Central and South American players who were barred from travelling to World Cup qualifiers by their Premier League teams will be available this weekend after their countries backed down from a request to ban them under FIFA rules. 

Players from Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Paraguay are cleared to play as their national federations agreed late Friday to waive a measure that would have compelled the players to sit out after their clubs refused to release them for international duty. 

Premier League teams last month decided to prevent players from nations on the United Kingdom's COVID-19 "red list" to participate in Qatar 2022 qualifiers, citing the UK's requirement that people who have travelled to those countries quarantine for 10 days upon their return. 

There had been some indications earlier Friday that the players might be available, but official word did not come down until shortly before midnight London time. 

Brazilians now available to their clubs Saturday include Ederson and Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City, Chelsea's Thiago Silva and Manchester United's Fred. 

Among players from other nations involved, Wolves can use Mexico's Raul Jimenez on Saturday, while Newcastle will have Paraguay's Miguel Almiron available, and Watford can play Chile's Francisco Sierralta 

Liverpool will be most relieved, with Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino cleared to face Raphina and Leeds on Sunday. 

Earlier Friday, Jurgen Klopp said at a news conference that he hoped a solution could be reached for the benefit of all parties involved. 

"It is a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs, and the players especially," Klopp said. "We should not forget at this moment that the players wanted to play these games, the clubs wanted to let the players go but it was not possible."

Fabio Capello claimed former side England have a "monkey on their back and then fail" when it comes to finals.

Gareth Southgate's men reached their first major final in 55 years at Euro 2020, but lost on penalties as Italy claimed their first European Championship since 1968.

England have enjoyed relative success in September's World Cup qualifiers, crushing Hungary and Andorra 4-0 before conceding a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with Poland.

In the latter game, Southgate opted to not make any substitutions – the first time the Three Lions have done so since the Euro 1996 semi-final against Germany.

And Capello believes there is a reason for the England manager's lack of substitutes in Warsaw after heartbreak in the Euro 2020 final two months ago.

"If [Southgate] doesn't make subs it means he wants this group to be convinced to be strong, as the results proved," Capello, who managed England for five years until 2012, told reporters.

"Bear in mind, they have just botched half a match versus Italy in the final, when they were overwhelmed by fear and stopped playing.

"I know England and their problems. They have that monkey on their back to get to the final and then they fail."

England are unbeaten in their last 16 international matches (W13 D3) – their longest streak without defeat since a 16-game run between September 1995 and November 1996.

While international teams pursue qualification for Qatar 2022, FIFA's chief of global football development, Arsene Wenger, is pushing a biennial plan for future World Cups.

The former Arsenal manager's proposition, which was put to FIFA in May, would see global football's most important tournament switch to a two-year cycle.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin greeted the suggestions with disdain, but Capello revealed he would support the proposed changes as a player.

"As a player, I would like the World Cup to be played every two years," the 75-year-old Italian continued.

"Four years is a long time and sometimes you are at the top of your game but when the World Cup comes you are not and you have no chance to shine.

"At the same time, waiting four years makes that trophy more coveted and important, it is bigger.

"Every two years, this value would decrease but again, as a player, I played the World Cup just once, and the second time I missed it for the width of a hair, so I would [play every two years]."

Guus Hiddink, the former Real Madrid, Chelsea and Netherlands head coach, announced his retirement at the age of 74.

Hiddink declared in a television interview that he had decided to quit as boss of Curacao and would not return to football.

The Dutch great told SBS 6: "Lately, with COVID, I haven't worked much. Coincidentally I was talking with the president of the Curacao federation and we came to the conclusion it was better that I stop for a while, because they are going in a new direction.

"But I'm going to stop totally. Am I going to do a Advocaat. No, no."

That was a reference to his fellow veteran coach Dick Advocaat, who was expected to retire after leaving Eredivisie giants Feyenoord last season but instead took on the job of coaching Asian nation Iraq.

Hiddink began his career at PSV and had two spells with the Eindhoven club, from 1987 to 1990 and 2002 to 2006, winning three Eredivisie titles in each successful stint.

His PSV side won the old European Cup in 1988, beating Benfica on penalties in Stuttgart following a goalless draw, clinching a treble after already landing the domestic league and cup titles.

He twice led teams to World Cup semi-finals – the Netherlands in 1998 and South Korea in 2002 – and helped Australia reach the second round of the 2006 tournament.

