Alvaro Morata told his Spain team-mates to expect more negative tactics in their next World Cup qualifier against Georgia on Sunday. 

Spain were held to a 1-1 draw by Greece in the country's opening Group B fixture in Granada on Thursday as their opponents set up defensively straight from kick-off.

Morata put Spain ahead with a stylish volley, but visitors Greece equalised with their only shot of the game courtesy of a Anastasios Bakasetas penalty.

Spain monopolised possession with 79.9 per cent and made 920 passes with a successful accuracy of 92.4 per cent.

However, Greece's defence stood firm as they won 42 duels to Spain's 33 with Georgios Tzavellas making the most clearances in the game and Konstantinos Tsimikas the most tackles on either side with five apiece.

Morata predicted Spain's players will face more teams who will try to stifle their play, starting with Georgia at the weekend.

"We'll have lots more games with rivals who try to do this to us," Morata said in a post-match media conference.

"We knew how Greece were going to try and play us this evening. Any international side which knows how to defend can make things difficult for you.

"In fact, Georgia play in a similar style. We need to get used to having complicated moments and trying to get the best from them.

"We have to draw the positives from this match and keep on working hard."

Spain head coach Luis Enrique echoed Morata's sentiments but insisted despite the setback their commitment to play attacking football remains.

"I don't like the result at all, nor have we been inspired," he said.

"I liked the rhythm, but once we pinned Greece back we didn't flow and fashion the chances that would have enabled us to take a clear lead.

"I did like our attitude and the tempo of play that the team tried to produce throughout. Whenever we got near the Greek penalty area, however, we lacked sharpness and efficiency.

"Sunday will be a similar game, with an opponent who uses the same weapons. We'll continue to insist on attacking in the same way.

"This result doesn't change anything for the next two games. [Attacking] is the most difficult phase in football, it depends on the situations you generate. 

"I don't think this result will influence the following ones."

Alvaro Morata told his Spain team-mates to expect more negative tactics in their next World Cup qualifier against Georgia on Sunday. 

Spain were held to a 1-1 draw by Greece in the country's opening Group B fixture in Granada on Thursday as their opponents set up defensively straight from kick-off.

Morata put Spain ahead with a stylish volley, but visitors Greece equalised with their only shot of the game courtesy of a Anastasios Bakasetas penalty.

Spain monopolised possession with 79.9 per cent and made 920 passes with a successful accuracy of 92.4 per cent.

However, Greece's defence stood firm as they won 42 duels to Spain's 33 with Georgios Tzavellas making the most clearances in the game and Konstantinos Tsimikas the most tackles on either side with five apiece.

Morata predicted Spain's players will face more teams who will try to stifle their play, starting with Georgia at the weekend.

"We'll have lots more games with rivals who try to do this to us," Morata said in a post-match media conference.

"We knew how Greece were going to try and play us this evening. Any international side which knows how to defend can make things difficult for you.

"In fact, Georgia play in a similar style. We need to get used to having complicated moments and trying to get the best from them.

"We have to draw the positives from this match and keep on working hard."

Spain head coach Luis Enrique echoed Morata's sentiments but insisted despite the setback their commitment to play attacking football remains.

"I don't like the result at all, nor have we been inspired," he said.

"I liked the rhythm, but once we pinned Greece back we didn't flow and fashion the chances that would have enabled us to take a clear lead.

"I did like our attitude and the tempo of play that the team tried to produce throughout. Whenever we got near the Greek penalty area, however, we lacked sharpness and efficiency.

"Sunday will be a similar game, with an opponent who uses the same weapons. We'll continue to insist on attacking in the same way.

"This result doesn't change anything for the next two games. [Attacking] is the most difficult phase in football, it depends on the situations you generate. 

"I don't think this result will influence the following ones."

Germany's youthful side were in slick form against Iceland but outgoing head coach Joachim Low expects more from their next two World Cup qualifiers.

Iceland proved no match for Low's side on Thursday, with early goals from Leon Goretzka and Kai Havertz paving the way for a comfortable triumph before Ilkay Gundogan rounded out a 3-0 success.

Led by the imperious Joshua Kimmich, Germany dominated throughout.

They had 81.5 per cent possession, attempted 1,053 passes – at an accuracy of 92.3 per cent – and had 15 shots compared to Iceland's eight, with Manuel Neuer only called into action twice.

From his position at the base of midfield, versatile Bayern Munich star Kimmich controlled proceedings, tallying up 176 touches, 150 successful passes and a team-high three crosses, one of which should have resulted in a goal for Antonio Rudiger.

