrouded in allegations of corruption, while the country's use – and reported exploitation – of workers in the meantime has led to moral objection to the tournament and uncomfortable questions for FIFA.

But world football's governing body sees these changes as a significant step in creating a positive legacy and lasting change in the region.

"We sincerely congratulate the State of Qatar on this significant step," Infantino said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"Since the FIFA World Cup 2022 was awarded to Qatar, there has been a major collective effort from the local authorities, our partner the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and the ILO [International Labour Organisation] to bring about positive change, and we are really pleased to see that this has materialised into concrete major progress in the area of workers' rights.

"Well before kick-off, this important milestone demonstrates the capacity of the FIFA World Cup to foster positive change and build a lasting legacy.

"There is definitely still room for further progress, and we will continue to work closely with the authorities and all stakeholders to promote a progressive agenda that should be of long-term benefit to all workers in Qatar, whether involved in the preparation of the event or not."

Yuriy Ganus has been removed as the Russian Anti-Doping Agency's (RUSADA) director general, prompting concerns over its independence from the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

RUSADA's supervisory board earlier this month recommended its founders - the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee - dismiss Ganus, advice that was taken on Friday.

Deputy director general Margarita Pakhnotskaya and the supervisory board's independent international expert member Sergey Khrychikov resigned this week.

RUSADA's non-compliance case is pending before the Court of Arbitration for Sport after it appealed the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) four-year suspension of Russia from global sporting events.

WADA and the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) each responded to news of Ganus' removal with unease.

WADA, which previously said it was "extremely concerned" by the supervisory board's recommendation, said: "These developments reinforce the concerns expressed by WADA in its statement of August 5 in relation to the manner in which the founders reached the decision regarding Mr Ganus following a recommendation by RUSADA's supervisory board.

"[The developments] re-emphasise the critical importance for RUSADA to maintain its operational independence going forward.

"WADA is in contact with RUSADA and other relevant Russian authorities to get further clarifications on the latest developments."

It added: "It is a critical element of the World Anti-Doping Code that national anti-doping organisations, such as RUSADA, remain safe from interference in their operational decisions and activities in order to conduct their work independently and effectively.

"This is why the Compliance Review Committee made it a condition of RUSADA's reinstatement that WADA remains satisfied that RUSADA's independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference with its operations."

iNADO said: "iNADO is deeply concerned by the control that the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee exercise over RUSADA.

"This was made evident today in the dismissal of Yuriy Ganus as director general by these two organisations."

It added: "It is a clear conflict of interest when sport organisations have the power to remove the head of a national anti-doping agency unopposed."

Lionel Messi is a "competitive beast" who will definitely play at the 2022 World Cup according to Xavi, who has reiterated his desire to one day coach his beloved Barcelona. 

Argentina great Messi will be 35 by the time the next international global showpiece is held in Qatar across November and December. 

Messi has suffered more than his fair share of heartbreak with La Albiceleste, losing three Copa America finals and the 2014 World Cup final to Germany. 

Despite turning 33 last month, Messi's numbers continue to be phenomenal and he topped LaLiga's goalscoring and assists charts with 25 and 21 respectively this term. 

Xavi, who played alongside Messi in Barca's first team from 2004 until his Camp Nou departure in 2015, is coaching Qatari side Al Sadd and fully expects to see his former team-mate involved at the next World Cup. 

"I see Leo playing until he wants to. On a physical level, he is fast, strong, he is a competitive beast, physically an animal," Xavi told Marca.  

"I have no doubt that he will play in Qatar 2022."

Xavi won eight league titles and the Champions League four times during a glittering Barca career. His name was heavily linked with the coaching vacancy at Camp Nou when Ernesto Valverde was sacked and while Quique Setien got the job, there is now speculation over his future too. 

Xavi has made no secret of his desire to one day return to Barca but says respect must be shown to Setien, who he feels has done some good work despite missing out on the league title to rivals Real Madrid.  

"I do not hide, and I have always said, that my main goal, when it occurs, is Barca. It is my home and it would be a dream," he said. 