His Russia team reached the Euro 2008 semi-finals, where they lost 3-0 to Spain, and he had his first short spell as Chelsea interim manager while still in that national team job, helping the Blues win the 2009 FA Cup.

Hiddink was not a success at Madrid, failing to complete the 1998-99 season before he was sacked. He managed one trophy while at the Santiago Bernabeu, helping Madrid beat Vasco da Gama in the Intercontinental Cup.

A long career as a head coach also took in jobs at Valencia, Real Betis, Turkey, Fenerbahce and Anzhi Makhachkala.

Hiddink had a brief and unsuccessful second stint as Netherlands boss, then succeeded Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in December 2015 and helped the team recover from a shocking start to their title defence season, but that was just a half-season tenure.

A year as China Under-21 coach followed, and then the curtailed spell as Curacao boss, his final act, barring a change of heart.

Rhyan Grant scored his first international goal as Australia sealed a 10th consecutive World Cup qualifying win with a 1-0 victory over Vietnam.

The defender nodded home in the 43rd minute after Ajdin Hrustic's searching cross picked him out at the back post.

It maintained the Socceroos' perfect qualifying record on the road to Qatar 2022.

Grant was an unlikely match-winner, opening his account on the occasion of his 14th cap with what proved to be the visitors' only shot on target at an empty My Dinh Stadium.

Despite appearing a little shot-shy on this outing, Graham Arnold's men have scored 32 goals in their winning streak, while Tuesday's clean sheet means they have conceded only twice.

Arnold's men resume their qualifying campaign with games against Oman and Japan next month.

Wissam Ben Yedder has been called up to the France squad as Kingsley Coman struggles with a calf injury. 

Coman played just over an hour of France's 1-1 draw with Ukraine on Saturday – their fifth straight match without a victory. 

With the Bayern Munich winger a doubt to face Finland in Les Bleus' next World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, head coach Didier Deschamps decided to call up a reinforcement. 

Ben Yedder was added to the squad on Monday for France's third game in seven days. 

Deschamps confirmed Jules Kounde would miss the Finland match through suspension following his red card in last week's 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Aurelien Tchouameni and Thomas Lemar were struggling for fitness. 

The France boss called on his team to be more proactive against Finland and bring an end to their winless streak. 

"In those two matches [against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine], we were more reactive than proactive, with chances not in our favour," said Deschamps. 

"We are aware of it and tomorrow we must reverse this trend. Defence is important, too, but this is a less happy time because of the results. We know what we have to do to stay in control of our destiny. 

"The players are not happy. They cannot be satisfied with these results. We will do everything to reverse the trend.  

"I will redouble my efforts. The players are in the same state of mind, to add a little more and get what we want." 

Brazil head coach Tite has argued that European clubs preventing South American players from being released for international duty is creating inequality ahead of next year's World Cup.

Tite will be without numerous key players for Sunday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying match against Argentina after several English and Spanish clubs refused to release players travelling to red list countries.

Countries on that list for travel to and from the UK require arrivals to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon their return, regardless of vaccination status.

LaLiga followed suit on the Premier League clubs, refusing to release 25 players from 13 different clubs for matches to be played in South America.

Among the Brazilian contingent were captain Thiago Silva, goalkeeper Alisson, Fred, Renan Lodi, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison and Roberto Firmino.

“I feel that there must be equality for all teams and I trust the good sense of the associations," Tite said at Saturday's pre-game news conference.

"That hurts the preparation of Brazil and all the South American football teams that will be left without the same preparation for the World Cup, giving an advantage to the European teams."

Premier League pair Aston Villa and Tottenham permitted Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristiano Romero to link up with Argentina under the belief they would return after the Brazil game.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni claimed that he knew nothing about any agreement with Villa or Tottenham and intended to retain the trio for their third match against Bolivia.

Tite also hinted that Marseille midfielder Gerson would likely get a starting chance against Argentina along with Flamengo midfielder Everton Ribeiro.

Brazil remain top in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with a perfect record with seven wins from seven games, while Argentina are unbeaten in second with 15 points.

Spain captain Sergio Busquets has expressed his concerns at FIFA's proposals to hold the men's and women's World Cups every two years. 

The men's World Cup has taken place every four years since the inaugural edition in 1930, aside from in 1942 or 1946 due to the Second World War, while the women's World Cup has followed suit since it was first staged in 1991. 

Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been campaigning for the change in his role as the governing body's chief of global football development. 

