Axel Witsel has suffered a torn Achilles and will miss an "extended period of time", Borussia Dortmund have announced.

The Belgium international was helped off during the first half of Dortmund's 3-1 win at RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Dortmund confirmed the extent of Witsel's injury on Sunday and, though a timeframe has not been put on a return, it is highly likely the 31-year-old will miss the rest of the season.

Reports in Belgium also suggest Witsel is a doubt for the rescheduled Euro 2020, which is due to start on June 11.

A statement on Dortmund's Twitter feed read: "Unfortunate news. Axel Witsel suffered a torn Achilles tendon during yesterday's match and will be out for an extended period of time.

"We all wish Axel a speedy and successful recovery."

Dortmund's win leaves them fourth in the table, five points adrift of leaders Bayern Munich.

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

Italy have been confirmed as hosts of next year's Nations League finals, with Roberto Mancini's team drawn against Spain in the first semi-final.

UEFA confirmed on Thursday what was already widely known as it declared that Group A1 winners Italy would put on the tournament.

Games will be played in Milan and Turin, with San Siro staging the final.

Italy and Spain will play the first semi-final at San Siro on October 6, followed a day later by FIFA's top-ranked team Belgium taking on World Cup holders France at the Allianz Stadium in Turin.

The third-place play-off in Turin and the final in Milan will both take place on Sunday, October 10.

Belgium and reigning champions France head Europe's list of top-seeded teams for World Cup qualifying - and they may have to face a Sweden side featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

World governing body FIFA confirmed the six pots of teams on Friday, based on its new list of world rankings, ahead of the December 7 draw in Zurich.

Belgium are the world's number one team while France sit second in FIFA's rankings, having triumphed at the 2018 World Cup.

The European qualifiers begin with three match days in March, meaning World Cup preliminaries begin before the delayed Euro 2020 finals.

Dangerous teams in Pot Two include the likes of Poland, who boast Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, and Sweden, who could by then have Ibrahimovic back in their ranks.

Ibrahimovic has hinted he wants to come out of international retirement, and coach Janne Andersson this week held a positive meeting with the Milan striker about that possibility.

Should Ibrahimovic come back on board, Andersson would likely want him involved well ahead of Euro 2020, which is due to take place in June and July of next year.

Andersson said on the Swedish FA website: "When Zlatan opened up for games in the national team, it felt natural and important to meet and discuss this as soon as possible. 

"I am glad that we managed to get a meeting so quickly."

Ibrahimovic is Sweden's record goalscorer but the 39-year-old Milan striker last played for his country at Euro 2016.

He is the top scorer in Serie A this season with 10 goals in six appearances.

World Cup pots for Qatar 2022 qualifying draw:

Pot One: Belgium, France, England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands

Pot Two: Switzerland, Wales, Poland, Sweden, Austria, Ukraine, Serbia, Turkey, Slovakia, Romania

Pot Three: Russia, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, Greece, Finland

Pot Four: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Israel, Belarus, Georgia, Luxembourg

Pot Five: Armenia, Cyprus, Faroe Islands, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Andorra

Pot Six: Malta, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, San Marino

Kevin De Bruyne said Belgium need to be consistently braver in possession after their 4-2 Nations League victory over Denmark.

Roberto Martinez's Belgium claimed all three points in Leuven on Wednesday to secure their place in next year's final four.

Youri Tielemans put Belgium ahead but Jonas Wind levelled and Martin Braithwaite should have scored another in a first half in which Denmark were the better side.

Belgium assumed control after the interval, Romelu Lukaku scoring twice and De Bruyne adding a late fourth shortly after Thibaut Courtois miscontrolled a Nacer Chadli pass into his own net.

Belgium had a lower pass completion rate (85 per cent) and won fewer duels (10, compared with 18) in the first half than they did in the second, as Denmark threatened to snatch the surprise victory they needed to finish top of the group.

De Bruyne felt they showed more "guts" on the ball following half-time to break through the Danish lines and put Kasper Schmeichel's goal under threat.

"These countries are in pot one for a reason," said the Manchester City star, according to Het Nieuwsblad. "Denmark are just very good at playing football. We played a bit too little football before the break.