Only Gundogan (four) played more key passes than Kimmich, who was integral to Germany's first two goals, playing sublime balls into Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane as the hosts took a 2-0 lead by the seventh minute – the first time they have led by two goals that early in a competitive fixture since May 1969.

It marked a 17th successive win for Germany in World Cup qualifiers, a new team record.

But Low was not entirely pleased with Germany's display, telling RTL: "In the second half, we played too many passes backwards and missed some moments to trigger momentum and pick up speed.

"I see opportunities for improvement in our game. What made us strong in the first half – a lot of movement without the ball, a lot of deep runs – that wasn't quite the case in the second half.

"We have to see that we keep up the pace and can last for over 90 minutes. That will be important at the Euros."

Despite Low's concerns, Germany did much of their passing in Iceland's half.

Indeed, only Havertz (31), Gnabry and Lukas Klostermann (both 28) among the hosts' outfield starters attempted fewer passes in Iceland's half than Aron Gunnarsson – who led the distribution metrics for the visitors – managed in all areas of the field (33, only 22 of which were successful).

Low, who is departing after the Euros, has received criticism in some quarters following a difficult 2020, and for his decision to ostracise 2014 World Cup winners Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.

The 61-year-old has hinted the door could be open for the trio to return at the rearranged tournament, though for now he is sticking with youth, handing Jamal Musiala – who would also have been eligible for England – his debut late on.

Aged 18 years and 27 days, the Bayern attacker is the youngest Germany player since Uwe Seeler in October 1954.

"For the most part, I'm satisfied," Low said.

"We started very energetically and dynamically, we wanted to set an example. The team has the right attitude right from the start."

N'Golo Kante is to return to Chelsea on Friday after being ruled out of France's World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina with a hamstring injury.

The 29-year-old played the full 90 minutes of Les Bleus 1-1 draw with Ukraine in their opening Group D match at the Stade de France on Wednesday.

However, Kante sustained a minor injury late on in the game and will now be assessed by Chelsea, who have key fixtures to come in three competitions in April.

A statement on the French Football Federation website on Thursday read: "The Chelsea midfielder felt a pain in the hamstrings of the left thigh at the very end of the match against Ukraine.

"He had clinical and radiological examinations on Thursday, which revealed a small lesion.

"In consultation with Doctor Franck Le Gall, national coach Didier Deschamps has decided to put N'Golo Kante back at the disposal of his club on Friday."

Deschamps has opted against calling up a midfield replacement for Kante ahead of the games with Kazakhstan on Sunday and Bosnia-Herzegovina three days later.

Chelsea face West Brom in the Premier League on April 3, before taking on Porto in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on April 7.

Thomas Tuchel's men also have an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City in three weeks' time.

Kante has been used 36 times in all competition by Chelsea this season and was hailed as "world class" by Tuchel earlier this month following a string of impressive displays.

Only two midfielders to have played at least 10 Premier League games this term have made more interceptions per 90 minutes than Kante's 2.56 - Burnley's Josh Brownhill (2.59) and Wilfried Ndidi of Leicester City (2.76).

No other Chelsea regular averages more than two interceptions per game in the competition, Jorginho being next highest with 1.81.

Kante also ranks highly for recoveries, averaging 8.23 per 90 minutes, though that is still some way behind Ndidi's 9.37.

Gareth Southgate urged "hungry" England to maintain the high standards they set in a 5-0 World Cup qualifying hammering of San Marino but felt they should have been more clinical.

The Three Lions cruised to victory in the first Group I match at Wembley on Thursday, dominating the lowest-ranked side in international football.

James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring with his first England goal, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored twice and stand-in captain Raheem Sterling was also on target with Harry Kane watching on from the bench.

Ollie Watkins came on score a dream debut goal seven minutes from time in Southgate's 50th game as manager of his country, as England started their bid to qualify for the 2022 tournament in Qatar by securing three points at a canter.

Southgate knows England ought to have won by a greater margin, as they had 32 shots and 84.7 per cent possession, but he was impressed with the way they went about their business and said San Marino goalkeeper Elia Benedettini deserved great credit after making some fine saves.

"I think of course a game that we were expected to win comfortably, but I was particularly pleased with the mentality for the full 90 minutes. I think the way we pressed the ball when we lost it was the biggest indication of that," said the England boss.

"The whole team were hungry to play and sometimes these games have been stodgy for us in the past, but I think this team can play slightly differently.

