Andrew Robertson has found the World Cup a massive turn-off after Scotland's failure to qualify, as the Liverpool star admitted the tournament "bites away" at him.

The Scotland captain revealed he bonded with David Alaba of Real Madrid when they recently met by chance on holiday, with neither man on duty in Qatar while club-mates battle for glory.

Alaba missed out with Austria after a defeat to Wales in the first round of the UEFA play-offs, with Scotland going the same way after losing to Ukraine.

Robertson said having the World Cup happening in recent weeks had been "difficult", given his role as captain of his country, and initially he had "not really watched it".

He said he only wished the best for his Liverpool team-mates still in with a chance of reaching the December 18 final, and has begun watching games in the last few days.

"For Scotland it's obviously difficult," Robertson added. "We think we should've been there, but we didn't perform the way we did in the play-off, which was disappointing from our point of view, and we have to deal with that."

At the age of 28, Robertson knows time is finite when it comes to his chances of ever gracing the World Cup stage.

He has won almost all there is to win at club level with Liverpool, but success in international football will be difficult to come about. Scotland are ranked 40th by FIFA, so should at least stand a better chance of reaching the 2026 World Cup, when the tournament is expanded from 32 to 48 teams.

"When I went on holiday I actually bumped into David Alaba and he's in a similar boat obviously playing with Austria," Robertson told Liverpool's official website.

Like Robertson, Alaba skippers his national team. They next time both men meet will be in the Champions League last-16 tie between their respective teams.

"He said he'd been to a couple of Euros, but never been to a World Cup," Robertson said. "We were both kind of talking that we were getting on a bit, so the chances are running out for us to qualify."

Robertson sees the World Cup as "a massive, massive thing" that he wants to experience. Scotland made it through to the Euro 2020 finals, but their last World Cup trip was to France 98, when Robertson was four years old.

"The World Cup is the one that bites away at me," said the left-back. "I'll definitely have one more shot at it – maybe two, let's see. It is something you want to achieve and something you want to be part of, and in the future that's definitely a target of mine."

Liverpool's sketchy start to the Premier League season means they have ground to make up when the campaign resumes for the Reds on December 26, with a trip to Aston Villa.

Just six wins from 14 games have left Liverpool sixth in the table, albeit going into the World Cup break on a high after successive victories against Tottenham and Southampton.

Robertson said: "We've not got any time to waste, the start of the season hasn't been what we wanted. It's been nowhere near the standards that the fans have been used to for us, so it's important when we come back we try to hit the ground running because that’s all we can do."

There was a boost for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp when winger Luis Diaz returned to training at the club's camp in Dubai on Tuesday, with the Colombian fit again after recovering from a knee injury.

David Alaba scored a stunning free-kick as Austria swept past Italy in comfortable fashion with a 2-0 friendly victory on Sunday.

On the day the World Cup started in Qatar, two nations who failed to qualify for the tournament locked horns at Ernst-Happel-Stadion.

Austria came out the blocks flying and Xaver Schlager gave them an early lead before Alaba fired home a fierce free-kick to double the advantage before the break.

Roberto Mancini made numerous changes at the break, but it did not change the European champions' fortunes as they were beaten in Viennna.

The hosts took the lead after just six minutes, Schlager winning possession from Marco Verratti and exchanging passes with Marko Arnautovic before smashing a shot past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Austria continued to apply the pressure, Nicolas Seiwald and Junior Adamu firing efforts off target, the latter then striking the post after Francesco Acerbi failed to clear the ball away.

Ten minutes before the interval, Austria's assault on the Italy goal paid off again when Alaba thundered an unstoppable free-kick from 20 yards in off the crossbar.

The second half began in the same fashion as the first, Marcel Sabitzer forcing two fine saves from Donnarumma, while Italy offered little until Giacomo Raspadori tested Heinz Lindner from close range.

Italy continued to dominate possession but could not pose enough of a threat in the final third, as Ralf Rangnick's side saw out another victory.

Timo Werner said RB Leipzig could not have played "much better than that" after defeating European champions Real Madrid to keep their Champions League fate in their control.

Werner scored what proved to be the winner in the second half, making it 3-1 after Vinicius Junior had pulled a goal back following first-half strikes from Josko Gvardiol and Christopher Nkunku.