"But now I am focused on Al Sadd, looking forward to the new season. When Barca has to come, in the short or long term, it will come. Above all, Quique Setien must be respected and I wish the team all the best. 

"Sometimes Barca plays very well, others well, and others not so well. But I like the idea of Setien, now and with his previous teams - dominate and make an attractive game.  

"Sometimes it is not possible, it is true, but the rival makes it difficult for you. We have seen very nice and very good games of Barca with Setien. Definitely."

It was revealed over the weekend that Xavi had returned a positive test for coronavirus, which meant he was not on the bench for Al Sadd's 2-1 victory over Al Khor. 

The World Cup winner says he is doing well but expects the transfer market to suffer as a result of the global health pandemic. 

"I am fine, although logically isolated, and wanting to train soon," he said. 

"It [coronavirus] will lower the level [of the market], like everything after this pandemic. It will be very damaged. There will be a reorganisation of everything, of clubs and players. It is a shame, but it will be so." 

Xavi has been in charge at Al Sadd for a little over a year, during which time they have won the Qatari Super Cup and Qatar Cup, while they also reached the AFC Champions League semi-finals last term. 

He spoke of the difficulty of trying to compete against other wealthy teams in Qatar and welcomed the arrival of former international team-mate Santi Cazorla to Al Sadd. 

"When you are in a winning club, like this one, the goal is to win everything, although you have to be aware of our rivals," he added.  

"In Qatar, we have ahead of us Al Duhail, who has twice the budget of us and Al Rayyan, who has made a great financial effort.  

"With them it is difficult to compete. At the Asian level, we want the Champions League. We have reached the semis two years in a row [as player and coach].  

"In 2020, I have the hope of reaching the final. For that we have signed Cazorla, to make a good team." 

Xavi was still in his prime playing alongside a 26-year-old Andres Iniesta, and Vicente del Bosque had figured out a goal would do.

Sergio Ramos was 24 playing right back next to a 23-year-old Gerard Pique, and neither of them had much to do.

David Villa was 28, and a 24-year-old David Silva couldn’t find a regular spot in the squad because the 2010 Spanish midfield just didn’t need him. What they did need was 745.8 touches per goal.

You could either watch it for two hours out of appreciation for the pure aesthetics of how that midfield made it look, understanding a goal was coming from space you couldn’t yet see, or you could watch it for two hours wondering how more never came.

It’s an illogical comparison between an entire team and a single striker, but it’s also an amusing one: Miroslav Klose needed 728 career touches to score 16 World Cup goals.

La Roja scored eight in South Africa, the fewest by a World Cup winner, from 5,966 touches, the most by any team in the World Cup dating to 1966, when advanced data records began. To some, they were untouchable, dominant and – time for a new word – undispossessable. To others, simply frustrating.

But they were very good. Aside from a moment in which Arjen Robben got behind the defence after a beautiful through ball from Wesley Sneijder only for Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas to get a foot on his shot, it’s hard to recall many times in the tournament when viewers thought the then and future European Champions could lose – until we’re reminded they lost their World Cup 2010 opener to Switzerland.


POSSESSION, AND THE OCCASIONAL GOAL

Spain’s goal every 82.5 minutes in 2010 ranks 184th among World Cup sides dating to 1966, is the worst rate among World Cup winners (though Argentina reached the 1990 final by scoring once every 138), and 12th among the 32 teams in 2010 just behind a United States (78.0) side that was moments from missing the knockout stage.

Pre-2010, the lowest goal total by a winner was 11 by England in 1966, but it only took six matches to win a World Cup in those days. The 1982 Italy team scored 12 in seven matches, which was the lowest per-match mark (1.71) until Spain (1.14).

A brutal final against the Netherlands which saw referee Howard Webb show 14 cards – a record for the World Cup final – couldn’t prevent them from their emblematic scoreline: 1-0.

A 23-year-old Cesc Fabregas came on in the 87th minute to give a midfield fresh legs it probably didn’t need before supplying a tournament-winning assist in extra time.