"We have some creative players who can open teams up and a lot of those chances were created by the good pressing and winning the ball high up the pitch, but also some of the interchange of position and the vision of players.

"If we were to be ultra-critical we probably should have scored more, but we also have to say their goalkeeper had an absolutely fantastic game.

"I was very pleased, because the behaviours and the habits we showed, to be a top team we have to show those every day, in every training session and in every match.

"Today we respected the game and we went about it in the right way."

Next up for England is a trip to Tirana to face Albania on Sunday.

Roberto Mancini and Leonardo Bonucci acknowledged there is room for improvement from Italy, despite kicking off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a routine 2-0 win over Northern Ireland.

Domenico Berardi scored for the third international running and Ciro Immobile doubled the Azzurri's lead before half-time in Thursday's Group C clash at Stadio Ennio Tardini.

After managing five attempts on target in a dominant first half, however, Italy dropped off in the second period and failed to test Bailey Peacock-Farrell on a single occasion.

Northern Ireland went close to pulling one back through strikes from Gavin Whyte, Michael Smith and Steven Davis, while Paddy McNair blazed over from a good position late on.

The victory was Italy's fourth in a row without conceding and extended their unbeaten run to 23 matches.

But Mancini was not pleased with what he saw in the second half of the game in Parma, which he put down to the lengthy break between matches for his side.

"After four months, the first half was excellent and we should've scored more goals," he told Rai Sport.

"We'll have to review the second half with the team, because we must do better than that. The first half was perfect and we should've had more goals.

"Perhaps we started to take a few too many touches after the break and the ball moved slowly, but that can happen after four months of not seeing each other.

"We could've won by a bigger margin in the first half, but we knew Northern Ireland were a physical side who could cause us problems. We made too many mistakes.

"The ball can go long at times, especially when we're pressed like that and the opposition are defending in numbers."

Italy's possession count dropped from 72.6 per cent in the first half to 59.6 in the second and they regularly gifted the ball to their opponents.

Bonucci, who became the eighth player to win 100 caps for Italy with his appearance on Thursday, accepted lessons can be learned from the contest.

"It's important that we kept a clean sheet, even if we made a lot of mistakes in the second half and need to improve, especially when we're in possession," he said.

"But what I've always liked since Mancini took over is the attitude. We face everyone without fear, we keep our nerve and go out there to win every game.

"It means there's a lot of hard work behind it, from the players and the staff, because the ideas are clear and we drill them in very quickly.

"The young players here have a lot of talent, along with the spirit of sacrifice and hard work, so these are the results."

With his 14th-minute strike in Parma, Immobile has now been directly involved in seven goals in his last seven starts for Italy - four goals and three assists.

It was a rare goal from open play, however, and the Lazio striker celebrated wildly at the empty ground.

"I felt a weight off my shoulders because I hadn't scored from open play for a year and a half in the Italy shirt," he told Rai Sport.

"I slipped on the first chance, the goalkeeper was there on the second, so I was feeling frustrated and let it all out after the third chance went in.

"Having competition for places only makes you more determined to find the net and help the team. [Andrea] Belotti scored last time, I got the goal this time, so there needs to be more faith in this Italy side."

Italy join second seeds Switzerland on three points at the top of Group C and travel to Sofia on Sunday to face Bulgaria in their next qualifier.

Mancini, who is one of only three coaches to stay unbeaten in his first 15 home matches in charge of Italy after Enzo Bearzot and Marcello Lippi, hinted he will heavily rotate his side for that match.

"We need to change something. We need some fresh players," he said at his post-match news conference. "Nothing should change on the pitch, even if we were to alter five players."

Ollie Watkins was in dreamland after coming off the bench to score on his England debut in a 5-0 World Cup qualifying defeat of San Marino at Wembley.

Watkins completed the scoring as the Three Lions started their quest to win Group I and seal automatic qualification for the 2022 tournament in Qatar with a victory that should have been more emphatic.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored twice after James Ward-Prowse put England in front with his first senior international goal and Raheem Sterling - named as captain with Harry Kane on the bench - was also on target.

Watkins came on to replace Calvert-Lewin after 63 minutes and the Aston Villa striker grasped his chance, firing home from just inside the penalty area seven minutes from time.

The 25-year-old's goal came from his only shot, although the forward also created a chance, and he savoured such a special moment on his international bow.

Asked about his debut goal, Watkins told ITV Sport: "Unbelievable, what I have dreamt about. All day in the hotel I was just thinking that I hope to get a chance to come on, enjoy it and get the opportunity to score. I'm speechless to be honest.

