Gareth Southgate described the England manager job as "the greatest privilege" of his life and said he wanted to make sure he was "fresh and hungry" before committing to remain in the role after the Three Lions' World Cup exit.

A year-and-a-half on from reaching the Euro 2020 final on home turf, England were edged out 2-1 in the quarter-finals of Qatar 2022 by France.

The tournament nevertheless marked a turnaround in form for the Three Lions after a dismal Nations League campaign, underlining Southgate's record in his role.

But the former Middlesbrough boss acknowledged he needed time to ensure he made the right call in choosing to remain on board.

"I never want to be in a position where my presence is affecting the team in a negative way," he told BBC Sport.

"I didn't believe that was the case, but I just wanted a period after the World Cup to reflect and make sure that was still how it felt."

"Is it the right thing to keep taking this project on? I wanted to make sure I'm still fresh and hungry for that challenge. [It is] the greatest privilege of my life.

"The quality of performances and the progress that we're making [shows] the team [is] still improving. We're all gaining belief in what we're doing."

England face a banana-skin qualification pathway for Euro 2024, with defending champions Italy, Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta in their group.

The Three Lions will play the former two sides in March as they begin their campaign working towards next year's tournament in Germany.

Gareth Southgate will stay on as England manager following a valiant World Cup exit to holders France, with the Three Lions boss set to lead his side through Euro 2024.

The news will undoubtedly please many and frustrate a few others, as the most successful man to lead the men's national team since Alf Ramsey sets his sights on a fourth major tournament.

Despite lacking tangible silverware for his efforts, no manager has come closer to success with them than Southgate for generations, with his side serving up plenty of highs and a handful of lows.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look over some of the defining moments of his tenure in charge – from breaking long-standing national hoodoos, to falling just short of all-time greatness.

Breaking the penalty curse

Heading into their first major tournament under Southgate, expectations were low for England. Dismal campaigns at Brazil 2014 and Euro 2016 were not forgotten, after a placid loss to Belgium wiped out a rout against Panama.

When Colombia stuck late in regular time to force a penalty shoot-out in the last 16, fans were braced for the worst. But Southgate bucked the trend – and put his own demons to rest – as his side held their nerve with a cathartic win on penalties.

Missing the mark in Moscow

Reaching the semi-finals of a World Cup for the first time since 1990, England had transformed the goodwill of a nation back home, and Kieran Trippier's early free-kick gave them the perfect start.

But with an early lead on the board, Southgate's side slipped into defensive inertia rather than chase a second goal – and Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic subsequently struck to deliver the first heartbreak of his tenure.

Nailing the Nations League 

Grouped again with Croatia and a highly fancied Spain side for the inaugural Nations League campaign, England made a rough start, with defeat to La Roja and a draw against their former semi-final foes in 2018.

But a Raheem Sterling double in Seville saw them stun their hosts, before Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane struck late to deliver bedlam at Wembley against Croatia and take the Three Lions to the Finals.

A Dutch downer

But once at the Finals in Portugal, England failed to heed the lessons of Russia, and surrendered an early lead once more against the Netherlands as they lost in the semi-finals.

Though they beat Switzerland on penalties to finish third – and claim their first medal result of Southgate's time in charge – it marked a bittersweet end to what could have been a serious silverware shot.

Euro fever hits

In a pan-continental edition of the delayed 2020 European Championship, England were blessed with home advantage for the majority of their games – and with each successive result, they delivered a shot to Southgate's tenure.

The defensively minded approach of the manager, with a double-pivot in Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips, proved the perfect counter, and helped them reach the final, with a major win over old enemies Germany on the way.

Heartbreak against Italy

Forever the great "what-if" of the Southgate era, England headed into the final of Euro 2020 as marginal favourites, boosted by home advantage at Wembley and a Luke Shaw goal two minutes only strengthened their belief.

But across an ill-tempered encounter, Leonardo Bonucci's squeaky equaliser forced a shoot-out where the old ghosts reared their heads, as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed to hand Italy the crown.

Hungary like the wolf

On the back of a brilliant 2021, expectations were high as England entered a World Cup year, and they were favoured to do well in the latest Nations League iteration.

But a double loss to Hungary sunk their chances, and they were ultimately relegated from the top tier of the competition after struggles with Italy and Germany too – possibly the most humiliating moment of Southgate's tenure. 

An early bath in Qatar

With his reputation having been savaged in some quarters over 2022, it may seem weird to consider Qatar 2022 a high-water mark for Southgate – but the fact is it ranks among his most impressive tournament performances.

Incisive, attacking displays against Iran and Wales showcased his side's offensive nous, either side of a stalemate with the United States, as did a win over Senegal in the last 16.