To hyperbolically state they had the ball the entire match, as we tend to do 10 years after, would be 38.4% inaccurate. Xavi completed 90 of 97 passes attempted and had 130 touches – the second-highest single-game total of the tournament. The two in their 4-2-3-1, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, combined for 166 touches. They were never dispossessed.
 

 

La Roja 2010 completed more passes in a World Cup than any team until Germany topped them by six four years later, yet overwhelming possession is always how Spain will be remembered.


Team Passes Completed in a World Cup

Team               Year     Matches          Completed      Completion %

Germany         2014    7                      3,802                           86.2

Spain               2010    7                      3,796                           86.9

Brazil               1994    7                      3,585                           85.0

England           2018    7                      3,276                           85.3

Netherlands   1998     7                      3,220                           84.5


Possession percentage may not mean much – France had the ball 48.6% of the time in 2018 – but we can’t seem to talk about this Spain side without reiterating how much they had the ball.

But other World Cup teams have had it more, and only three of the top six World Cup teams in possession percentage have managed to advance out of their groups. Spain 2010, Argentina 2010 and Netherlands 1998 are the only World Cup teams to advance out of the round of 16 with over 60% possession, so it follows La Roja are the only team to win a World Cup with over 60%.


Highest World Cup Possession Percentage

Team               Year     Matches          Possession %

Spain               2018    4                      74.1

Germany         2018    3                      71.5

Argentina        2018    4                      65.5

Colombia        1994    3                      64.7

Spain               2010    7                      64.5

Argentina        2002    3                      63.2

Argentina        2010    5                      62.3

Mexico            2002    4                      62.3

Spain               2006    4                      62.1

France             2002    3                      61.1

Netherlands   1998    7                      60.8

Spain               2014    3                      60.8


From that possession came surprisingly few chances, and with those surprisingly few chances came surprisingly poor finishing. Spain in fact had a higher xG total in just four matches.

With those eight 2010 goals came an 8.90 xG, marking the first negative xG differential by a World Cup winner. It didn’t help that they missed both penalties they were awarded.


Lowest Performance vs. xG for World Cup Winners

Team               Year     Games Goals   xG        xG +/-

Spain               2010    7          8          8.90     -0.90

Germany         2014    7          18        15.88   2.12

Germany         1974    7          13        10.17   2.83

Brazil               1994    7          11        7.53     3.47

England           1966    6          11        6.37     4.63


It wasn’t a matter of progressing the ball up the pitch or settling for inconsequential maintenance style possession at the back. Spain’s touches in the opposition box (215) rank third dating to 1966 behind the Netherlands 1974 (260) and Germany 1974 (237), but those two sides combined for 28 goals.

It was even a mediocre scoring tournament across Spain’s history. They’ve qualified for the last 11 World Cups. In that time, they’ve outscored the 2010 side four times and matched it once while never advancing past the quarter-finals or playing more than five matches.

Their 1.09 goals scored per 90 minutes in 2010 ranks ninth of those 11 Spanish sides. Their 1.21 xG per 90 in 2010 is tied for fifth among those 11, trailing even the 1998 team (1.67) that didn’t get beyond the group stage in France.

So what, then, was it that made this team look so special so frequently and, more importantly, what made it possible for them to get it together after their opening loss to Switzerland to advance to the knockout stage and beat Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and the Dutch by a combined score of 4-0?


POSSESSION AS DEFENCE

The answer may be that their possession often worked more as a method of defence than attack. We focus so often on recent Spanish teams’ ability to sustain possession or threat, and as a result what can go unnoticed is where they stood defensively.

Spain 2010 are one of 64 teams to play at least six World Cup games dating to 1966. Of that group, they’re one of four sides to concede just twice. Their 2.32 shots on goal conceded per 90 ranks sixth, their 0.27 goals against per 90 is third, while their non-penalty 0.46 xG against per 90 is eighth. France 1998 are the only other World Cup winners to concede under 2 1/2 shots, a third of a goal, and half a non-penalty expected goal per 90.