"We need to offer more options and try to play from the back, as we did in the second half. It wasn't a matter of adjusting at half-time, it was a matter of having the guts to play the ball. There's a risk involved, but that's not a bad thing.

"We got more time in the game and we started to combine better, which made it easier. It's a shame about the clumsy goals we conceded, as has often been the case in our campaign, but we still won deservedly."

Tielemans, who also scored the opening goal in the 2-0 win over England on matchday five, agreed there was a certain anxiety within the team in the first 45 minutes.

"The first half wasn't good," said the Leicester City midfielder, who attempted more passes in the Denmark half (34) than any other Belgium player. "We played too panicky. We wanted to qualify so badly that fear crept into our feet.

"But the boss made us focus again at half-time and then it was fine."

Romelu Lukaku scored as decisive double as Belgium beat Denmark 4-2 to reach the Nations League Finals.

Roberto Martinez's side needed only to avoid defeat to prevent Denmark from finishing top of group A2 and they started strongly in Leuven, Youri Tielemans putting them ahead after only three minutes.

Jonas Wind levelled in a first half in which the visitors were the more threatening side, but when Kasper Schmeichel could not quite do enough to deny Lukaku 57 minutes in, the contest was effectively settled.

Lukaku nodded in his second and Belgium's third 12 minutes later to make certain of the victory and reach 57 goals for his country, including six in his past four appearances.

A late aberration from Courtois gifted Denmark a second but Kevin De Bruyne struck an immediate reply to quash any fear of a late comeback.

Tielemans fired Belgium ahead against England and did so again here from a similar distance, his left-foot shot from the edge of the area bobbling beyond Schmeichel and into the bottom-right corner.

Denmark equalised 14 minutes later, Wind heading a loose ball beyond Courtois after Martin Braithwaite's shot had been blocked.

Braithwaite had a great chance to make it 2-1 but was denied by a sprawling Courtois, and Lukaku nearly glanced Belgium back in front from De Bruyne's cross.

Lukaku had cut an isolated figure but took the next chance that came his way in the second half. A quick free-kick allowed De Bruyne to feed the striker, whose shot struck the onrushing Schmeichel but looped up and over the line, with the covering Andreas Christensen only able to hook the ball high into the net.

The Inter striker planted a firm header past Schmeichel from six yards out after a fine cross from Thorgan Hazard to make it 3-1, before Courtois allowed Nacer Chadli's pass to roll beneath his foot and into the net to leave Martinez looking thunderstruck on the touchline.

De Bruyne soon calmed any nerves, though, side-footing into the net after Thomas Foket's cross had bobbled across the Denmark box.

 

What does it mean? Belgium ease into Finals

The result means Belgium finish top of Group A2 with 15 points, five above Denmark and England, and it secures their place at the Finals next year.

Denmark may feel frustrated to have failed to capitalise on a sluggish display by Martinez's men, particularly in the first half, but their performance here augurs well for the meeting between these two in the Euro 2020 group stage.

Lukaku lethal when it counts

Lukaku only attempted 21 passes, 11 fewer than goalkeeper Courtois, and often seemed detached from the action in a first half in which Denmark posed the bigger threat.

However, when his two opportunities came, he did not falter - even if Schmeichel was unlucky not to keep out his first.

Sliding doors for Braithwaite

By contrast, Braithwaite could not convert his best opening when the scores were level, as Denmark failed to make the most of a good first 45 minutes.

The Barcelona man did not manage another shot until the 80th minute, by which time their fate was all but sealed.

What's next?

These teams are finished for 2020 and have no fixtures set in stone before the Euros begin next June. They will face one another then, too, in a Group B game in Copenhagen on June 17.

England manager Gareth Southgate confirmed he contracted coronavirus last month, though he has since recovered.

Reports emerged prior to Sunday's 2-0 Nations League loss to Belgium that Southgate had tested positive for COVID-19.

After England's hopes of reaching the Nations League Finals were ended by Group A2 leaders Belgium, Southgate revealed the positive coronavirus test.

"I did have the virus," Southgate told reporters. "I was fortunate it was not as serious as so many people in our country but not pleasant, not something you'd choose to have but everything is fine now."

Southgate's England needed at least a draw to ensure their chances of topping Group A2 remained alive going into their final game against Iceland.

