FIFA has confirmed it will utilise semi-automated VAR offside technology at the Qatar 2022 World Cup later this year, says head of refereeing Pierluigi Collina.

The move to introduce further advancements in the VAR process for this year's showpiece tournament has been ongoing over the past few months.

Following trials at the Arab Cup and Club World Cup, the fresh processes – which can cut VAR decision-making from 70 seconds to 25 seconds – is set to be implemented in the Gulf State in November.

Collina, a former World Cup final referee when he took charge of Brazil's win over Germany at Korea/Japan 2002, says the time is now to bring in semi-automated technology, which will further enhance decision-making.

"We are very positive. It is ready," he stated. "I read about robot referees. I understand this is very good for headlines, but it is not the case.

"The match officials are still involved in the decision-making process. The semi-automated technology only gives an answer when a player is in an offside position when they play the ball.

"The assessment of interfering with an opponent and seeing if a handball or foul was committed remains at the discretion of the referee. Our goal is to get referees taking decisions correctly on the field.

"If something wrong should happen, the referee may take advantage of the technology to get a better vision of what happened – but there will still be room for discussion."

Semi-automated technology will make use of in-ball sensors, dedicated multi-tracking camera rigs and 29 rapid data points on players to help calculate exact positions.

The Qatar 2022 World Cup opens on November 21, with Senegal facing the Netherlands and England squaring off with Iran before the hosts play the official opening game against Ecuador.

Pedri has been hailed as "the Iniesta, the Xavi" of the Spain team that will go after World Cup glory in Qatar.

The praise came from former Liverpool and Newcastle United left-back Jose Enrique, a player who was crowded out of the Spain squad by the country's last golden generation.

Jose Enrique's peak playing years coincided with Spain's most dominant period in international football, and although he does not consider Luis Enrique's squad quite at that same level, the likes of Barcelona youngster Pedri make him optimistic for the World Cup.

Spain won Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Euro 2012 in a sensational period of dominance. They have not won a major tournament since, but a burgeoning group of young talent is emerging once again, with 19-year-old midfielder Pedri among the most exciting talents in the world game.

"To me, the player that has more projection in terms of image on that team is Pedri, he won't be out of the team," said Jose Enrique.

"You also have Ferran Torres doing well for Barcelona and Pau [Torres], the central defender of Villarreal; I think he will be key for the team as well."

Speaking to Stats Perform, Jose Enrique said Spain's final squad for the finals would be "difficult to predict" due to head coach Luis Enrique often filtering players in and out of his squad.

"But to choose one who will make the difference 100 per cent, and that already did in the past, it is Pedri," Jose Enrique said.

"For me, he is the star of the national team, the Iniesta, the Xavi. Back in that day it was different because there were many and that is why Spain won everything. But if you mention Spain now, the first player that comes to my mind is Pedri."

Pedri endured an injury-disrupted 2021-22 season with Barcelona, scoring five goals and having one assist in 22 games across all competitions. Only five Barcelona players created more chances than the 31 he carved out.

In the previous season, he played a team-high 52 matches, going on to win Tuttosport's prized Golden Boy award as Europe's top young talent. He will be expected to continue to grow into his responsible role in coach Xavi's Barcelona team in the new season.

Barcelona greats Xavi and Iniesta were at the heart of Spain's indomitable midfield for their three successive big tournament triumphs.

Jose Enrique was starring in the Premier League at the time but got no further than the Spain Under-21 team, such was the strength throughout the national squad.

He says the current group of players and the pool that brought glory to Spain during a dazzling four-year period cannot be compared, but stressed that does not mean the new breed cannot be successful.

A run to the Euro 2020 semi-finals was a step in the right direction for Spain, after a run of disappointing big-stage performances, fuelling Jose Enrique's belief they will be a threat when Qatar hosts in November and December.

Spain must navigate a challenging group that will see them face Germany, Japan and Costa Rica.