"It's been a good journey. I just feel honoured that I can come out here and play for my country with these players and score on my debut. Over the moon. I just wanted to get on pitch for a start. I have and can't believe it.

"I'm going to take each game as it comes, focus on my club form, play consistently for Aston Villa, score for them, help the team push up the table and hopefully get into Europe and take it from there."

Calvert-Lewin expressed his delight for fellow frontman Watkins.

The Everton striker said: "He's been really sharp, he’s a nice lad, it’s the first time I've come across him. I know what it feels like, not too long ago, to step into the squad and the feeling he’ll have now, scoring on his debut is something that he'll always have dreamed of.

"He came in a little bit late, we all gave him a bit of a clap and he'll have a big smile on his face. I'm very happy for him."

The Three Lions had 32 shots - 15 on target - in Gareth Southgate's 50th match in charge against a side propping up with FIFA rankings, but Calvert-Lewin was not impressed to be asked if they should have been more clinical.

He said: "You're [the media] never happy, are you? We scored five, maybe it could have been more. I could have scored more, we had a couple more chances to be more clinical, but it's still the three points at the end of the day."

England had nine 'big chances', from which they would be expected to score, and missed seven of them.

Calvert-Lewin was guilty of two misses, although his two goals also each came from such opportunities, while Jesse Lingard (twice), Sterling, John Stones and Jude Bellingham failed to convert, too.

An Alvaro Morata strike was not enough for victory as Spain began their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Greece in Granada on Thursday 

Morata's stylish volley put Spain ahead in the first half of a Group B clash they dominated with 79.4 per cent of the possession before the break.

But Greece levelled when Anastasios Bakasetas converted from the penalty spot four minutes before the hour mark after Inigo Martínez fouled Giorgos Masouras inside the area.

And although Luis Enrique's side enjoyed the bulk of the chances in the remainder of the game, they were unable to find a winner in an underwhelming start to the campaign.

After a sluggish start, La Roja sparked into life when Dani Olmo rattled the crossbar with a long-range curling effort and, moments later, they were ahead.

Koke showed his guile to cleverly dink the ball over the Greek defence to Morata, who controlled on his chest before crisply striking a fine volley beyond Odisseas Vlachodimos.

Morata went close again early in the second half when his shot hit the side-netting, but Greece soon equalised.

Martinez caught Masouras after a sliding clearance and Bakasetas smashed the resulting spot-kick high down the middle of the goal.

Spain rallied and Morata got on the end of a Ferran Torres cross but was unable to make his header count, nodding straight into the ground, before Jose Gaya teased a low dangerous cross into the box which Mikel Oyarzabal could not convert.

The hosts continued to pile on the pressure late on but were unable to find a way past the resolute visiting defence, their joy evident at the final whistle.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin struck twice and Ollie Watkins scored a debut goal as England started their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of San Marino at Wembley.

Gareth Southgate was able to celebrate his 50th match as manager of his country with a Group I victory which should have been much more emphatic on Thursday.

James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring with his first senior international goal before Calvert-Lewin and Raheem Sterling got in on the act in a first half that saw England waste a host of clear-cut chances.

Calvert-Lewin doubled his tally early in the second half and substitute Watkins was on target on his Three Lions bow on another tough night for a San Marino team sitting at the bottom of the FIFA rankings, with much bigger tests to come for England on the road to Qatar 2022.

San Marino were chasing shadows from the start, but Calvert-Lewin somehow failed to convert Reece James' cross and Sterling – named as captain with Harry Kane on the bench – was off target with two close-range headers.

It was only a matter of time before England took the lead and Ward-Prowse was the man to put them in front, sweeping home Ben Chilwell's cutback with his left foot 14 minutes in.

Calvert-Lewin doubled their advantage by nodding in James' inviting cross and Chilwell's rasping drive was superbly tipped over by Elia Benedettini before Sterling punished San Marino for trying to play out from the back, cutting inside before finding the net with a deflected right-foot finish.

England were relentless, with Mason Mount pulling the strings, and the recalled Jesse Lingard scuffed wastefully wide from close range before he was denied by a brilliant save from Benedettini late in the first half.

Southgate made four changes at the break, with Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden among the quartet to come on and Sterling handing the armband to Conor Coady.

It was all too easy for England as Calvert-Lewin tapped in the lively Lingard's cross in the 53rd minute, but there was to be no hat-trick for the Everton striker as he was replaced by Watkins.