While defeat to France in the quarter-finals was another great "what-if" moment, it marked the first England loss in a major tournament where they went down guns blazing. That points to a bright future – and Southgate may still be the man to harness it best.

Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella claims the Azzurri should have been at the World Cup "by right" after being crowned European champions.

A stunning 1-0 defeat to North Macedonia in a play-off qualification game in March eliminated Italy, who were almost totally dominant but conceded the game's only goal in second-half stoppage time.

It meant four-time winners Italy have failed to qualify for two consecutive World Cups, unprecedented in their history, and Inter star Barella has felt unable to watch the tournament due to his gripe that he should be involved.

In fact, he suggested the latest winners of the European and South American championships should always be granted automatic places at the World Cup. Such a move would be unlikely to go down well with confederations from other continents, unless they were also cut in on such an arrangement.

Italy, who won the delayed Euro 2020 finals last year, remain devastated by their World Cup qualifying stumble.

"I haven't seen half a match of the World Cup yet, I can't understand the feeling I feel," Barella said.

"They say that the pitch is always right, but for me in this case it gave an unfair response. Today it was our turn, maybe tomorrow it will be the turn of others: whoever wins a European Championship or a Copa America deserves to go to a World Cup by right."

Barella's suggestion is similar to one from Roberto Mancini, the Italy head coach, last month. Mancini also said the champions of every continent should be awarded an automatic spot at the World Cup.

Barella hopes to go to the 2026 tournament, which will be co-hosted by Mexico, Canada and the United States, and can see him remaining an Inter player through to that time.

A host of teams, including Chelsea and Liverpool from the Premier League, have been linked as possible suitors for Barella, who has a contract with Inter that runs through to 2026.

"We have to get there first," he said of the next World Cup, "but yeah, I see myself on the pitch in 2026 still as an Inter player."

Whether Milan Skriniar remains at Inter for so long must be in major doubt.

Paris Saint-Germain wanted him in the last transfer window and may come back in January, and the 27-year-old Slovakian centre-back is due to lapse out of contract at the end of the season.

Barella will let Skriniar make his own decisions about the future, insisting others should not play any part.

"I will never allow myself to give him advice," Barella said. "Everyone makes their choices. Then, at the end of his career, we will see if they were right or wrong. I hope he stays because in addition to being incredibly strong, he is a brother."

Eric Dier is "grateful" to be back in the England squad for the World Cup after fearing he may never play for the Three Lions again following his Euro 2020 omission.

Tottenham defender Dier was a notable absentee from Gareth Southgate's side for the coronavirus-delayed European Championship in 2021, where England lost in the final to Italy on penalties.

The likes of Harry Maguire, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady were preferred at the back by Southgate, though Dier has returned to the fold for Qatar.

England face Iran in Monday's Group B opener and Dier acknowledged he thought the chance to represent his country at a major tournament may never come again.

"I'd be lying if I said that didn't cross my mind [that I might not be in England contention again]," the 28-year-old said. 

"When I missed out on the Euro 2020 squad that was one of the worst moments of my career.

"I'm grateful to be here now. I'm very proud of myself how I managed to fight my way back in."

Dier has been ever-present for Tottenham in the Premier League this season, pinpointing his "special" coach Antonio Conte as the reason for his upturn in form.

"Last season after Antonio Conte arrived that was some of the best football I've played – and it has carried into this season," he added.

"I'm enjoying every minute of working with him. He's a special manager."

The 32 nations competing at the 2022 World Cup face an unprecedented situation, with the world's elite leagues pausing for a mid-season break to allow their stars to compete for glory in the Middle East.

"It's a unique situation for us. In some ways it's quite nice. Maybe not for the coaches and managers - it's not ideal [for them]," Dier continued. 

"From a player's point of view, the quick turnaround is nice. We're here and just getting straight into it. I'm quite impatient. There are other aspects that aren't so great with injuries when they wouldn't usually have missed a tournament. I'm very excited to start."

Host nation Qatar has also come under widespread criticism amid concerns over their human rights record in a country where same-sex relationships are prohibited.

England manager Southgate, captain Harry Kane among a host of other senior figures competing at the World Cup have vowed to speak out, though Dier suggested players have been left in a difficult situation.

"It's extremely difficult for us as players. We know these topics are going to be addressed - it's a difficult situation," the centre-back said.

"When the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010, I was 16 at the time. It's difficult for me to talk on it. As players, we have no say on where we play.

"Those decisions are made by people way above us. We're the ones who end up sitting here having to answer these questions.

"I carry the values I've been given by my family and those who educated me. We've been here a very short time. For me, it's important to live this experience. At that point, I'll have a better idea of what to say on it.

"A lot of things that are disappointing have happened. As a team we carry values wherever we go – but we respect everywhere we go."

