Gareth Southgate has the full support of the Football Association after chair Debbie Hewitt provided an impassioned defence of the "high IQ" and emotionally intelligent England manager.

England have made it to the World Cup semi-finals and Euro 2020 showpiece under Southgate, the latter of which the Three Lions' first final appearance at a major tournament in 55 years.

But pressure has mounted after a dismal start to their Nations League campaign in June, losing to Hungary twice either side of draws with Germany and Italy to leave England in danger of relegation.

The most recent 4-0 thrashing to Hungary was the first time England have lost a home match by four or more goals since March 1928, when they lost 5-1 to Scotland.

Hungary also became the first team to score four goals in an away match against England since the Hungarians themselves won 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953.

Frustrated supporters could be heard chanting "you don't know what you're doing" at Molineux towards Southgate, who later vowed to not out-stay his welcome in charge.

With the World Cup in Qatar just five months away, Hewitt was quick to outline her support for the 51-year-old despite ongoing questions over his tactics.

"My personal opinion on Gareth is that he is, by the facts on the pitch, the most successful England manager we've had for 55 years," Hewitt told reporters at a news conference.

"The bit people don't see as much is the Gareth at camp and the culture he's created.

"Certainly prior to Gareth being the manager of England, there was not the pride of wearing the England shirt. There were the club rivalries we'd read about. The players not getting on.

"He's changed that beyond recognition and I've seen that first hand.

"I'd also say that I don't just work in football, I work in business and I've worked with a lot of chief executives and Gareth's skills — his high IQ and high EQ — would make him a chief exec in any sphere.

"That resilience and accountability [are] the two qualities I admire most. There are no slopy shoulders, he doesn't huff, he's resilient and that's what you want in an England manager."

While offering her support publicly, Hewitt says the reaction of Southgate to private conversations expressing the FA's backing also highlighted his credible demeanour.

"Gareth's reaction, as in everything with that sort of conversation, was that it is his accountability, there's always something to learn," she continued.

"That's why it's refreshing working with somebody like that because that openness to learn is quite remarkable and quite unusual in any sphere."

Southgate took charge, initially as caretaker manager, in 2016 and impressed after Sam Allardyce's one-game tenure, with the former Middlesbrough manager earning the permanent job.

After England qualified for the World Cup in Qatar with victory over San Marino in November 2021, Southgate was handed a three-year extension, keeping him as Three Lions' manager until December 2024.

The World Cup will start just one year after he signed the long-term extension and debate has been sparked over whether conducting negotiations was sensible before the results and performances in that tournament are known, but Hewitt assures the correct decision was made.

"I don't think we would be discussing [the contract] had we not had the recent series of games. Clearly, we did that [agreed the new deal] with proper discussion and thought," she added.

"The fact that there's been a stumble does not make us automatically say 'should we have given him a contract?' It is a red herring.

"We have confidence in Gareth for all the reasons I described and I think that's the important thing. And it's particularly important going into the biggest tournament."

Kylian Mbappe denied he almost quit France duty due to criticism of his Euro 2020 displays, revealing it was racist abuse that almost pushed him to retire from Les Bleus.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet told Le Journal du Dimanche that Mbappe was angry and did not want to play for his country again after facing flak from angry fans.

The 23-year-old failed to score in any of his four outings in last year's competition, with France surprisingly eliminated by Switzerland in the last 16.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe missed the decisive spot-kick as the reigning world champions suffered a shock defeat on penalties following a 3-3 draw after extra time.

Mbappe responded to Le Graet's comments by saying on Twitter: "Yes, however, I explained to him clearly that it was in relation to racism and NOT to the penalty. But he considered that there had been no racism..."

As the young figurehead of the France team, Mbappe faced stiff criticism as he struggled to make an impact on the tournament.

Le Graet said in Sunday's newspaper interview: "I met with him after the Euros. He felt that the federation had not defended him after his missed penalty and the criticism he faced on the networks.

"We met for five minutes in my office. He was angry, he didn't want to play for the French team any more – which he obviously didn't mean.

"You know how it is; he's a winner, he was very frustrated, like all of us, by the elimination. He's so media-friendly. He's a great guy."