However, first-half goals from Dries Mertens and Youri Tielemans put Belgium on track for a win that leaves them needing just a point in their final group game against Denmark to reach the Finals.

It was England's 10th defeat in 48 matches under Southgate – making him the first manager to lose 10 games with the Three Lions since Sven-Goran Eriksson, who lost 10 of his 67 fixtures in charge.

England also suffered back-to-back competitive internationals losses for the first time since tasting three consecutive defeats between July and September 2018.

Gareth Southgate acknowledged that Jack Grealish is working his way up the England pecking order after another impressive individual performance in Sunday's 2-0 defeat to Belgium.

Grealish was the undoubted highlight for the Three Lions as they saw their hopes of another UEFA Nations League Finals appearance dashed in Leuven.

The Aston Villa man took more touches (76) than any of his fellow England forwards, completed more passes in the opposition half (47) than any other player on the pitch, and won 86 per cent of his 14 duels.

Asked if Grealish had further strengthened his claim for regular England starts as a result, manager Southgate told ITV: "Yeah, 100 per cent. 

"I sort of explained to him what we wanted to see when we brought him in in September. 

"I think it's been helpful for him to bed in with the group so that he knows the way we want to play and the players get an understanding with him. 

"Today was a great game for us to see him in and to see the level and I couldn't speak highly enough of his performance.

"What I saw, that I knew I would see, was someone with the bravery to play. 

"I think he took the ball in tight areas, his technique was good, he took players out of the game. We knew he would buy a lot of free-kicks, which of course he did. 

"I just thought he was outstanding. He should be absolutely delighted with the way he played."

Grealish, too, alluded to his private conversations with Southgate, insisting they had been key to his emergence on the international stage.

He continued: "I said the other day, he's been brilliant with me since I first came here in September. He told me what I needed to do to get into the side and I've gone away and worked on that. 

"At the end of the day, that's what you need to do in football; there's only one person that you need to impress if you want to get in the team and that's the manager. 

"He obviously gave me some praise after the game, which is nice."

England hopes of reaching the Nations League Finals were ended as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Belgium.

Gareth Southgate's side needed at least a draw to ensure their chances of topping Group A2 remained alive going into their final game against Iceland.

However, first-half goals from Dries Mertens and Youri Tielemans put the hosts on track for a win that leaves them needing just a point in their final group game against Denmark to reach the Finals.

Belgium made a strong start to proceedings as some front-footed defending from Jan Vertonghen was followed by the ball being fired up toward Tielemans, whose shot took a deflection off Tyrone Mings before going in off the post just 10 minutes in.

England almost hit back immediately, Harry Kane's header from a corner being brilliantly cleared off the line by Romelu Lukaku.

But Roberto Martinez's men doubled their lead shortly after, Mertens curling in a fine free-kick despite the visitors' protests that Declan Rice had not committed a foul in the build-up.

With Southgate's words clearly ringing in their ears, England started the second half on top, winning a succession of free-kicks at the edge of the Belgium box before Kane forced a save from Thibaut Courtois with a low drive.

The visitors could not make the most of their chances, however, a theme that continued following the introduction of Jadon Sancho and Dominic Calvert-Lewin from the bench and ensured their evening would end in defeat.

Harry Kane will captain England in his 50th international appearance after being named in the starting line-up to face Belgium in the Nations League.

The Tottenham striker was an unused substitute in Thursday's 3-0 friendly win over the Republic of Ireland at Wembley.

But the prolific Kane will start for England and reach the milestone in Leuven on Sunday evening.

Kane will be supported by Jack Grealish and Mason Mount in attack as England look to repeat last month's 2-1 home win over Belgium.

How does Kane rank in England history?

In-form frontman Kane is the 62nd player to reach a half-century of caps for England.

He has scored 32 international goals in 49 appearances, with Jimmy Greaves (43) the only player to have scored more in his first 50 outings for the country.

Kane is the first outfield player to win his first 50 caps while playing for the same club since Chelsea great John Terry did so. He also becomes the first player to win 50 England caps while at Tottenham, passing Jermain Defoe, who won 49 caps as a Spurs player.

This is the 28th time Kane has captained his country, with only Billy Wright (33) and Bobby Moore (31) doing so more times inside 50 games.