Bukayo Saka can thrive during England's World Cup campaign after handling the fallout from his penalty miss in the Euro 2020 final "impeccably", according to Aaron Ramsdale.

Saka's spot-kick was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma after England's tense draw with Italy last July, ensuring the Three Lions lost on their first major final appearance since the 1966 World Cup.

The winger then endured further disappointment on the domestic stage as Arsenal failed to secure a top-four finish last term, but he has bounced back in fine fashion this season.

With Arsenal flying high at the top of the Premier League table, only five players have bettered Saka's tally of 10 goal contributions in the competition this campaign (four goals, six assists), and his Gunners team-mate Ramsdale expects him to impress in Qatar.

Asked by ESPN how Saka handled last year's disappointment, Ramsdale said: "[I'm] trying to find the right words, impeccably, probably.

"The kid's a lovely boy, he has time for everyone, he works super hard throughout every week. 

"He very, very rarely misses a training session and he used all that motivation of criticism, but also the love that everyone gave him, [it] gave him an extra boost.

"Don't forget he had the pressure of the whole football club on him last year – him and Emile Smith Rowe were our main guys – and he has dealt with that, he's dealt with everything else. 

"He is thriving and I can't wait to see him thrive over here."

Recalling Arsenal's failure to qualify for the Champions League last season, Ramsdale said Saka blamed himself for the Gunners' inability to get over the line.

"When we missed out on the top four, he felt like it was all his fault because he couldn't provide for us," Ramsdale added.

"I was just able to reflect that the season before they finished eighth, [last] season we finished fifth, and if we go another step again, we will be in the top four. It's a game of football and there's a lot more to it."

Asked whether Saka had become a stronger character in the last year, he added: "Absolutely. There is no doubt about that, off the pitch and on it. He's a more complete person."

UEFA confirmed it received three preliminary bid dossiers to host Euro 2028 and 2032 before Wednesday's deadline.

A joint bid from the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland was submitted for the 2028 tournament, while Turkey also threw its hat in the ring having never hosted a major tournament.

Football associations from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland put forward a proposal and promised to organise an "unrivalled" tournament.

The bid from the English FA comes after much criticism over its handling of fan disorder at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium, with an independent review describing it as a "day of national shame".

Turkey also bid for the 2032 edition, as well as Italy, which has not been chosen as a sole host of a major tournament since the World Cup in 1990.

The deadline for submitting final dossiers is April 12 2023, before the hosts will be chosen in the European autumn of that year.

Pedri believes last year's near misses in the European Championship and the Nations League will benefit Spain in their quest to win a second World Cup this year.

The Barcelona midfielder was named Young Player of the Tournament as Spain were beaten by Italy in the semi-finals of the delayed Euro 2020, before La Roja suffered a Nations League final defeat to France last October.

While Spain have only reached the World Cup's final four once in their past 13 participations – when they won the tournament in 2010 – Pedri is optimistic about their chances of competing in Qatar.

Asked by Mundo Deportivo whether Luis Enrique's side could win the tournament, the 19-year-old responded: "Why not? 

"You have to focus first on the group stage and then on the following rounds, but we have a team to be able to compete.

"We come from a European Championship and a Nations League where we did very well. In the Euros we reached the semi-finals, and I was sure that if we went to the final, we would win it. 

"In the Nations League I could hardly play, but the team was very good. We are a very good group and it shows on the pitch.

"We don't have a megastar, the group is our best star. When you all run together and everyone knows what they want and what you're playing for, I think you have a lot done and a good chance of winning.

"We are going to the World Cup with everything, with a lot of desire to give the fans happiness, whether they support us from home or from Qatar. Let's give it our all."

Pedri believes two South American sides could represent Spain's main competitors in Qatar, with the form of Paris Saint-Germain star and Barca legend Lionel Messi likely to be crucial to any challenge from Argentina.

"I think that Brazil and Argentina have two great teams," Pedri said. "Brazil because they have incredible quality in their players and Argentina because they have the best player, and I think they are going to really want to win this World Cup."

Spain begin their World Cup campaign against Costa Rica next Wednesday before facing fellow Group E foes Germany and Japan.

Gareth Southgate declared England must improve on their poor record against Italy after the two nations were drawn together in a "tough" Euro 2024 qualification group.

The teams faced each other in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium last year, with Italy emerging victorious on penalties to win their first European Championship trophy since 1968 and deny England their first major title in 55 years.

The sides also met twice in the recent Nations League campaign, playing out a goalless draw at Molineux in June before Giacomo Raspadori gave Italy a 1-0 triumph in the return fixture at San Siro in September.

The Three Lions have not beaten Italy in six attempts since a 2-1 victory in 2012, and Southgate says that run needs to end.

"England's record against Italy generally is not very good," Southgate told Sky Sports. "So we've got to improve that.