The right side of the defence (Ramos and Pique) was young, and the left side was made up of 32-year-olds Carles Puyol and Joan Capdevila. Neither side was responsible for an overwhelming amount of their non-penalty opponent xG with 1.82 coming from sequences starting on the left and 1.52 coming from the right.

Measured by shot location, 1.47 came from left, while 1.87 came from the right. Regardless, they allowed one shot from inside the six for the tournament:
 

 

Meanwhile, Casillas ranked 29th in saves per 90 for the tournament (though he stopped the only penalty he faced to preserve a 1-0 quarter-final lead against Paraguay), while Spain’s 17.3 tackles per 90 is the fifth-lowest total among all World Cup teams to play at least six matches, and their 104.2 duels per 90 is third lowest among World Cup winners.

So much of that had to do with retaining possession, which is why a player like Sergio Busquets fit so well as a holding midfielder for this team. He was and is a possession retainer, never to be confused with a ball winner behind the playmakers.

Among Spain’s possessions lost, they were dispossessed a total of 13 times in the defensive half, and twice in the defensive third – or once every 330 minutes. Spanish players were dispossessed once every 62.2 touches, which is best among World Cup winners not named Germany.

But there was also remarkable creativity. Spain 2010 attempted more through balls (60) than any World Cup team aside from Brazil in 1978 (69), and their pass completion percentage ending in the final third among teams to play at least six matches in a tournament ranks second to Brazil 1970.


Highest World Cup Pass Completion % Ending in Final Third

Team               Year     Matches          Passes in Final Third   Completion %

Brazil               1970    6                      562                                          76.6

Spain               2010    7                      890                                          74.6

Germany         2014    7                      966                                          74.6

France             1982    7                      533                                          74.4

Germany         1974    7                      797                                          74.2

(Teams with at least six matches dating to 1966.)


Now, possession itself can be boring. But players involved in it are often not boring. Iniesta, for example, was never a boring player, particularly at the previously mentioned age. There’s something interesting to say about most of these guys, but we’ll focus on a handful.


ANDRES INIESTA

Iniesta was undoubtedly the skilled midfielder in his prime that dynamised Spain’s style, but he also scored some big goals. You know, the one in the 116th minute that won them the tournament and earned him man of the match. That was important.

But he also scored another one, which in hindsight really mattered. Iniesta gave Spain a 2-0 lead in the 37th minute of Spain’s final group play match, a 2-1 win over Chile in which he was also named man of the match.

Without that goal, Chile would have won the group, and Spain would have played Brazil rather than Portugal in the round of 16, and this World Cup anniversary story might be about a different team.

Iniesta may have been the player on this team that made the detractors keep the television on. While fellow midfielders like Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso looked to move the ball through team-mates, Iniesta took more chances on his own.

His 35 take-ons trailed only Messi’s 45 for the tournament, and while his 48.6 take-on completion percentage was nowhere near Messi’s 68.9, it compares favourably to the only other two players who attempted more than 30. Robben and David Villa each attempted 31 at 32.3%.

His 13 through balls played were second in the tournament only to the guy you’ll read about last on this list. His two goals more than doubled his 0.77 xG, and without him or David Villa on this list, Spain realistically wouldn’t have had the finishing to win a World Cup.


DAVID VILLA

Playing striker with this bunch couldn’t have been a dream job. With persistent possession and plenty of defensive clutter behind the ball to navigate with back to goal, there wasn’t much space for a No. 9 to do his thing. But Villa was used to it while playing at Barcelona with much of the Spanish midfield, and he managed to outperform his xG by 2.18 goals, which ranked sixth in 2010.


2010 World Cup Performance vs. xG

Player              Team               Goals   xG        xG +/-

W. Sneijder     Netherlands   5          1.28     3.72

T. Muller         Germany         5          1.28     3.72

D. Forlan         Uruguay          5          2.21     2.79

R. Vittek          Slovakia          4          1.53     2.47

G. Higuaín       Argentina        4          1.75     2.25

D. Villa            Spain               5          2.82     2.18

M. Klose          Germany         4          2.04     1.96

In 2010, he scored five of Spain’s eight goals, and that 62.5% individual share of team goals is the highest all-time for a World Cup winner. It would have been six of nine if he’d converted a rather meaningless penalty against Honduras.
 