Mbappe has gone on to play a further nine times for France since last year's disappointing Euro 2020 showing, helping his country to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He has scored 27 goals in 57 senior appearances for his country.

Kylian Mbappe considered retiring from France duty after being criticised for his displays at Euro 2020, according to French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet.

The 23-year-old failed to score in any of his four outings in last year's competition, with France surprisingly being eliminated by Switzerland in the last 16.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe missed the decisive spot-kick as the reigning world champions suffered a shock defeat on penalties following a 3-3 draw after extra time.

Mbappe was subjected to much of the criticism at the time, and FFF chief Le Graet has revealed just how much that affected the former Monaco star.

"I met with him after the Euros. He felt that the Federation had not defended him after his missed penalty and the criticism he faced," Le Graet told Le Journal du Dimanche.

"We met for five minutes in my office. He was angry, he didn't want to play for the French team any more – which he obviously didn't mean.

"You know how it is; he's a winner, he was very frustrated, like all of us, by the elimination. He's so media-friendly. He's a great guy, much more collective than people think."

 

Mbappe has gone on to play a further nine times for France since last year's disappointing Euro 2020 showing, helping his country to qualify for this year's World Cup in Qatar.

He has scored 27 goals in 57 senior caps, placing him 11th on Les Blues' all-time record goalscorers, a list topped by Thierry Henry (51 goals).

A study has shown that over 55 per cent of players who featured in the finals of Euro 2020 and this year's Africa Cup of Nations were abused online.

The independent report, released by FIFA five months prior to the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, identified that homophobic and racist comments were the two main areas of concern.

Over 400,000 social media posts were examined, spread across Twitter and Instagram, and 541 cases of direct discrimination or other forms of abuse were discovered.

The majority of hate comments were found to have originated from the home countries of targeted players, with 38 per cent having been made in the United Kingdom.

The study showed that 40 per cent of abusive messages contained homophobic content, and 38 per cent were racist. A further three per cent were categorised as containing a threat, while 58 per cent of the racist remarks were found to be still visible online in April 2022, with 87 per cent of non-racist abuse also still live.

The report comes after England players Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford received racist abuse online after missing in the Euro 2020 final penalty shoot-out against Italy, which England ultimately lost.

It was revealed that 78 per cent of the abuse aimed at players involved in that game contained racist remarks.

Such abuse was heavily condemned by England manager Gareth Southgate as well as UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who vowed to take action against racist trolls. 

For the AFCON final between Senegal and Egypt, the abuse was found to be 26 per cent racist in tone, and 62 per cent homophobic.

FIFA said it would collaborate with global players' union FIFPRO to start a moderation service to monitor hate speech during upcoming tournaments, in the hope it will stop the messages being seen by the intended targets.

"Our duty is to protect football, and that starts with the players who bring so much joy and happiness to all of us by their exploits on the field of play," FIFA president Gianni Infantino said.

"We want our actions to speak louder than our words and that is why we are taking concrete measures to tackle the problem directly."

As well as the moderation tool, educational and mental health advice will be offered to players at FIFA tournaments in 2022 and 2023 to help them deal with online abuse.

England manager Gareth Southgate has labelled Germany as one of the benchmarks in international football due to their continued presence in the latter stages of major tournaments.

The Three Lions head to Munich on Tuesday for their second Nations League game, having suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Hungary on Saturday in their first League A Group 3 game.

Meanwhile, Germany shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Italy as preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are stepped up.

England and Germany met only last June at Euro 2020, with Southgate's side 2-0 victors at the last-16 stage in front of a buoyant Wembley crowd.

Germany have failed to score in their past two matches against England, as many as in their previous 16 games combined.

But Southgate still views Hansi Flick's side as a force to be reckoned with looking forward to the clash at the Allianz Arena and further ahead to the World Cup in November.

"You can see elements of what he did with Bayern Munich, I think seven either current or had just left Bayern, a lot of have cohesion and experience working with him," Southgate said of Flick on Monday.

"You can see the counter-pressing and the general pressing of the forwards, we have to be prepared for that. With the ball, they have some talented players.