Although Rodrygo netted a late penalty, becoming the youngest Madrid player to score from the spot in the Champions League, Leipzig earned a deserved victory to remain in the hunt for qualification.

Marco Rose's side will progress by avoiding defeat at third-placed Shakhtar Donetsk on the final matchday, and Werner hailed the efforts of his team against the reigning Spanish and European champions.

"I think we performed similar to the first match, but this time we scored! And once we take a lead, it's tough to play us, even for the Champions League winner," the striker said.

"If you lead Madrid by 2-1, you cannot play much better than that. We knew Madrid are strong on the ball and there would be phases where we are pushed back.

"Rose told us to be brave when in possession and that's what we did. Celtic would have done us a big favour by winning, but we still have achieved what we wanted.

"We have it in our own hands [to go through] and don't even need to win against Shakhtar now."

While Werner insisted the memorable victory showed the quality of Leipzig, David Alaba lamented the failings of Madrid, who were without the injured Federico Valverde, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema.

"We were lacking right from kick-off. Leipzig is a team with lots of intensity, very fast in transitions and we went down," the Los Blancos defender said.

"Of course, the players that were missing are very important for our game, real world-class players. Nevertheless, we have the quality to compensate for that and have shown that in the past. We have to do better than this."

Madrid were far from their usual high standards that guided them to domestic and continental glory as they fell to their fourth Champions League defeat in 2022, only in 2001 (five) have they lost more.

However, Carlo Ancelotti's side will still progress as Group F winners as long as they match RB Leipzig's result at Shakhtar Donetsk on the final matchday, when they host Celtic.

Bayern Munich sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has revealed the Bundesliga giants held discussions with Erling Haaland before the striker's blockbuster move to Manchester City.

One of the most significant deals of the ongoing transfer window saw the former Borussia Dortmund striker swap Germany for England for a reported fee of £51million (€60m).

Like Dortmund, Bayern also saw their talismanic centre-forward depart the Bundesliga this window, with Robert Lewandowski heading to Barcelona.

And sporting director Salihamidzic says the club held talks with Haaland over a potential move for the 22-year-old, who he does not blame for choosing "something that he thinks is better for him".

Speaking to Bild, Salihamidzic said: "We had some discussions. We had things in mind that could be implemented for us. In the end, it didn't work out for various reasons."

Bayern were also linked with a move for Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo amid speculation that the Portugal skipper is keen on a move away from Old Trafford.

However, Salihamidzic says a deal was "out of the question".

"When you see now how our attack – even without Robert Lewandowski – is occupied, it is simply difficult from both a sporting and financial point of view," he added.

"[You have] eight players for the four positions. We have seasoned top players who are in the best age of football."

Salihamidzic also believes mistakes were made in the handling of negotiations that culminated in David Alaba's departure to Real Madrid, admitting he wishes he could have done things differently.

The defender's 12-year stint with the Bavarian giants came to an end at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, as the club failed to reach an agreement with the Austria international over a new deal.

"The supervisory board had concerns about making extraordinary contracts during this time," Salihamidzic said. "We still wanted to save face and give David great appreciation.

"We really tried everything. We really wanted to keep David. But it was, it has to be said, a difficult time. 

"In retrospect, I don't know if I would have done it again with such a deserving player."

Karim Benzema moved to second in Real Madrid's all-time goalscoring charts as Los Blancos followed up May's Champions League win by beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in the Super Cup.

David Alaba prodded home when Eintracht failed to deal with a first-half corner to give Carlo Ancelotti's men the lead in Helsinki, before Benzema fired past Kevin Trapp 20 minutes after the break to seal the win.

Benzema's effort took him to 324 goals in all competitions for Madrid, putting him one ahead of legendary Spain forward Raul and trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo (450).

Having made a bright start, Europa League victors Eintracht were ultimately second best as Madrid cruised to victory, offering a reminder of their nous on the European stage at the outset of the new season.

Eintracht missed the first clear chance when Daichi Kamada forced Thibaut Courtois into a superb one-on-one save after 14 minutes, before Tuta denied Vinicius Junior with an incredible goal-line block two minutes later.