Meanwhile, the FIFA congress in May saw a vote go heavily in favour of carrying out a feasibility study into the project. 

On Friday, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said the European governing body had "serious reservations and grave concerns" surrounding the concept. 

Busquets has supported those views, expressing his concern for the potential impact the change would have on players. 

"We have little voice. Less and less is looked at by the player," the Barcelona midfielder said. 

"There will come a time when the player is going to explode. I see it as very difficult.  

"You have to sit down and value it. You have to see it from many points of view, not just wanting more." 

Luis Enrique remains optimistic that Spain will book their place at next year's World Cup, but is now focused on progressing via the play-offs rather than topping their qualifying group.

La Roja's hopes of topping Group B were dented by a 2-1 defeat to Sweden on Thursday, leaving them two points behind the leaders and having played an extra game.

It was the first time Spain had lost a World Cup qualifying match since a 1-0 reverse by Denmark in 1993, ending a 66-game unbeaten streak.

At the midway point in the campaign, Luis Enrique believes that topping the group is out of his side's hands and has turned his focus to securing second place and a play-off berth.

Addressing the media ahead of Sunday's meeting with Georgia, the head coach said: "Football is a game of mistakes; individual and collective. 

"There is no single cause as to why we lost the [Sweden] game. It's the sum of everything.

 

"It's no longer up to us. But it's up to us to win our own and be in the play-offs, win it and be in the World Cup. 

"There are two sides. You can always improve, but I try to see the bottle half-full."

Luis Enrique also backed defender Eric Garcia, who came under scrutiny following his performance against Sweden.

"I disagree with the criticism," he said of the Barcelona defender.

"He suffered in the transitions, but also [Aymeric] Laporte, because of the conditions of the Swedes. I'm delighted with their performance."

Gareth Bale says he would support his Wales team-mates if they decided to walk off the pitch due to racist abuse during a game. 

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings after England players Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were reportedly racially abused during a World Cup qualifier away to Hungary. 

Gareth Southgate’s side were also booed from some sections of the crowd inside the Puskas Arena while taking the knee prior to kick-off. They went on to win the game 4-0 in Budapest. 

Speaking ahead of his Wales' qualifier in Belarus on Sunday, Bale feels it is only a matter of time before teams walk off the pitch in response to such abuse – a move he feels would be correct in the circumstances. 

"If things don't get sorted, that will happen," the Real Madrid forward said. 

"If we felt we weren't getting protection and being treated the right way by the governing bodies and the only way to get the best response was to walk off, I'd be fully for it. 

"At the end of the day, it's the right thing to do and it's more important than football. 

"We haven't discussed it. But we'd have that discussion if it happened and we'd all agree on it as we're a team that sticks together and if anyone is being targeted, we'll do the right thing." 

As for his club career, Bale is back at Madrid after a season on loan at Tottenham last term.

He has started all three LaLiga games under Carlo Ancelotti and, while having enjoyed his time back at Spurs, the 32-year-old is delighted to be part of a "better environment" at Los Blancos. 

"It is always good to be in a good environment," said Bale, who fell out of favour with former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

"I think the biggest reason why I went to Tottenham was because I knew it would be a better environment for me, a break that maybe I needed at the time.

"I had a great time at Tottenham. It definitely helped me mentally to be back in a happier place. I think that showed again coming back with Wales in the Euros.

"I have brought that into Real Madrid this season, where obviously there is a better environment for myself anyway."

Gareth Bale says he would support his Wales team-mates if they decided to walk off the pitch due to racist abuse during a game. 

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings after England players Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were reportedly racially abused during a World Cup qualifier away to Hungary. 

Gareth Southgate’s side were also booed from some sections of the crowd inside the Puskas Arena while taking the knee prior to kick-off. They went on to win the game 4-0 in Budapest. 

Speaking ahead of his Wales' qualifier in Belarus on Sunday, Bale feels it is only a matter of time before teams walk off the pitch in response to such abuse – a move he feels would be correct in the circumstances. 

"If things don't get sorted, that will happen," the Real Madrid forward said. 

"If we felt we weren't getting protection and being treated the right way by the governing bodies and the only way to get the best response was to walk off, I'd be fully for it. 

"At the end of the day, it's the right thing to do and it's more important than football. 

"We haven't discussed it. But we'd have that discussion if it happened and we'd all agree on it as we're a team that sticks together and if anyone is being targeted, we'll do the right thing." 

As for his club career, Bale is back at Madrid after a season on loan at Tottenham last term.