"Spain will always be one of the favourites because I believe that Spain always is," Jose Enrique said. "But to win a World Cup isn't easy and Spain did it: Euro-World Cup-Euro when they had a brutal selection of players, and now it is completely different.

"It has a magnificent coach and a squad that changes depending on the players' performances and I love this about Luis Enrique, but it is true that we cannot compare.

"We now have a young squad with few veterans, and they could win the World Cup because anything can happen in football. England had a very young squad and made it to the [2018 World Cup] semi-finals.

"Youngsters have more support than before and Spain can be a surprise because Luis Enrique knows very well how to play. He has young players but full of desire and hunger. The most important thing for me is to start well. If they do, they are capable to win against any team, and why not Germany."

June 30, 2002, Yokohama. Ronaldo pounces on Rivaldo's dummy to side-foot past Germany's Oliver Kahn, becoming just the ninth man to score twice in a World Cup final and making Brazil champions of the world.

That moment, the pinnacle of the legendary forward's career, remains unmatched to this day for the Selecao, with Brazil failing to add to their five World Cup crowns in the subsequent two decades.

Should Brazil fall short of glory in Qatar later this year, that drought will stretch to at least 24 years, matching their longest wait for World Cup glory since their maiden title in 1958 (also between 1970 and 1994).

For a country whose hopes have been entrusted to such footballing icons as Ronaldinho, Kaka and Neymar in subsequent years, such a drought seems inexplicable, with three quarter-final exits and one historic semi-final humiliation the sum of their efforts since 2002. 

Exactly 20 years on from Brazil's triumph in Japan and South Korea, Stats Perform looks back on that momentous success, questions why it is yet to be repeated, and asks whether Tite's class of 2022 are equipped to bring glory to one of the world's most football-mad nations.

2002: Irresistible Ronaldo fires Selecao to glory in Japan and South Korea

It is no exaggeration to say Brazil's last World Cup win was one of the most impressive triumphs in the competition's history.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's men went from strength to strength after requiring a late Rivaldo penalty to edge a tense opener against eventual third-placed finishers Turkey, winning all seven of their games by an aggregate score of 18-4.

The class of 2002 thus hold the record for the most games won by a nation at a single World Cup, with Ronaldo – coming off an injury-blighted four seasons at Inter in which he managed just 36 Serie A appearances – the star of the show.

Partnering Rivaldo and supplied by Paris Saint-Germain's breakout star Ronaldinho, O Fenomeno netted eight goals across the tournament, the joint-most of any Brazilian at a single World Cup and the highest tally of anyone since West Germany's Gerd Muller struck 10 times in 1970.

 

Ronaldo's 19 shots on target in the tournament has not been matched in any subsequent World Cup, while his total of 34 attempts was more than five different nations managed. 

Quarter-final opponents England, vanquished when Ronaldinho audaciously (perhaps fortuitously) lobbed David Seaman from long-range, were the only side to keep Ronaldo out as he took the competition by storm.

A 25-year-old Ronaldo's final double against Germany represented his 44th and 45th international goals in just his 64th Brazil appearance. He managed just 17 further strikes in the famous yellow shirt during his career.

There was nothing in the 2002 squad's make-up to suggest a long wait for further tournament success was imminent: The experienced Cafu (31 in 2002) and Roberto Carlos (29) were still around in 2006, while future Ballon d'Or winners Ronaldinho (22) and Kaka (20) had their whole careers ahead of them.

How, then, did one of the greatest sides in modern international history contrive to fall so far short in subsequent World Cups?

 

2006-2010: Zidane and Sneijder sparkle as drab Brazil fall short

Brazil looked set for another shot at glory in Germany in 2006. Ronaldinho was crowned the world's best player in 2005; Kaka was to follow in his footsteps in 2007; and Ronaldo had hit a century of goals in his first four seasons with Real Madrid.