Vinicius again went close when Trapp tipped his low effort around the post 36 minutes in, but Madrid broke the deadlock from the resulting corner as Casemiro nodded down for Alaba to convert into a gaping net.

Benzema flashed a fierce volley wide of the bottom-left corner as Madrid ended the first half on top, before Trapp made a reflex save from Vinicius' left-footed strike 10 minutes after the break.

With Madrid establishing greater control, Casemiro rattled the crossbar with a sweet left-footed strike from range before Courtois made a routine save when Ansgar Knauff led a rare Eintracht foray. 

But Benzema, the outstanding candidate for the Ballon d'Or, was determined to have the final say, drilling Vinicius' cut-back under Trapp to ensure LaLiga champions Madrid would take another piece of silverware back to the Spanish capital.

What does it mean? Another title for continental kings Madrid

Madrid won the Super Cup for the fifth time on Wednesday, as they atoned for a memorable defeat in their last appearance in the competition (4-2 v Atletico Madrid in 2018).

The results means the Champions League holders have won nine of the last 10 editions while the Spanish giants have won 17 of their last 19 one-legged finals.

Karim the dream

Benzema's unbelievable return of 15 Champions League goals helped Madrid to their 14th European crown last season, and the France star picked up where he left off to steal the headlines in Finland.

Only Ronaldo has now outscored Benzema in the famous white shirt, while his bid to be named the world's best player has gone from strength to strength. 

Don Carlo reigns again 

Ancelotti became the first coach to win four European Cup/Champions League titles with May's hard-fought final win over Liverpool, and his latest success saw him become the Super Cup's most decorated boss.

His fourth triumph in the competition (having also won with Milan in 2003 and 2007 and Madrid in 2014) saw him move one clear of Pep Guardiola. 

What's next?

Madrid begin the defence of their LaLiga title at Almeria on Sunday, while Frankfurt go to Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga on Saturday. 

David Alaba has taken his place in Real Madrid's starting line-up for the first time in over a month for the Champions League final against Liverpool on Saturday.

Alaba had been out of action since being substituted at half-time during Madrid's 4-3 semi-final first-leg defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, with Nacho starting instead when Carlo Ancelotti's men sealed a 6-5 aggregate victory with a stunning comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this month.

The Austria defender's selection in Paris was the only change to the Madrid side that started that second leg, with attacking duo Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema again leading the line.

Those two have assisted one another a combined 18 times in all competitions this season, the most of any pairing in Europe's top five leagues.

Vinicius' inclusion made him just the fifth player to start a Champions League final for Madrid aged 21 or younger, after Raul (1998), Iker Casillas (2000), Nicolas Anelka (2000) and Raphael Varane (2014).

However, Benzema is at the opposite end of his career. He and Alaba were joined by Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to make Madrid the first team to start a final with four players who had previously made 100 or more Champions League appearances.

Benzema had been one of three centurions (also Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos) in Madrid's 2018 final win over Liverpool, in which Gareth Bale's brace as a substitute proved the difference in a 3-1 triumph.

Bale was named on the bench again for this rematch ahead of his imminent departure as a free agent, while fellow winger Eden Hazard was also among the substitutes.

Semi-final hero Rodrygo Goes, who grabbed an improbable stoppage-time double to wipe out City's lead over Los Blancos, hoped to make a similar impact after being named next to the big-money duo on the bench.

Madrid headed into the game aiming to win their 14th European Cup or Champions League title, with their 13 prior wins already a record. Ancelotti was bidding to become the first man to win four Champions Leagues.

Carlo Ancelotti revealed David Alaba will "100 per cent" feature for Real Madrid in the Champions League final next weekend. 

Alaba has been dealing with a hamstring injury sustained in the semi-final first leg against Manchester City last month and did not feature in Madrid's last LaLiga game of the season against Real Betis on Friday. 

Los Blancos came through the match unscathed with a 0-0 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu and Ancelotti confirmed afterwards that the Austria defender will play against Liverpool at the Stade de France on Saturday week. 

"Alaba is going to play the final but it wasn't necessary to take risks," Ancelotti told Movistar+. 

"He's going to play, 100 per cent. He hasn't played since April 26, it's true, but not only physical condition is taken into account for the match. Skill and experience are too." 