"We saw that in summer, I think in some respects the result in summer was overlooked, I'm not sure why. The quality of the team was still very high, World Cup winners everywhere, Champions League winners.

"Real experience of those big occasions. For me, I think Brazil and Germany are still the benchmarks for teams who have regularly won tournaments, regularly making finals, even when you look at the 5-1 here [in 2001], they ended up in the World Cup final.

"You have to respect what they are and where they are as a footballing country, we have to try and replicate that and instil that mentality.

"We have to keep getting to the latter stages of competitions and games like tomorrow are exactly what we need. I think it's a great measure for us, this will be a brilliant test of what we're about and where we're at.

"It won't define where we're at in six months' time, if we win tomorrow, it doesn't mean we are going to win the whole thing in five, six months.

"One of the challenges before was can we beat the bigger teams, we've beat Belgium, Germany and Spain, we're starting to do that so now it is can we continue to do that."

England have not come out on top in consecutive games against Germany since a seven-game winning run between 1935 and 1966, the last game of which was the World Cup final.

Southgate vowed to rotate once again after offering the likes of Jarrod Bowen and James Justin starts in Budapest.

"We are going to push. We want to perform well. We will manage their load. Everyone of them wants to play tomorrow night," he continued. 

"There is huge motivation in the group. I don't think the long season was the cause of the result the other day. The heat was a huge factor.

"To talk about the season is a psychological thing. It is no different to going into the Euros or the World Cup.

"It varies slightly from game to game, you are always trying to win. You always pick a team strong enough to win a game of football. We are trying to manage players coming back.

"To play Saturday and Tuesday is very challenging. Always trying to learn things, there's the performance and result. We go trying to win and the learnings after it is how you develop and improve as a team.

"James [Justin] won't be ready for tomorrow but we are hopeful he will be back for the next game if not the one after. Marc [Guehi] should be ready for tomorrow. Fikayo [Tomori] we could probably put him in the squad but given it's a hamstring we will give him a bit longer."

Italy will become the laughing stock of international football if they continue to hypothesise routes into the World Cup, federation president Gabriele Gravina said on Saturday.

The Azzurri failed to qualify for Qatar 2022 after losing to North Macedonia in a play-off semi-final in March, a stunning result that has caused much upset.

Former Juventus star Roberto Baggio said this week it was "shameful" that Italy were not automatically allocated a World Cup place on the basis of their Euro 2020 triumph.

There has been speculation Italy could get in through the back door if Ecuador are thrown out, after FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings into allegations the South American team fielded an ineligible player in their successful qualifying campaign.

According to Gravina, head of the FIGC, now is the time for Italy to accept their fate, however painful it might be.

"A few weeks ago we launched a new way of working," Gravina told Italy's Sky Sport. "We said that we must work trying to be, all together, focused on regaining credibility.

"We know very well that it is not easy, and we know that there are critical issues, but credibility is linked to a very delicate phase, that is to eliminate everything that makes us not very credible.

"Allow me also to clarify the issue of World Cup repechage, which is making us not very credible. Football has winners and losers. Italy was eliminated and did not qualify, Italy does not participate in the World Cup.

"If we have to work because we believe that the rules must be changed, we will do it later. Today, Italy's out of the World Cup.

"Let's take it for granted because otherwise we continue to say things that honestly put everyone, even internationally, in a position to make fun of us."

Speaking on Friday, Italy head coach Roberto Mancini spoke of his desire for new beginnings with Italy, whose European Championship success at last year's delayed tournament has been dampened by the failure to reach two consecutive World Cups.

"The victory of the European Championship is part of the magic that are part of those tournaments. Now we have to start again and go back to that magic," said Mancini, whose team were due in action against Germany in a Nations League game on Saturday.

"I have never had this type of problem. In football, however, when you win everyone is with you and when you lose almost everyone against you. That's how it is. The restart is from now."

Roberto Mancini vowed to start a new era with Italy as the Azzurri look to rediscover their Euro 2020 magic, but warned not to expect instant fixes as he cannot "invent players".

Italy lifted the European Championship last July, their first since 1968, with a penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley.

The Azzurri followed that up by failing to make a second straight World Cup, following play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March, which led to questions over coach Mancini's tenure.