Ward-Prowse came close to a second when Benedettini produced another fine save to keep out the midfielder's whipped free-kick and Watkins volleyed into the turf and over the crossbar moments later.

Watkins was not to be denied seven minutes from time, though, controlling the ball just inside the area and drilling home with his right foot.

Germany made a comfortable start to their World Cup qualifying campaign as early goals from Leon Goretzka and Kai Havertz paved the way for a 3-0 win over Iceland.

News of Joachim Low's upcoming departure after the Euros dominated the build-up to Germany's Group J opener, though a vibrant performance proved the quality the outgoing boss has at his disposal heading into his final tournament.

Goretzka and Havertz had Germany 2-0 up after just seven minutes – the quickest Die Mannschaft have been two goals ahead in a competitive match since May 1969, when Gerd Muller and Wolfang Overath struck against Cyprus.

In-form Ilkay Gundogan arrowed in his 13th goal of 2021 for club and country midway through the second half, wrapping up a convincing triumph.

A 6-0 defeat to Spain rounded off a frustrating 2020 for Germany, but they made a fantastic start to 2021. Iceland had only touched the ball twice by the time Goretzka drilled home the opener from the centre of the area – Serge Gnabry having cushioned Joshua Kimmich's lofted pass into the midfielder's path.

Kimmich was the architect of Germany's second goal five minutes later with a wonderful throughball to release Leroy Sane, who squared for Havertz to finish coolly.

Germany's lead seemed set to be halved when Runar Mar Sigurjonsson's shot took a wicked deflection off Antonio Rudiger but the ball dropped inches wide.

Kimmich should have had an assist to his name prior to half-time, only for Rudiger to head wide from the midfielder's inch-perfect cross.

Aron Gunnarsson could have done better with a free header shortly after the interval, and any lingering Iceland hopes were swiftly dashed when Gundogan found the bottom-left corner.

Havertz had a goal disallowed for offside and Gnabry hit the post after latching onto another sublime Kimmich pass, but there was no further punishment for new Iceland coach Arnar Vidarsson.

Italy kicked off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a straightforward 2-0 win over Northern Ireland at Stadio Ennio Tardini on Thursday.

The Azzurri entered the contest without defeat in 22 games and that unbeaten run never looked under threat from the moment Domenico Berardi opened the scoring 14 minutes in.

Ciro Immobile doubled the lead for Roberto Mancini's in-form side seven minutes before half-time and the hosts saw out victory despite an improved Northern Ireland display in the second period.

The win moves Italy level on three points with second seeds Switzerland - 3-1 victors against Bulgaria earlier on Thursday - at the top of Group C after their opening fixtures.

Northern Ireland were given an early warning when Immobile chested down Alessandro Florenzi's floated pass and fired straight at Bailey Peacock-Farrell, but there was no stopping Berardi's strike three minutes later.

The Sassuolo forward was played into space down the right by Florenzi and lifted the ball away from Peacock-Farrell at his near post to become the first Italy player to score in three successive matches under Mancini.

Italy continued to patiently probe away and had a second goal through Immobile's drive past Peacock-Farrell - again at the visiting keeper's front post - after being played in by Lorenzo Insigne on the counter.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was called into action twice in quick succession 11 minutes into the second half to keep out Gavin Whyte's volley and Michael Smith's follow-up attempt.

Milan stopper Donnarumma was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the second period, with Craig Cathcart and Steven Davis the next players to be denied, but there was to be no way through as Mancini's men triumphed again.

England's World Cup qualifier with Albania in Tirana on Sunday will go ahead after concerns over security were addressed.

Local police had informed the Albanian Football Association (AFA) that they could not guarantee the safety of the two sides for the Group I encounter at the Air Albania Stadium.

The AFA had asked for a restricted number of fans who have received a coronavirus vaccinations to be allowed into the venue, but the government refused that request.

With police having been unable to offer assurances over the safety of players outside the ground, with no lockdown restrictions in place, the AFA was concerned the fixture may have to be cancelled.  

However, police released a statement later on Thursday confirming the game could ahead, saying they had "taken all measures to guarantee order and security".

 

 

England's World Cup qualifier with Albania in Tirana on Sunday is in doubt amid concerns over security.

Local police informed the Albanian Football Association (AFA) that they could not guarantee the safety of the two sides for the Group I encounter at the Air Albania Stadium.

The AFA had asked for a restricted number of fans who have received a coronavirus vaccination to be allowed into the venue, but the government refused that request.

With police unable to offer assurances over the safety of players outside the ground, with no lockdown restrictions in place, the AFA is concerned the fixture may have to be cancelled.  