The Italian coach expects to have Gareth Bale available for one more time before his contract expires at the end of the season. 

Bale missed out on a place in the squad to face Betis having only recently stepped up his recovery from a back issue. 

"He wanted to say goodbye and play if he was able. Bale has one last chance because he will be fine for the final," Ancelotti added. 

Marcelo was sent on as a second-half substitute for what is anticipated to be his final outing at the Bernabeu, but Ancelotti hinted that the Brazilian could yet extend his stay. 

"He hasn't said goodbye yet, he's still our captain and will be in Paris. If he does say goodbye in the end, of the best full-backs in the world will leave. I think he's talking to the club, I don't know," said the Madrid boss. 

Carlo Ancelotti knows Real Madrid must produce a "complete" performance against Manchester City to reach the Champions League final, as he confirmed David Alaba is out of the second leg.

Madrid were beaten 4-3 by Premier League leaders City in a thrilling first leg at the Etihad Stadium last week.

Los Blancos responded to that defeat by thrashing Espanyol 4-0 on Saturday to win their 35th LaLiga title in style.

Ancelotti, who is the first coach to have triumphed across all of Europe's big five leagues and has stated that Madrid will be the last club he coaches, believes his side have a great chance to overturn a deficit when they face Pep Guardiola's side at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday if they are their very best.

The wily Madrid boss told reports on the eve of the match: "The game has to be complete. The low block has to be better than the first leg, the pressure has to be well done to avoid passes between lines and transitions. 

"We are not going to propose a game with a low block, that's for sure, but at some moments of the game it will be. The game has to be complete."

According to Ancelotti, Madrid will be without Alaba due to a hamstring injury, despite the Austria defender having been named in the squad. However, he has faith in Nacho Fernandez to perform.

He said: "Alaba can't play. I don't have doubts, it will possibly be a long game too but it's not so important who starts as it is who finishes it.

"The defence system is the same. Alaba is an important player but Nacho's played very well this season. He's experienced and I'm sure he'll put on a good performance tomorrow."

Another player who will start is Casemiro and Ancelotti expects the fit-again Brazil midfielder to make Los Blancos much more difficult to break down.

The Italian said: "His return is going to help us, it reinforces the defensive aspect, in which we have to improve, also in collective commitment, moving better as a block, being more compact 

"We have worked on the defensive aspect. I think we will see improvement."

Madrid have been crowned European champions a record 13 times, but Ancelotti believes that will count for nothing when they attempt to reach yet another final.

"History won't have an impact tomorrow," he said: "It will be different, each game has its own history. They have an edge and we are aware of it.

"We have to do our best. It will be a tough game but we've got an incredible opportunity to play another Champions League final and we've already won the league, so the atmosphere will be good and it's something we can pull off."

Real Madrid defender David Alaba did not train with the squad on Monday, casting doubt over his participation against Manchester City.

Alaba, who has added a LaLiga title to his 10 Bundesliga crowns after Madrid sealed their domestic triumph on Saturday, trained inside away from the rest of the squad, according to an update on the club's official website.

The versatile defender, signed on a free transfer last season following the expiration of his Bayern Munich contract, has played a key role in Carlo Ancelotti's defence this term and has made 45 appearances across all competitions, all of them starts.

However, Alaba was taken off in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against City last week, which finished 4-3 in the Premier League leaders' favour, with a hamstring issue, and it is unclear if he will return in time to play against Pep Guardiola's team in Wednesday's second leg. He did not play against Espanyol on Saturday.

Madrid are vying for a place in the final, which will take place on May 28 in Paris. Liverpool lead Villarreal 2-0 on aggregate in the other semi-final.

Gareth Bale did also not take part in full training, while Eden Hazard continues his recovery from a fibula fracture.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti backed Karim Benzema to bounce back after missing two penalties in the 3-1 win over Osasuna on Wednesday.

Ante Budimir cancelled out David Alaba's 12th-minute opener before Marco Asensio restored Madrid's advantage at El Sadar.

Benzema was then twice denied by Sergio Herrera from 12 yards as the France star became the first player to miss two penalties in a LaLiga game since Raul Tamudo against Real Betis in April 2006.