Development problems were also cited with the Italian system, which was bemoaned for struggling to produce younger players for the national team with Serie A coaches reluctant to trust the youth.

Italy were 3-0 losers to Argentina in the 'Finalissima' on Wednesday, a meeting between the Euro 2020 winners and Copa America champions, and Mancini promised change after that game.

The former Manchester City coach reiterated his desire for new beginnings with Italy, although he does not expect quick solutions ahead of the Nations League opener at home to Germany on Saturday.

"The victory of the European Championship is part of the magic that are part of those tournaments. Now we have to start again and go back to that magic," he told reporters on Friday.

"I have never had this type of problem. In football, however, when you win everyone is with you and when you lose almost everyone against you. That's how it is.

"Against Argentina we paid for the loss of players, one after the other. We weren't such a huge group and the injuries affected us: Argentina were better than us, they had fresher players and maybe it's the first game in three and a half years where we find a team that has put us under pressure, even if we made two mistakes on goals in the first half.

"It takes time, we cannot invent players and we know that we will have to suffer enough.

"The restart is from now. The new cycle starts again from tomorrow.

"The common thread is the same: looking for players with quality, speed, who they will not be like [Marco] Verratti and Jorginho who played in certain teams and therefore it will take a little longer.

"If we can give some minutes to these guys who have never played in the national team, and see them integrated well, it would be better."

Italy host Germany and Hungary before visiting England on June 11, with a return trip to Hansi Flick's side three days later capping off the internationals for this month.

Mancini believes that England and Germany pose two of the toughest tasks in international football at the moment, and cited Brazil, France and Argentina among the favourites for the World Cup in Qatar.

"We face the two strongest teams at the moment, Germany and England," he added. "They are among the best, they have great players and we take a lot of risks by changing a lot, it could be a good start.

"The most important thing will be to defend well and attack better. We face one of the strongest teams in the world along with Brazil, Argentina, France...

"Germany are technical, very fast when they counter-attack and come to press. They will be among the favourites for the World Cup victory in Qatar.

"We must defend all together and attack and press as we did for three and a half years: we did it for three and a half years with players who didn't seem able to do it, yet they have done."

Gareth Southgate hopes Hungary being forced to play their Nations League opener against England behind closed doors will serve to demonstrate the unacceptability of racism to younger fans.

Saturday's sparse crowd at the Puskas Arena will be populated by children after UEFA issued Hungary with a three-match spectator ban due to racist abuse by supporters during Euro 2020 games in Budapest.

UEFA rules state children - along with one adult for every 10 young fans - can attend behind-closed-doors matches, which England will also take advantage of when they also serve a one-match spectator ban during their home game against Italy at Molineux on June 11.

England's punishment was handed down after crowd trouble broke out prior to the Three Lions' Euro 2020 final loss to Roberto Mancini's men last July.

Southgate's side have been faced with unsavoury scenes when visiting Hungary before, with Raheem Sterling and other black players the target of abuse during England's 4-0 win in Budapest in September 2021 – with FIFA giving the hosts a separate spectator ban after those events.

Speaking at his pre-match news conference, Southgate stated his hope that allowing young fans to attend in such circumstances will help to bring about a future free of discrimination.

"I imagine Hungary will have the same feelings about restrictions on their home games as us, they won't want it to happen again. Everybody learns from every experience," he said.

"Our players wanted to focus on the football after that night [last year's 4-0 win]. They played incredibly well, and we want to do that again.

"We've shown how we feel about these issues, in terms of racism and it's unacceptability. Hopefully the young people in the stadium will recognise why this opportunity has happened and, in some ways, maybe this will be part of the education for the next generation.

"Each generation that passes will bring more tolerance, and we have the same situation in our country, so we've got to keep setting the right example. All being well, the young people will enjoy the game and take a bigger message from it."

Meanwhile, England skipper Harry Kane, who scored during the dominant win in Hungary last year, says the Three Lions are focused on what they can do on the pitch.

"Obviously, the way the players responded during that game was a credit to themselves," he recalled.

"It's down to UEFA and what they see fit as the punishment. We can only perform to the best of our ability and try and get the three points. 