He has started all three LaLiga games under Carlo Ancelotti and, while having enjoyed his time back at Spurs, the 32-year-old is delighted to be part of a "better environment" at Los Blancos. 

"It is always good to be in a good environment," said Bale, who fell out of favour with former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

"I think the biggest reason why I went to Tottenham was because I knew it would be a better environment for me, a break that maybe I needed at the time.

"I had a great time at Tottenham. It definitely helped me mentally to be back in a happier place. I think that showed again coming back with Wales in the Euros.

"I have brought that into Real Madrid this season, where obviously there is a better environment for myself anyway."

Mario Mandzukic has retired at the age of 35, and the former Juventus and Bayern Munich striker signed off with a reminder of his World Cup winner against England.

A mainstay of the Croatia national team, Mandzukic hit an extra-time winner in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against Gareth Southgate's team, before scoring at both ends in the 4-2 final defeat to France.

He became the first player to score an own goal in a World Cup final to give France an early lead, before capitalising on a Hugo Lloris mistake to give Croatia late hope.

His retirement announcement, issued on Instagram, was in the form of a letter to his younger self, with Mandzukic saying he should "just be ready around [the] 109th minute" should he ever face England at the World Cup.

That was the minute in which he fired past Jordan Pickford to send Croatia into their first World Cup final as 2-1 winners over England.

Mandzukic's career took off in his early twenties at Dinamo Zagreb, and he was signed by German outfit Wolfsburg in 2010 before moving on two years later to Bayern Munich, for whom he scored in the 2013 Champions League final win over Borussia Dortmund, also winning the Bundesliga twice.

Only Robert Lewandowski (44 goals) and Stefan Kiessling (40) scored more than the 33 Bundesliga goals that Mandzukic managed across his two campaigns at Bayern.

 

A year followed at Atletico Madrid before Mandzukic enjoyed four seasons at Juventus, winning the Serie A title each time and scoring a memorable goal in the Bianconeri's Champions League final loss to Real Madrid in 2017.

He had a spell at Qatari side Al-Duhail and played the last football of his career for Milan in the second half of last season.

Mandzukic, who scored 33 goals in 89 matches for Croatia, addressed his farewell letter to 'little Mario' and wrote: "While you put on these boots for the first time, you can't even imagine what you will get to experience in football.

"You'll score goals at the biggest stages and you'll win the biggest trophies with the biggest clubs. Proudly representing your nation, you will help write the history of Croatian sports.

"You'll succeed because you'll have good people around you – teammates, coaches, fans, and family, agent and friends who will always be there for you. You'll be forever grateful to all of them!

"Above all, you'll succeed because you'll always give your best. At the end, that's what you'll be most proud of. You'll sacrifice a lot, but you'll know it was worth it because of all the amazing moments.

"You'll recognise the moment to retire, to put these boots in a cabinet and you'll have no regrets. Football will always be a part of your life, but you'll look forward to a new chapter.

"P.S. If you happen to play vs England in the World Cup, just be ready around [the] 109th minute."

Mandzukic's winner in that clash with England came from his third goal attempt in the game, all of which he got on target. That was a lesson to an England side who collectively only put two of their 11 efforts on target.

"What a career Big Mario," said former Juve team-mate Blaise Matuidi. "Congratulations you are a legend."

Roberto Mancini expects to see more focus and ruthlessness from Italy when they face Switzerland after being held to a 1-1 draw by Bulgaria in World Cup qualifying on Thursday. 

In their first match on home soil since winning Euro 2020, Italy went in front through a fine finish from Federico Chiesa but were pegged back before half-time when a swift counter-attack ended with Atanas Iliev turning home. 

Georgi Georgiev did well to deny Chiesa and Ciro Immobile as the Azzurri searched for a winner in the second half, the Bulgaria goalkeeper finishing the game at Stadio Artemio Franchi with seven saves.

Despite failing to secure all three points, Italy made it 35 games unbeaten to equal the European record set by Spain.

Avoiding defeat to Switzerland in Basel on Sunday would see them match the world record for an undefeated run by a men’s international team set by Brazil between 1993 and 1996.

Mancini acknowledged his team may be fatigued by their push to defeat to Bulgaria but is demanding a more clinical display at the weekend. 

"Now the most important thing is to recover our strength for Sunday, because we attacked a lot in the closing stages and became a bit disorganised," said Mancini. 