"There's not too many surprises, they've changed the team a lot for all of those different matches.

"We know the quality they have, we know the depth that they have."

England and Italy have been drawn in Group C alongside Ukraine, Malta and North Macedonia, the latter of whom knocked the Azzurri out of the World Cup play-offs earlier this year, preventing the European champions from making it to Qatar.

Southgate acknowledged the overall difficulty of the group, adding: "It's clearly a tough draw, given the quality of the opposition.

"But we've had draws in qualification that have probably been a little bit more comfortable than that, although I'd have to say Poland and Hungary in the last qualifying group was particularly tough as well, so we're used to that.

"The draws are what they are, it's how you perform on the day."

England have the opportunity to gain a measure of revenge on Italy for their Euro 2020 final defeat after the two nations were drawn together in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley in London on July 11, 2021 to win their first European Championship title since 1968.

Gareth Southgate's Three Lions had opened the scoring through Luke Shaw, but the Azzurri levelled via Leonardo Bonucci.

And spot-kick misses by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka proved costly for England, who had hoped to win a first major title in 55 years.

The two will tussle again – twice – on the road to Germany 2024 after being drawn together in qualifying Group C in Sunday's ceremony, which was held in Frankfurt.

Nevertheless, both teams will still expect to reach the finals given the top two in each group progress to the tournament - joining them will be Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta.

It was North Macedonia who knocked Italy out of the World Cup qualifying play-offs earlier this year.

Group B is another standout after the Netherlands were drawn alongside reigning world champions France in a pool that also contains Republic of Ireland, Greece and Gibraltar.

Spain will be confident of plotting a way through Group A, which also contains Scotland, Norway, Georgia and Cyprus, though Belgium may face a slightly sterner examination after being grouped with Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan and Estonia.

Qualifying is set to begin in March 2023 and conclude eight months later, with the winners and runners-up of each group going straight through to the tournament.

The remaining three teams will be decided in March 2024 via a play-off section, which will be made up of 12 group winners from the 2022-23 Nations League.

If a Nations League section winner has already qualified for Euro 2024, their play-off place will pass to the next best-ranked country from the same league.


Draw in full:

Group A: Spain, Scotland, Norway, Georgia, Cyprus
Group B: Netherlands, France, Republic of Ireland, Greece, Gibraltar
Group C: Italy, England, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Malta
Group D: Croatia, Wales, Armenia, Turkey, Latvia
Group E: Poland, Czech Republic, Albania, Faroe Islands, Moldova
Group F: Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Estonia
Group G: Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Lithuania
Group H: Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, San Marino
Group I: Switzerland, Israel, Romania, Kosovo, Belarus, Andorra
Group J: Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Liechtenstein

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says the organisation will not repeat a pan-continental staging of the European Championship following Euro 2020, but has not ruled out further successful joint bids in the future.

Last year's rescheduled tournament, intended to celebrate its 60th anniversary, was beset by logistical difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2024 tournament will revert to a single nation host in Germany, but the 2028 edition could once again see multiple hosts, with a British Isles bid up against Turkey for duties.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Ceferin confirmed there will be no continent-spanning events in future, but he is not opposed to shared hosting between smaller neighbour nations.

"We are not considering such Euro tournaments in 10-11 countries, that was complicated enough," he stated. "With [the pandemic], it was even more complicated.

"With respect to sporting considerations, Switzerland played one game in Rome and then in Baku, and some teams played at home all the time.

"Those who did not travel and played at home ended up in the final. We don't like that concept at all.

"It was a good idea. It was the 60th anniversary of the Euros, some Pan-European friendship... These were the elements of that idea.

"I'm not saying that the idea was bad. But my feeling is that Euros should take place in one or two countries if we're talking about smaller countries."

Toni Kroos intends to finish his career at Real Madrid, while the former Germany international says he will not reverse his decision to retire from the national team ahead of Qatar 2022.

The veteran playmaker has completed a clean sweep of major honours with the LaLiga giants since arriving from Bayern Munich in 2014, shortly after helping Die Mannschaft to World Cup glory in Brazil.

Yet having hung up his boots for the national side following last year's Euro 2020 last-16 exit at the hands of England, Kroos admits he may well follow suit at domestic level sooner rather than later.

However, he will not be looking to wrap up his time on the pitch anywhere other than Santiago Bernabeu, regardless of time frame.

"I believe that the year 2023 is appropriate [to retire]," Kroos told Bild. "I will be 33 years old.

"I will decide whether I will renew for a season or two. That is still open for discussion, but I am completely sure that I will retire at Real Madrid."

Kroos will not walk back his decision to depart the national team, however, with the 106-cap veteran having no intention of making himself available for Hansi Flick's squad.

"The decision I made at that time stands," he added.

 

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.

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