"We hope the game goes well for the fans watching, for the children coming to watch the players. We're concentrating on the game, and we want to get off to a good start."

England have faced Hungary regularly in recent years, also drawing 1-1 with Marco Rossi's team in a World Cup qualifier last October, and will encounter them twice more within the next fortnight.

Southgate believes that Wembley stalemate provided a better representation of Hungary's strength than the previous meeting in Budapest, and is prepared for a challenging contest.

"The match in Budapest was one of the more different performances I've seen from Hungary over the past two or three years," he added, "Normally they are very difficult to score goals against, we played very well too.

"At Wembley, it was more like the Hungarian side I've seen, against the bigger sides particularly. They are difficult to break down, and it will be a tough match."

Fikayo Tomori says being among the celebrations when Italy beat England in the Euro 2020 final is motivating him to play his part as the Three Lions looks to go one better at the World Cup.

Tomori has been called up to England's upcoming Nations League matches, which will include a home clash with Italy – the country in which the defender has impressed since joining Milan last year.

Having starred on loan with the Rossoneri during the second half of the 2020-21 season, Tomori completed a permanent move to San Siro last June, before making 31 Serie A appearances as Milan won their first Scudetto since in 11 years.

Tomori was left out of England's squad for Euro 2020, meaning he was in Milan when Gareth Southgate's team suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak against Roberto Mancini's Italy last July.

And the former Chelsea defender says he will use that memory as motivation if afforded the opportunity to feature for England in Qatar later this year.

Recalling England's Wembley defeat, Tomori said: "When [Italy] equalised, I had a face on and didn't want to look too down.

"But as the penalties were going on, it was difficult to watch. I was near the Duomo [the cathedral in Milan, where fans celebrated the victory] and, in a way, it was nice to see them celebrating. I was right in the middle of it.

"But really I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I'd felt how it was in England as we advanced, it was madness. Then I saw Italy celebrate after the final and it's definitely a motivation for me.

"I have gone to Italy and seen them celebrate after the final, so I have seen both sides and I have seen how it can really be such a celebration. 

"Imagine how big it would be if we were to win the Euros or the World Cup. Yes, it is definitely a motivation. Every footballer likes to win, but to see how a country reacts to it is something that motivates you."

Tomori also admitted to having taken some pleasure from Italy's failure to qualify for a second successive World Cup, as he recalled a joke played on Milan's Italian players after their play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March.

"It was a strange one," he said of the Azzurri's defeat. "In Italy, Macedonia is a fruit salad kind of thing. That's what it's called. 

"I remember [Sandro] Tonali and [Alessandro] Florenzi were there, so people brought the Macedonia to the training ground. The newspapers were like 'whoa', but the people were saying 'well, we lost to a fruit salad'. It was taken as a joke, but it was a weird one. They just didn't expect to lose."

Tomori has only won two senior England caps to date, but starred as Milan conceded just eight league goals between the start of 2022 and the end of the Serie A season, keeping 11 clean sheets during that time.

But the defender is not worried by having been overlooked for past squads, saying he has simply focused on his club form and is using the successes of other foreign-based England stars as inspiration. 

"I've seen [Jadon] Sancho, Tammy [Abraham], Jude [Bellingham], players who play abroad, still getting called up, so I wasn't panicking or thinking, 'what’s going to happen if I don’t get called up?' I was just focusing on my own performance and helping Milan as much as possible," he added.

"From there, if I do get called up, once I'm here it's about making sure I take the steps to stay here. That's been my mentality all the way through. 

"I'm not putting too much pressure on myself, getting wound up about not being selected. It was just, 'stay calm, keep doing what I’m doing', and from there hopefully I can get in the squad."

Meanwhile, Tomori is hardly short of defensive role models in his adopted country, and says being around several "streetwise" Italian defenders has helped him develop his own game.

"I saw [Franco] Baresi after the last game, which was cool. You see different legends just flying about," he added.

"The way they are as defenders [in Italy], I wouldn't say it's personal but it's, 'I need to make sure what I'm doing is on the money and no one's getting past me'. They have that pride. There are little things the manager will tell me – make sure that you are blocking a run or that you are not allowing this to happen or making contact in the box.