Lucas Vazquez sealed victory for the league leaders in stoppage time as Madrid moved 17 points clear of nearest challengers Atletico Madrid, with distant chasers Sevilla and Barcelona playing on Thursday.

Speaking after the game, Ancelotti was quick to defend Benzema, who leads LaLiga scoring charts with 25 goals to this season.

"Penalties are missed by those who take them, it won't affect Benzema. Karim played a super game, he's going to score the next game," he said.

Alaba limped off at half-time and was subsequently withdrawn at the interval, but Ancelotti did not appear concerned about the centre-back's injury.

"We are optimistic with Alaba. We removed him as a precaution, he has been overloaded with a lot of work," the Italian added.

Madrid will now turn their attention to the Champions League semi-final first-leg clash at Manchester City on Tuesday, and Ancelotti insists his focus will be solely on that tie and not securing the league title.

"The title? We plan to prepare well for the next match, which is the semi-final of the Champions League," he continued.

"Then let's see what happens. We need to win. We are focused on the semi-final match and I think we are going to arrive in good form."

Real Madrid moved one step closer to the LaLiga title with a 3-1 victory at Osasuna despite Karim Benzema twice failing from the penalty spot on Wednesday.

Madrid needed a stunning comeback to win 3-2 at Sevilla after a slow start on Sunday, but were quick out the blocks at El Sadar as David Alaba struck after 12 minutes before Ante Budimir immediately equalised.

Marco Asensio restored Madrid's lead in the 45th minute and, after Benzema saw two penalties saved by Sergio Herrera in the second half, Lucas Vazquez sealed victory in stoppage-time.

Victory moved Madrid 17 points clear of Atletico Madrid, with distant chasers Sevilla and Barcelona also in action against Levante and Real Sociedad respectively on Thursday.

Rodrygo forced a smart Herrera stop with a long-range effort in the opening exchanges, but Madrid were soon ahead.

A quick free-kick from Asensio and Dani Ceballos found space for Benzema, before the striker squared for Alaba, who fortuitously bundled home on the rebound from a Herrera reflex save.

Osasuna responded a minute later when Chimy Avila whipped across from the right for Budimir to tap-in.

Asensio pounced on Ceballos' saved close-range effort to poke Madrid ahead again on the stroke of half-time, before Thibaut Courtois excellently denied a looping Budimir header after the interval.

Avila then handled when trying to stop Rodrygo to offer Madrid a penalty, which Herrera saved against Benzema.

Benzema went for the same bottom-left corner after Rodrygo was felled by Nacho Vidal, with Herrera again guessing the right way.

Vinicius Junior then rolled wide on the counter before teeing up Vazquez, who finished into the bottom-left corner to confirm the win.

What does it mean? Title procession continues for Madrid

Madrid's title charge has been characterised by their fighting spirit to come through adversity to secure victory, and their performance at El Sadar was no different.

Los Blancos weathered an early storm from the hosts to take the half-time lead and, although Benzema twice failed from 12 yards, battled to victory over Osasuna, who have not defeated Madrid in 14 top-flight meetings.

Now, Ancelotti's team will tick off another fixture as they edge closer towards lifting the LaLiga trophy.

 

Rampant Rodrygo spares Benzema blushes

Winger Rodrygo was the star of the show as his half-time introduction sparked a comeback against Sevilla, and he was on form again against Osasuna as he won two penalties and laid on a game-high four chances.

The Brazil international's creative excellence did not prove fruitful for Benzema, who became the first player to miss two penalties in a LaLiga game since Raul Tamudo against Betis in April 2006.

Budimir efforts in vain

Budimir has scored in each of his last five LaLiga games (five goals in total) as he became only the second Osasuna player to score in five successive top-flight games in the 21st century after Richard Morales in 2004. However, the striker's efforts ultimately proved in vain against the league leaders.

What's next?

Madrid visit Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final clash on Tuesday, before hosting Espanyol on Saturday – the day before Osasuna are away at Elche.

Karim Benzema is playing "the season of his life" as Real Madrid team-mates queued up to praise the inspirational captain after his latest Champions League hat-trick.

French frontman Benzema hit all three of his side's goals in their 3-1 victory at Chelsea on Wednesday, the first leg of a quarter-final tie over which Madrid now have firm control.