The 27-year-old does fall short of the youngest players to reach 50 caps, with Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen both only 23 at the time they had reached that tally, with Raheem Sterling next quickest having been 24.

This will be Kane's 33rd appearance since Gareth Southgate took charge of England. The only player to have been used more often by Southgate is Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford (37).

Spurs flying high

His international recognition comes amid a magnificent start to the season for Spurs, who are just one point off the top in the Premier League.

In 14 appearances across all competitions so far in the 2020-21 campaign, Kane has racked up 13 goals and an astonishing 10 assists.

He has created 22 chances, 18 of which have come in the Premier League. Only four players have a bigger tally, with Liverpool star Mohamed Salah top on 21 in the top flight.

Kane's creative streak has come as part of a flourishing partnership with Son Heung-min. The two attackers have already equalled a record for the amount of goals two Spurs players have combined for in a single Premier League season (nine).

The England skipper's winner against Burnley at the end of October, which was set up by Son, took them on to 29 goal combinations in Premier League history, second only to Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard at Chelsea.

Michy Batshuayi scored twice for Belgium as the number one FIFA-ranked team in the world laboured to a 2-1 win over Switzerland in a low-key international friendly.

Admir Mehmedi gave the Swiss the lead early on at the Den Dreef Stadion in Leuven with a crisp low finish past Belgium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Batshuayi equalised for Belgium early in the second half with an angled finish after an intelligent pass from Youri Tielemans.

The 27-year-old striker then took his tally to 21 goals for Belgium, scoring his second of the game with a shot on the turn from close range to seal victory with 20 minutes left.

Roberto Martinez labelled Eden Hazard's positive coronavirus test "disappointing" as the Belgium head coach lamented the Real Madrid star's absence.

Hazard will miss Belgium's international friendly against Switzerland on Wednesday and the Nations League showdown with England four days later after contracting COVID-19.

The 29-year-old attacker tested positive prior to Madrid's 4-1 LaLiga humbling at the hands of Valencia on Sunday.

Hazard has featured just 25 times in all competitions for Madrid since arriving from Chelsea for €100million in June last year, scoring two goals and supplying four assists. In his final campaign at Stamford Bridge, he registered 16 goals and 15 assists in the Premier League alone.

Hampered by injuries and fitness issues in the Spanish capital, Belgium boss Martinez bemoaned Hazard's latest setback.

"Obviously we were all delighted to see Eden [Hazard] play in the last three games with his club and starting to look happy and free, being able to score," Martinez told reporters.

"I think we were all looking forward to seeing Eden play for the national team. I think that was good news for the club as well because to be able to play minutes and get games will help his match fitness.

"The positive [COVID-19 test] is a disappointing news but it's not abnormal in the current world we live in. I think being positive for coronavirus is not news anymore. 

"At the moment, we are just following the protocols of UEFA and making sure that Eden carries on working at home so he doesn't lose any fitness and see how quickly he can join the national team, if it can happen.

"But no, nothing mysterious about his positive [result], nothing at all. He's asymptomatic and he feels in good spirits and that's the only thing that matters."

Thorgan Hazard is unimpressed by the intense schedule players are facing in the 2020-21season ahead of Belgium's upcoming international triple-header.

The 27-year-old winger is in the Red Devils' squad for the friendly with Switzerland and Nations League matches against England and Denmark, all of which are in the next nine days.

Hazard has only played 135 minutes of Bundesliga football this season due to a ruptured thigh muscle ruling him out for around a month.

But the busy schedule of elite players – particularly those whose clubs have qualified for continental football – is not lost on him.

UEFA has received significant flak for its part in the increasingly busy calendar, as it opted to turn the October and November international breaks into three-match periods instead of sticking with the usual two games, a move it says was made to recover the dates postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's all too much, not just for me," Hazard told reporters on Monday. "Champions League, Bundesliga, Nations League…I don't want to complain too much because we have to do our job, but it is a lot.

"Well, here at the Red Devils, everyone will get playing time. The national coach has selected many players. Playing them in all three matches for 90 minutes would be difficult.

"The players will not burn themselves out. Our coaches also ask us to be careful, not to risk too much.

"We also play with Dortmund every three days. It is a difficult issue – the national coaches also have to do their job. If we don't feel well, let's just say so."