"Watching [Leonardo] Bonucci and [Giorgio] Chiellini, they are very streetwise, you pick up stuff."

Roberto Baggio has labelled Italy not qualifying automatically for the World Cup for their Euro 2020 triumph as "madness".

Italy were penalty shoot-out victors against England in the Euro 2020 last July, but followed that up with World Cup play-off qualifying defeat against North Macedonia in March.

That meant the Azzurri have failed to qualify for two straight World Cups, having missed out on both Russia in 2018 and Qatar four years later.

Roberto Mancini's side met the Copa America winners Argentina on Wednesday in a match between the champions of European and South American football, but were thoroughly outclassed in a 3-0 defeat.

Argentina displayed the gulf in class between the two sides, with some suggesting Lionel Scaloni's side could be favourites for the World Cup in November.

Scaloni declared in the build-up to the 'Finalissima' that Italy deserved a World Cup spot, and Baggio echoed those sentiments by suggesting the Azzurri should have been offered automatic qualification.

"The biggest shame is that Italy didn't go straight to Qatar having won the European Championship," Italy legend Baggio said on Thursday, as quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It is scandalous, it seems crazy to me. Will these guys have earned a reward or not? If I had been in their place I don't really know how I would have reacted...

"It's the worst thing to accept, because in a 90-minute match anything can happen, one action goes wrong and you stay at home?"

Baggio was also quick to point towards the difference in quality between Argentina and Italy at Wembley Stadium.

"Scaloni's team has great talents, but the Azzurri have suffered greatly from being eliminated from the World Cup, the psychological backlash it was enormous," he added.

"The level of calmness of the two teams on the pitch was not comparable."

Italy will hope to somewhat make amends for the Argentina loss and World Cup failure when they host Germany in their Nations League opener on Saturday.

Giorgio Chiellini bowed out of international football and warned a "difficult period" awaited Italy as Roberto Mancini bids to get the Azzurri back on track.

The joy of winning last year's delayed Euro 2020 tournament has been replaced by rapid deflation after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Having also missed out on the Russia 2018 finals, falling short of a place at Qatar 2022 represented crushing disappointment for the four-time winners.

Chiellini, the 37-year-old defensive titan who is leaving Juventus and expected to join Los Angeles FC, has called time on his Italy career.

He played the first half on Wednesday in a 3-0 defeat to Argentina at Wembley, in a match tagged as the Finalissima, a clash of the champions of Europe and South America.

"We were hoping to win the match and the trophy," Chiellini told Italian broadcaster RAI. "We knew it would be tough, but the defeat does not cancel what has gone before.

"Now I expect a difficult period. We need everyone to support this group."

Chiellini lasted just 45 minutes in his farewell game, with Italy 2-0 up by the time he departed.

This was the first staging of the CONMEBOL/UEFA 'Cup of Champions' since 1993. Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala got the goals as Lionel Messi pulled the strings

It was a sorry way for Chiellini to go out, and he said: "It's a shame because in the first half we made a lot of mistakes and we ruined the match by ourselves."

Turning his attention to Argentina, he added: "Above all, at this moment they are too strong, they have confidence and they are a team. They look like us a year ago."

Italy, without Chiellini, will switch their focus to the Nations League. They face Germany on Saturday and again on June 14 – matches against Hungary and England are sandwiched in between.

Writing on his Instagram page, Chiellini reflected on the end of a 117-cap career.

He wrote: "Thanks to everyone, it's been a beautiful journey."

Italy coach Roberto Mancini promised changes after a difficult few months for the Azzurri was compounded by a crushing defeat to Argentina in Wednesday's Finalissima.

Argentina were comprehensive 3-0 winners at Wembley, as the CONMEBOL/UEFA 'Cup of Champions' was revived for the first time since 1993.

Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala got the goals as Lionel Messi pulled the strings, but in truth Italy were fortunate to only lose 3-0 against a hugely impressive Albiceleste.

It was only Italy's second match since their shock World Cup qualifying defeat to North Macedonia in March, with that loss preventing them from reaching Qatar 2022.