Brazil conceded just once in group-stage clashes with Croatia, Australia and Japan before crushing Ghana 3-0 in the last 16, but with Carlos Alberto Parreira cramming his three attacking stars into a rigid 4-4-2 shape, it was France who more closely resembled the Brazil sides of old in the last eight. 

Zinedine Zidane's performance in Frankfurt stands as one of the finest in the competition's history, as he tormented the defending champions' flat midfield before assisting Thierry Henry's winner.

It was the first of two masterful midfield displays to end the World Cup hopes of drab Brazil teams, with Wesley Sneijder assuming Zidane's role as the Netherlands vanquished Dunga's men in South Africa in 2010.

Progressing from the group stages has not been an issue for Brazil. Astonishingly, they are unbeaten in their last 15 group games, last suffering a first-stage defeat against Norway in 1998.

A lack of tactical nous against the world's best, however, has been a legitimate charge, and an understandable one given the identities of some of their head coaches.

Parreira's one Brazilian top-flight title was won way back in 1984, while Dunga's only club-level experience remains, to this day, a dire 2013 campaign with Internacional.

In that context, the return of Scolari, the emergence of Neymar and a home World Cup lifted expectations to monumental levels by 2014, when Brazilian dreams were to be shattered in the most incredible manner imaginable.

2014-2018: Home humiliation and Neymar reliance see Brazilian woes continue

The 2014 World Cup was billed as a festival of football, lit up by jubilant Brazilian crowds and thrilling football – the 171 goals scored across the tournament are the joint-most on record, alongside 1998.

Sadly for Brazil, eventual winners Germany provided 18 of those, with seven coming in a scarcely believable semi-final rout at the Mineirao.

Having gone 5-0 down within 29 minutes in the absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva, Scolari's men collapsed to arguably the greatest humiliation in World Cup history and, as almost goes without saying, the heaviest semi-final defeat the tournament has ever seen.

Only when Yugoslavia faced Zaire in 1974 had a side previously been 5-0 up after 29 minutes at a World Cup, but for all the excitement building around the host nation, Brazil's class of 2014 always appeared flawed.

An over-reliance on Neymar – cruelly sidelined by a dreadful quarter-final challenge from Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga – was clear in both 2014 and 2018, when Brazil fell to a 2-1 defeat to a Kevin De Bruyne-inspired Belgium in Russia.

 

Across those two tournaments, Neymar's six goals and two assists saw him directly involved in 42 per cent of Brazil's goals.

Fluminense striker Fred, ridiculed by many for his performances in 2014, wasn't exactly up to the task of replacing his goal threat, while Gabriel Jesus failed to find the net despite starting every match under Tite in 2018.

Indeed, coming into the 2018 tournament, Neymar – with 55 goals in 85 caps, was the only player in the Brazil squad to have scored more than 12 international goals.

Having achieved the rare feat of holding onto his job after leading Brazil at a World Cup, Tite will hope the emergence of several other stars lessens the burden on his number 10 this time around.

The road to Qatar: Can the class of 2022 end World Cup drought? 

Assuming he remains in charge when they face Serbia on November 24, Tite will become the first coach to lead Brazil at back-to-back World Cups since Tele Santana in 1982 and 1986.

While neither of Santana's campaigns ended in glory, the current boss – a Copa Libertadores and FIFA Club World Cup winner – will hope his six years moulding the side will prove invaluable in Qatar.

Brazil have already ended one mini trophy drought under his watch, winning a first Copa America title in 12 years on home soil in 2019 before finishing as runners-up to Argentina two years later.

Most impressively, Brazil triumphed without the injured Neymar in 2019 as Everton Soares top-scored, and the form of a series of Selecao stars has given Tite enviable squad depth.

In Allison and Ederson, he can choose between arguably the top two goalkeepers in the Premier League, while Fabinho was crucial as Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool fell narrowly short of a historic quadruple last term.