 


SERGIO BUSQUETS

This author may have a tendency to argue Busquets has been one of football’s most fortunate midfielders given the team-mates he’s had who have hidden his lack of athleticism and allowed him to do exactly what he’s good at and nothing more. But man is he good at what he’s good at, even if it only occasionally requires a sweat.

His pass percentage in the opponent half (92.3) during the 2010 tournament went unsurpassed by non-defenders until 2018 when three players did it. It’s now been bettered by Axel Witsel (93.2), Toni Kroos (93.4) and – yes – Sergio Busquets (93.9).

Additionally, he made a team-high 27 interceptions and had a 61.3% tackle rate, which considering his lack of range are sneaky numbers to anyone used to watching him at 31 rather than 21. In fact, his 3.9 interceptions per 90 were fourth among all central, attacking or holding midfielders to reach the knockout phase. These are numbers we typically expect of a holding midfielder, but not necessarily one of Busquets’ variety.

Busquets was dispossessed three times in 631 minutes in 2010, which at least in part explains that Del Bosque quote you may have come across when googling his age for this story: "If you watch the whole game, you won’t see Busquets. But watch Busquets, and you will see the whole game."

That’s what he’s good at, but he wouldn’t have been as good at it if he’d had to worry about Xavi losing the ball up in front of him.


XAVI

Saving the best for last, Xavi assisted the 73rd-minute semi-final winner against Germany – a match in which he created seven chances to Germany’s three while completing 105 of his 113 passes.

His 30 chances created were a tournament best regardless of whether you measure it by total or per 90, and he created 10 more than next-best Mesut Ozil. Xavi accounted for 20 of Spain’s through balls, also a tournament best ahead of Ozil’s 17.

And then there’s everything about Xavi that made Spain Spain at their peak.

There have been 18 players to complete at least 400 passes in a single World Cup. Xavi completed 599 in 2010, which is the most ever, and it came with a 91.2% success rate, which trails only Busquets in 2010 (92.1) and Isco in 2018 (91.4) among non-defenders in that 400-plus group.

His 84.2% passing accuracy ending in the final third is unmatched among all players in that group. And for anyone clinging exclusively to this midfield being great at looking good while struggling to do much with it, Xavi was a part of a tournament-best 65 sequences ending in a shot. At a per-90 rate, his 9.2 trailed only Argentina's Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Dani Alves and Felipe Melo.

Spain managed 17.2 such sequences per match, and for the sake of comparison, Busquets (4.1) and Iniesta (6.1) barely add up to more sequences ending in shots per 90 than Xavi.

He wasn’t just a key part of sequences leading to attempts on goal. He was also reliable with the ball while repeatedly receiving it in advanced and contested positions, which was absolutely key for Spain sustaining threat and limiting counters.

His 568 passes received in 2010 are the most by a player in a single World Cup. Now, that doesn’t mean much if he’s constantly receiving the ball in harmless positions. But Xavi was one of six players in the tournament with an average sequence starting location at least 52 metres from goal, yet he was dispossessed 14 times.

That works out to 40.6 passes received per dispossession. The other five – Messi, Sneijder, Landon Donovan, Diego Forlan and Simone Pepe – had a combined average of less than half that (19.9).

That’s Spain 2010. For lack of a real word, undispossessable. Attack, defence and – yes – frustration rolled into one.

And it probably frustrated opponents far more than any neutral fans. Miroslav Klose happened to play 90 minutes against Spain in the 2010 semi-final. He of course didn’t score, and the 23 touches he had were his fewest ever on a per-90 level in a World Cup match.

This story was originally published by Stats Perform. For more like this, sign up for The Analyst newsletter at statsperform.com/resources

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