That performance in London saw Benzema advance to 37 goals and 13 assists in 36 games this season. His goal involvements total of 50 puts him top of all players from Europe's top five leagues, with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski second on the list with 49 involvements (45 goals, four assists).

Ten of those goals from Benzema have come in his past four games, with Champions League hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea sandwiching LaLiga doubles against Real Mallorca and Celta Vigo.

When he was absent against Barcelona due to injury, Madrid looked lost without their talisman and were thumped 4-0 in El Clasico.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel sounded a despondent note after the game, warning of the danger of his team being destroyed in next week's second leg if they deliver another lacklustre display.

But Madrid were delighted with the outcome, with star defender David Alaba raving about the 34-year-old Benzema's match-winning turn.

"What he's doing this season is incredible," Alaba said after the game. "I can see how hard he works, and he's having the season of his life, he's very focused and is hungry to score goals. He prepares very well for every game, particularly matches like tonight's. I'm delighted to have him as a team-mate."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois spoke of Madrid's "important result" and pinpointed the hat-trick hero, saying: "To go far in the Champions League you need a player like Benzema."

The win at Stamford Bridge will have resonated around Europe, with LaLiga leaders Madrid chasing a 14th European Cup/Champions League triumph this season.

Two early headers from Benzema put Madrid in firm control, before he spurned the chance of a first-half hat-trick when firing wide shortly before the break.

The veteran former Lyon man made up for that miss when he seized on a shocking pass from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to fire in Madrid's third in the first minute of the second half.

Brazilian midfielder Casemiro said it was important to acknowledge Benzema is going through a special phase in his career.

"Firstly, we've got to talk about Karim’s magic," said Casemiro, quoted on Madrid's official website.

"We simply have to continue to enjoy the player that he is, we appreciate his quality and the player that he is, but many people only see his goals and we see his quality, the type of person he is, and it's extremely important for us that we continue to enjoy having him.

"It was a whole team effort, in terms of the effort, reading the game, knowing how to play, and I think that we understood the game well."

The qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup is all but over.

Some key matches still have to be played, with Wales yet to find out their fate as they wait to face the winner of Scotland's play-off with Ukraine, which has been postponed due to Russia's invasion of the country, while there are inter-confederation play-offs also to be decided.

In total, 28 nations have qualified already, and most of football's star names will be present.

That being said, while France's world champions will bid to defend their crown, Neymar will bring the Brazilian stardust, Lionel Messi will look to build on Argentina's Copa America triumph and Cristiano Ronaldo will feature at a record-equalling fifth tournament, some huge players - and indeed teams, in the case of Italy - will not be present in Qatar.

Stats Perform has looked at some of the star players who will be watching the tournament from home.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Arguably the best player in the world this season, Salah will not be lighting up Qatar with any mazy runs or sensational strikes. Given the tournament is in the middle of next season, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may secretly be pleased his talisman will not be risking injury or fatigue, but Salah – who blazed his penalty over in the decisive shoot-out against Senegal on Tuesday – will be a big miss.

 

James Rodriguez (Colombia)

A star of the 2014 World Cup, in which he won the golden boot, James Rodriguez scored Colombia's winner against Venezuela on Tuesday, yet Peru's victory over Paraguay meant the ex-Real Madrid playmaker and his team-mates will not appear in Qatar, where James currently plies his trade for Al-Rayyan.

Luis Diaz, who has made a flying start to life at Liverpool since joining from Porto in January, is another Colombian talent who will be watching on from the sidelines.

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

The hero of Italy's Euro 2020 triumph with his saves in the penalty shoot-out victory over England last July, Donnarumma – one of Europe's best goalkeepers – will be watching on from afar along with the rest of Roberto Mancini's players. After his error in Paris Saint-Germain's capitulation against Madrid in the Champions League, March has been a sour month for the 23-year-old.

Georgio Chiellini (Italy)

While Donnarumma has time on his side to make it to the next World Cup, the same cannot be said for Giorgio Chiellini. The centre-back is 37 and will surely not be featuring at another major tournament for Italy now.

Defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci may also fall into that category, given he turns 35 in May, while 29-year-old playmaker Marco Verratti may also have seen his final chance of appearing at the World Cup for a second time dashed.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

It was the battle of two of Europe's leading marksmen of the last decade on Tuesday, as Poland went head-to-head with Sweden, and it was Robert Lewandowski and Co. who came out on top, winning 2-0.

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski opened the scoring from the penalty spot, and though Ibrahimovic came on as a late substitute, he could not turn the tide in Sweden's favour. The Milan striker has suggested he wants to carry on playing for his country, but at 40, surely this was his last chance of appearing at a World Cup.

Erling Haaland (Norway)

Although Ibrahimovic may be approaching the tail-end of his career, Haaland is certainly not. Yet like the Swede, the Borussia Dortmund forward will not be playing in Qatar either.

Indeed, even if Norway had made it through their qualification group, it is uncertain as to whether or not the players would have chosen to boycott the tournament, having previously made their feelings on Qatar's human rights record clear. But they finished third in Group G anyway.

Arsenal playmaker Martin Odegaard is another bright Norweigian talent, though the Scandinavian nation may well fancy their chances heading towards Euro 2024 and the 2026 World Cup.

 

David Alaba (Austria)

Madrid defender Alaba could not inspire Austria to victory in their play-off clash with Wales, with Gareth Bale's double doing the damage. After a glittering career with Bayern, Alaba is on course to win LaLiga with Los Blancos, but any form of real, tangible success on the international stage looks set to avoid him.

Jan Oblak (Slovenia)

Oblak's form has dipped this season for Atletico Madrid but on his day he is still right up there among the world's best goalkeepers, though he could not help Slovenia finish higher than fourth in their qualification group, as their wait to qualify for a first World Cup since 2010 rolled on.

Real Madrid have confirmed David Alaba and Isco returned positive tests for COVID-19.

The duo are the latest Madrid players to contract the virus, taking the total to eight in the space of a week.

Los Blancos revealed last Wednesday that Luka Modric and Marcelo had gone into quarantine after routine testing determined they had the illness.

Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo and Andriy Lunin then tested positive the following day, along with Carlo Ancelotti's son and technical assistant Davide.

All are absent for Madrid's scheduled trip to San Mames to face Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

Ancelotti's side are six points clear at the top of LaLiga, having collected 43 points from their first 18 matches, but second-placed Sevilla can close the gap when they face Barcelona on Tuesday.

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain each have four nominees in the 23-man shortlist for the FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11 for 2021.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold are also included, although there is no place for Mohamed Salah.

PSG's attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are among the forwards, as is Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Veteran Dani Alves also won enough votes to make the list, even though the 38-year-old, who recently rejoined Barcelona, only played 16 times in domestic competition in Brazil this year.

Professional footballers across the world were asked to vote for the three players they considered to have the best seasons during the 2020-21 season among goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards.

FIFPRO said: "For the first time in 17 years, FIFPRO is updating the announcement about the most-voted players, reducing the shortlist from 55 to 23. This has been done to resemble a real-life 'squad' which, usually for international competitions, is the number of players involved. 

"The three goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and six forwards with the most votes earned a place in the 23-men World 11 'squad'. To complete this elite selection, the two remaining outfield players with the most votes were added."

The keeper, three defenders, three midfielders and three forwards with the most votes will be chosen for the World 11, with the remaining spot assigned to the outfield player with the next highest number of votes.

The final 11 will be announced at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on January 17.

 

FIFA FIFPRO MEN'S WORLD 11 23-PLAYER SHORTLIST:

Goalkeepers:
Alisson (Liverpool, Brazil)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan/Paris Saint-Germain, Italy)
Edouard Mendy (Chelsea, Senegal)

Defenders:
David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Real Madrid, Austria)
Jordi Alba (Barcelona, Spain)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, England)
Dani Alves (Sao Paulo/Barcelona, Brazil)
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus, Italy)
Ruben Dias (Manchester City, Portugal)

Midfielders:
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona, Spain)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, Belgium)
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United, Portugal)
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona, The Netherlands)
Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Forwards:
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Manchester United, Portugal)
Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund, Norway)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)
Romelu Lukaku (Inter/Chelsea, Belgium)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain, Argentina)
Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil)

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