Belgium have already lost three players to injury on Monday, with Leandro Trossard, Alexis Saelemaekers and Hendrik van Crombrugge pulling out – only the latter has been replaced, with Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski called up.

Hazard's brother Eden was already ruled out having recently tested positive for coronavirus, meaning the Real Madrid winger will have gone more than a year without playing for Belgium by the time of his next cap.

"One year is indeed a long time," Thorgan Hazard said of his older brother's absence. "I hope this will be over soon. Both Belgium and Madrid miss Eden.

"He is one of the best players in the world and it is always better to have him in your squad. Madrid lost last weekend without him and the Red Devils were also defeated in England. We all need an Eden at 100 per cent.

"Nevertheless, he feels good. He is in good health and shows no symptoms [of COVID-19]. He is quarantined at home in Madrid and unfortunately he is not here.

"It was really a surprise for him, an unpleasant one. The injury was gone and then coronavirus was showing up. I really hope that next time there is not something again.

"He's really unlucky. These are another two weeks gone. What can he do about it? Nothing."

Roberto Martinez is confident Romelu Lukaku will be able to feature in Belgium's upcoming matches, despite concerns raised by Inter over the striker's fitness.

Lukaku sat out Inter's 2-2 Serie A draw with Parma and 3-2 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League because of a thigh injury sustained against Shakhtar Donetsk.

The 27-year-old is being monitored by Inter on a daily basis and remains doubtful for Sunday's league trip to Atalanta.

Speaking earlier this week, CEO Beppe Marotta said "common sense" must prevail when it comes to international sides calling up players.

However, Lukaku has been included in Belgium's squad for the upcoming friendly with Switzerland and the Nations League games against England and Denmark.

"We have been in close contact with Inter," Martinez said at a news conference on Friday. "We are confident of his presence from Monday. He will be ready."

Eden Hazard, another who is carrying a minor injury, has also been selected as part of Belgium's extended 32-man group.

The Real Madrid forward has played just three times in all competitions this season but Martinez is ready to use him over the coming fortnight.

"He has already started two matches for Real Madrid and feels good," Martinez said. "His return is going well and he could therefore receive playing time."

Hazard's Madrid team-mate Thibaut Courtois is once again included and Martinez believes the ex-Chelsea man is "the best goalkeeper in the world".

Courtois has a save percentage of 79.34 in LaLiga since the start of last season, compared to 78.68 for Jan Oblak and 68.97 for Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona respectively.

Liverpool stopper Alisson has saved 69.47 per cent of the shots he has faced in the Premier League over the same timeframe, meanwhile, and Paris Saint-Germain's Keylor Navas' save percentage is 76.54 in Ligue 1.

Romelu Lukaku paid tribute to stand-in Iceland coach Arnar Vidarsson despite a defeat to Belgium that saw them relegated from Nations League Group A2.

Lukaku scored both Belgium goals in a 2-1 away success on Wednesday, his penalty proving decisive after Birkir Mar Saevarsson had levelled for Iceland.

Hosts Iceland perhaps deserved a point after pushing for a second equaliser after half-time, subjecting the world's top-ranked side to a tense finish midweek.

Despite their demotion, Iceland's performance was made all the more remarkable by the absence of their usual coaching staff amid coronavirus measures.

With head coach Erik Hamren and his assistants in quarantine, Under-21s boss Vidarsson flew in to lead the side.

Vidarsson spent the majority of his playing career in Belgium with Lokeren and Cercle Brugge, however, also taking coaching roles with both clubs and therefore having an insight into the away team.

Lukaku told VTM: "I have to congratulate coach Vidarsson.

"He set his men up very well today. Okay, he knows us very well, but he made it a difficult match for us tonight."

Vidarsson said: "I haven't slept much and it has been an interesting 24 hours but fun.

"The game plan was well set up and us stand-ins were comfortable with following it. We are proud and the boys can be proud of themselves.

"Overall, the performance was decent, but we wanted to get the equaliser in the end."

While Iceland will finish bottom of the group, Belgium regained top spot courtesy of defeat for England – winners against Roberto Martinez's men last week – at home to Denmark.

"We are top of the group again - now it's important to make the difference in the final two games," Lukaku added.

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