An AFA statement said: "Today a letter arrived at the Albanian Football Federation which states that the structures of the local police directorate of Tirana do not guarantee the taking of measures before, during and after the Albania-England match on 28 March.

"Faced with the situation where the state authorities did not react after the request of the Albanian Football Federation for the release of spaces on the perimeter of the national stadium, we request urgent response of these structures.

"The cancellation of the Albania-England match scheduled to be played at Air Albania Stadium would have catastrophic consequences for the image of our country, the national team and in general for Albanian football."

A spokesman for the English Football Association said ahead of England's first qualifier against San Marino on Thursday: "We continue to liaise with the relevant authorities."

 

 

 

Norway's players will face no disciplinary action from FIFA for their decision to wear T-shirts with the message 'Human rights on and off the pitch' to show their support for migrant workers in Qatar.

Ahead of Wednesday's 3-0 victory over Gibraltar in the opening game of their 2022 World Cup qualification campaign, Norway's team – including star striker Erling Haaland and playmaker Martin Odegaard, who is also captain – wore the T-shirts during the national anthems.

Odegaard had said before the game that the team were planning to make their feelings clear, with Norwegian clubs having pressurised the country's football association to boycott the upcoming World Cup, which takes place in November and December next year.

These objections followed a report in The Guardian newspaper in February revealing that over 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since the country was awarded the 2022 World Cup in 2010, seeing off competition from the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan.

The report also suggested that the actual death toll would be much higher, due to a lack of data from a number of countries such as the Philippines and Kenya, while deaths that occurred late in 2020 were not accounted for.

In response, the Qatar organising committee stated: "We deeply regret all of these tragedies and investigated each incident to ensure lessons were learned. We have always maintained transparency around this issue and dispute inaccurate claims around the number of workers who have died on our projects."

The Qatari government, meanwhile, insisted the mortality rate was "within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population".

In the warm-up, Norway's players wore T-shirts with a different message: 'Respect on and off the pitch'.

FIFA's laws prohibit players from bearing "any political, religious or personal slogans", but in this instance, football's governing body has confirmed Norway will not have a case to answer.

"FIFA believes in the freedom of speech, and in the power of football as a force for good," a statement read.

"No disciplinary proceedings in relation to this matter will be opened by FIFA."

Lucas Hernandez is determined to prove his worth for both club and country as the Bayern Munich defender aims to hold off competition, including potentially from his own brother, to remain a regular for France.  

Hernandez suffered knee and ankle injuries in his first year at Bayern, though he has by no means been a regular this season when available for head coach Hansi Flick.  

The 25-year-old has made 17 Bundesliga appearances – 12 of which have been starts – and also eight outings in the Champions League, helping the German club reach the quarter-final stage in Europe.  

He started at left-back for Les Bleus on Wednesday, the reigning world champions opening their qualifying campaign for Qatar 2022 with a 1-1 home draw against Ukraine.  

"Yes, of course. I'm someone who always wants to play," Hernandez - who joined Bayern from Atletico Madrid in June 2019 - told the media on Thursday.  

"I was injured a lot last year but this year the injuries have left me alone. I played, I wanted to restore confidence to the club that bought me two years ago. There were times when I was frustrated, angry when I was on the bench.   

"At Bayern, the competition is very strong. I had times when I played less, but I still have confidence in myself, I have always worked in training.  

"There is also a lot of competition in the France team too, we are always in danger. It's up to me to hang on."

Hernandez was a reliable option for France boss Didier Deschamps in the successful World Cup campaign in Russia in 2018, though appreciates he cannot just take his place for granted.  

Younger sibling Theo is one of those hoping to force his way in. The 23-year-old has yet to make his debut for the senior team but is excelling at Milan, contributing five goals and six assists this season.  

He has created 45 chances in total in the 2020-21 campaign, putting him behind only Hakan Calhanoglu for Stefano Pioli's squad. His tackle success rate, meanwhile, sits at 64.1 per cent.  

"At the moment offensively, he is very strong," Lucas said of Theo. "He has this confidence to take the ball and break through the lines easily. He is having a very good season.   

"It was already the case last year; I hope that one day he can be here [with the France squad]. It is not for me to choose that. It is not my choice.   

"In previous years, when he was at Real Madrid or Real Sociedad, he had a little more trouble. But since he has been in Milan, he is confident – and it shows in the stats, with assists and goals. He's very offensive. 

"He's my brother, I have that family feeling. He's a very good player, I like him a lot. I hope he can be here one day."

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