Despite the Azzurri winning Euro 2020 less than a year ago, Mancini is already looking to instigate something of a rebuild.

But he was keen to pay tribute to those who have played a key role over the past four years.

"In the first half we made two mistakes on their two goals, then they were better at keeping the ball," Mancini is quoted as saying by Sky Italia.

"They were better than us, but I must say thanks to these guys who have played in these four years.

"There is regret for the lack of qualification for the World Cup, and tonight's match was initially balanced, then they had superior quality to us.

"After this match we had in mind to change several things and we will do it. We need to find the players, put together a team that will suffer at the beginning and that in the future will be able to give us joy."

Clearly, the attack will be Mancini's primary focus in any rebuild as he rued a lack of threat going forward.

"We have great difficulty scoring at the moment, and we have to work a lot knowing that it will not be so simple and it will take time [to overcome their issues]," he continued.

"After the European Championship we struggled to score and we have to find solutions in this sense and try to be fast, but it will not be easy to put together a team that gives us short-term satisfaction even if there are good guys. We will have to make as few mistakes as possible.

"I have optimism. I like to work and train. It's true that we lost against a great Argentina team, but we must know that there will also be these moments and we must make sure that the youngest players learn quickly."

Italy now turn their attention to the Nations League. They face Germany on Saturday and again on June 14 – matches against Hungary and England are sandwiched in between.

Argentina's impressive 3-0 Finalissima win over Italy saw La Albiceleste set a national new record of 32 matches unbeaten.

Lionel Scaloni's men were sensational at Wembley, producing a dominant and rampant performance that could have seen them claim an even more one-sided victory.

Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala got the goals, while Lionel Messi pulled the strings as Argentina made something of a statement less than six months before the World Cup.

Argentina's last defeat was a 2-0 loss to bitter rivals Brazil in the semi-finals of the 2019 Copa America, but they got their revenge in the final last year, beating the Selecao 1-0 at the Maracana to clinch their first title in 28 years.

Their 32 games unbeaten is a new record for official games, though Argentina did go 33 matches without defeat under Alfio Basile – that run included two fixtures not recognised by FIFA as they were against the Rest of America and the Rest of World in 1991.

Argentina's streak is the longest currently intact in international football and leaves them just five adrift of the all-time record set by Italy themselves last year.

Argentina made an early statement of intent ahead of the World Cup with an impressively dominant 3-0 win over Italy to win the UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima at Wembley.

Although Italy failed to qualify for Qatar 2022, few would have expected the European champions to be so stunningly outclassed by the Copa America 2021 winners.

Much of the pre-game focus was on Giorgio Chiellini, but the last game of his distinguished international career ended at half-time with Argentina deservedly 2-0 up thanks to goals from Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria.

Italy somehow prevented the inspired Lionel Messi and Di Maria adding more gloss to the scoreline, but Paulo Dybala finally got their third with the last kick of the game.

A brilliant intervention by Cristian Romero had earlier denied Andrea Belotti a simple finish in the 20th minute, with the striker then seeing a looping header saved by Emiliano Martinez a few moments later.

But Argentina soon took charge.

Messi wonderfully turned away from Giovanni Di Lorenzo and held him off before passing across goal for Martinez to tap home.

The Inter forward then turned provider on the stroke of half-time, spinning Leonardo Bonucci and feeding Di Maria, who lifted an audacious chip over the helpless Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Roberto Mancini made three changes at the break but if anything Argentina only became more dominant – Donnarumma desperately scurried back to stop a Bonucci back-pass going in, before importantly denying the excellent Di Maria twice.

Giovani Lo Celso then missed an open goal – albeit from a slightly tight angle – after great work by Messi, who subsequently tested Donnarumma twice.

But Donnarumma was eventually beaten again at the end, substitute Dybala finding the bottom-right corner after a solo Messi run terrified the Italy defence.

One of the worst-kept secrets in football is out in the open after Manchester United confirmed Paul Pogba's second stint at the club is coming to an end.

The France star departed for Juventus back in 2012 before returning to Old Trafford in an £89million deal four years later.

Few Premier League players have proven as enigmatic as Pogba, with the 29-year-old capable of incredible individual brilliance but frequently subjected to fierce criticism throughout his difficult second spell at United.