"But we created so many opportunities. This is football. It happened today and it could happen at other times. When a team attacks, they are bound to suffer something, but the goal we conceded wasn't great. 

"But okay, we will be more focused and mean in Basel. 

"It will be a different game, also because Switzerland are a team that play. That puts you in difficulty but it also lets you play. We will have to play a great match and that's what we'll do. 

"Today, after the first goal we had to kill off the game. We will have to take to the pitch with the attitude of the second half. 

"We need to be more clinical, but the guys did well and what they had to do. We are pleased, but we would have preferred to reach 35 [games unbeaten] with a win."

Jordi Alba leapt to the defence of Spain coach Luis Enrique after La Roja suffered their first World Cup qualifying defeat since 1993 at the hands of Sweden on Thursday.

In what was their first game since losing to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, Spain were in Stockholm hoping to go top of Group B on the road to Qatar 2022.

It was initially going well too, as Carlos Soler opened his account less than four minutes into his international debut as he turned in an Alba delivery.

But the Valencia midfielder made an error almost straight after the restart and Alexander Isak netted from 20 yards, meaning Spain's lead lasted just 63 seconds.

Viktor Claesson got the winner for Sweden in the second half, producing a cleverly disguised finish after inventive play by Dejan Kulusevski, with Spain's late pressure coming to nothing.

In the end, Spain – who had 75 per cent of the ball – finished with an expected goals value of 2.2 to Sweden's 0.6, highlighting the lack of decisiveness shown by La Roja in front of goal compared to their hosts.

Alba does not believe a major re-think is required for Luis Enrique, though he accepts Spain now have to be faultless if they are to usurp Sweden atop Group B given they are now two points adrift having played a game more than Janne Andersson's men.

"As in all matches, when you win or lose, you have to improve," he told Teledeporte. "The ideas of ​​the coach have been very good since he arrived and the players are taking to it perfectly. We have to improve as in all games, but we are doing a good job.

"It's clear we still have a lot to do. We have no margin for error. Today we have lost and there are still difficult games to be won.

"We have done things well, they have had their chances, they have put them in and we must continue to improve and do the job that the coach asks of us.

"We didn't deserve to lose. We had a very good first half, it's just a shame that after our goal they scored their goal in the next play.

"In the second half they waited for their strengths [counterattacks] and they did very well. We have no margin for error, we must win every game; we had that idea from the beginning, but now more than ever."

Luis Enrique echoed his left-back's sentiments and stressed Spain did not play poorly in general, though he rued a lack of success in midfield duels as well as Sweden's success in transition, with the pace and ability of Kulusevski and Isak routinely threatening the defence.

"It was not a bad game, there was ambition, good positioning, we have created many chances but we have lost many duels in midfield," he added.

"And with the transitions they have done us a lot of damage. We have lost many duels and they have generated more transitions than in the last ten games."

France striker Kylian Mbappe has been granted permission to return to Paris Saint-Germain after suffering a right calf injury.  

Mbappe will miss the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on Tuesday as a result. 

The French Football Federation confirmed that no replacement would be called up.  

Mbappe was taken off in the closing stages of France’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday. 

Despite the draw, Les Bleus sit top of Group D, four points clear of their next opponents Ukraine with four games remaining.  

The 22-year-old will hope to recover in time to return to league action for his club against Clermont on September 11. 

Australia made it nine World Cup qualifying wins in a row on the road to Qatar 2022 with a straightforward 3-0 triumph over China at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. 

The Socceroos finished top of their group in the previous round and made a winning start to the third qualifying stage thanks to goals from Awer Mabil, Martin Boyle and substitute Mitchell Duke. 

China had won their previous four qualifiers and managed to restrict their opponents to minimal opportunities in the opening quarter of the contest on neutral territory. 

But Mabil acrobatically volleyed home to give Australia the breakthrough – the goal allowed to stand despite a high boot from the winger – and Boyle fired in a second from the edge of the box less than two minutes later. 

Graham Arnold's side had a penalty shout for handball turned down, but they had a third goal that their dominance deserved with 70 minutes on the clock. 

Duke was on hand to tap home after Mabil was denied from one of his five shots on target – the joint-most of any player in a game in the 2022 Asian World Cup qualifiers – as he scored just 59 seconds after being introduced off the bench. 

That was the fastest any substitute has scored in the Asian qualifiers since Tana Chanabut for Thailand after 36 seconds against the United Arab Emirates in October 2016.

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