From a World Cup success to sparring with Jose Mourinho, Stats Perform looks back on the highs and lows of Pogba's second spell with United.

High: Cup glory in triumphant first season

Pogba played his part as Mourinho, also in his first season at the club, led United to what remain their most recent major trophies.

The Frenchman made 51 appearances in all competitions as the Red Devils scooped an EFL Cup and Europa League double, ensuring Champions League qualification despite a sixth-placed Premier League finish. 

After starting United's 3-2 Wembley triumph over Southampton in February 2017, Pogba opened the scoring as United beat Ajax 2-0 to lift their second piece of silverware of the season in May, as the Red Devils won their sixth major European honour.

High: Conquering the centurions as City's celebrations put on hold

Manchester City's 2017-18 Premier League campaign was record-breaking in many ways, with Pep Guardiola's men becoming the only side to pick up 100 points in the competition, the first to win 32 of their 38 games, and the first to win 18 consecutive matches as they romped to the title.

They also, however, missed out on wrapping up the sweetest of title triumphs in a Manchester derby – a fact which owed primarily to a rampant performance from Pogba.

With City 2-0 up at half-time and seemingly cruising to the win they required to wrap up the title at a jubilant Etihad Stadium in April 2018, Pogba scored twice in two second-half minutes before Chris Smalling completed a sensational comeback, as United put the City celebrations on ice. 

High: World Cup glory with France

United finished the 2017-18 season as Premier League runners-up, with Pogba registering six goals and 12 assists in 37 appearances throughout the campaign.

And the midfielder carried that form into the 2018 World Cup in Russia, scoring in a 4-2 final win over Croatia as Les Blues were crowned world champions for the second time – his strike was the first goal scored from outside the penalty area in a World Cup final since Italy's Marco Tardelli did so against West Germany in 1982.

Pogba started six of the seven games France played during their triumphant campaign, but any hopes he may have harboured of building on those displays with his club were soon proven to be misplaced…

Low: Sparring with Mourinho as the world watches on

Reports of Pogba and Mourinho possessing a strained relationship were widespread during the Portuguese boss's time at the club, and such tensions were laid bare for the world to see in September 2018.

After an Instagram post appearing to show Pogba laughing with team-mates Luke Shaw and Andreas Pereira while United fell to an EFL Cup loss to Derby County, Sky Sports' cameras captured Mourinho discussing the incident with a visibly irked Pogba on the training ground.

It was not a good look as United struggled desperately in Mourinho's final months at the helm, with the former Chelsea boss relieved of his duties with the Red Devils sat sixth in the Premier League in December 2018.

Low: Penalty woe in 2021

Pogba enjoyed a renaissance of sorts under Mourinho's successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ending the Norwegian's first half-season in charge with 13 league goals and nine assists, making 2018-19 his most productive campaign in a Red Devils shirt.

But Solskjaer's men frequently fell short on the big stage, most notably in their 2021 Europa League final loss to Villarreal, as David de Gea missed the vital kick at the end of a long penalty shoot-out after Pogba had been substituted for Dan James during extra-time.

That was not the only penalty heartache Pogba would experience in 2021, as France crashed out of the delayed Euro 2020 after a round-of-16 shoot-out loss to Switzerland, with Kylian Mbappe failing from the spot as Pogba's stunning 25-yard strike counted for nought. 

 

Low: Seeing red in Liverpool rout

Pogba's final season at Old Trafford was one to forget, as United finished sixth in the Premier League with their lowest-ever points tally in the competition (58), and interim manager Ralf Rangnick ended his six-month tenure with the worst Premier League win rate of any United boss (41.7 per cent – 10 wins from 24 games).

But before Rangnick entered the United dugout, Pogba endured the ignominy of being sent off as Solskjaer's Red Devils fell to a dire 5-0 home loss to Liverpool in October 2021 – their heaviest home loss without scoring since a 5-0 thrashing by Manchester City in February 1955.

Pogba's dismissal came just 15 minutes after he entered the fray at the break, making him the first substitute to be sent off in a Premier League for over three years (since Marcus Rashford in September 2018).

 

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