Casemiro, who won his fifth Champions League title with Madrid in May, could partner him in a fearsome midfield duo, but most of the excitement is centred on his club team-mate Vinicius Junior, whose 22 goals and 16 assists for Los Blancos last term suggest he can be the man to dovetail with Neymar.

 

After landing an appealing group-stage draw alongside Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon, the excitement around Brazil is building once more.

With the Selecao topping the FIFA World Rankings, having fairly recent a Copa America win under their belts and possessing some of European football's most-effective players, 2022 seems as good a time as any for Brazil to end 20 years of disappointment and bring 'o Jogo Bonito' to the world once more.

Angel Di Maria would be a great signing for Juventus who can emulate former Real Madrid team-mates Karim Benzema and Luka Modric by playing at an elite level in his mid-30s.

That is the view of Iker Casillas, who played alongside Di Maria when Madrid won their 10th Champions League title in 2013-14.

Casillas feels the Argentine will be keen to feature regularly for the Bianconeri to cement his place at what could be his fourth World Cup later this year.

Di Maria is departing Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after spending seven years in Ligue 1, and is widely expected to join Massimiliano Allegri's Juventus in the coming days.

The 34-year-old's agent revealed this week that only the "final details" of his contract in Turin remain outstanding, and Casillas believes his former team-mate will thrive in Italy.

"Di Maria is a great move," the 2010 World Cup winner told La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

"Angel with [Federico] Chiesa, [Dusan] Vlahovic and [Paul] Pogba... what a great team! And he will want to prepare well for the World Cup.

"He is a very cautious guy who has always taken great care of himself physically. He has never suffered serious injuries. I think he is in great shape. 

"Here in Europe, he has always played at a high level, in big clubs. Di Maria will give Juve a new step.

"There is a World Cup in November and it is clear that he is looking for a team where he can play regularly and prepare in the best possible way for the challenge in Qatar.

"Even at 34 years old he is a great player. Age counts only relatively now, careers have lengthened. 

"Without reaching the 44 years of my friend [Gianluigi] Buffon, there are other examples of players over 30 who are doing very well and playing to the fullest level. You just have to think about Benzema and Modric."

Di Maria won six trophies during a four-year spell with Madrid, which he ended in spectacular fashion with a man-of-the-match performance in Los Blancos' Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid in 2014.

Recalling Di Maria's performance as a central midfielder in that 2014 match, Casillas argued his versatility would be a great asset for Juve.

"Juventus bets on a player who knows how to do a lot of things in different areas of the pitch," he added. 

"When we won 'the Decima', [Carlo] Ancelotti changed his position in the middle of the season and he played very well.

"He can play both up front and in the centre of the field, he is an intelligent guy who knows football well. Angel has impressive shots and can decide games by himself."

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was on Friday acquitted on appeal for a second time by a Swiss federal court of charges of corruption in the attribution of World Cup television rights.

Al-Khelaifi had been charged with inciting former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.

Valcke was accused of wanting to transfer the Middle East and North Africa television rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups to a media company headed by Al-Khelaifi.

Al-Khelaifi allegedly offered Valcke, who is serving a 10-year ban from football that was handed down by the Fifa Ethics Committee in 2018, exclusive use of a luxury villa in Sardinia in exchange.

The PSG president has been cleared again of a charge of incitement to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.

It is the second time Al-Khelaifi has been cleared of wrongdoing in the Swiss federal criminal court after prosecutors appealed against the original verdicts.

"The years of baseless allegations, fictitious charges and constant smears have been proven to be completely and wholly unsubstantiated – twice," Al Khelaifi's lawyer Marc Bonnant said in a widely reported statement.

Valcke was convicted of separate charges not involving Al-Khelaifi. He was given an 11-month suspended sentence and must also repay FIFA €1.75m (£1.58m) for forgery and passive corruption.

Those charges relate to Valcke exploiting his position to influence the awarding of media rights for Italy and Greece for various World Cup and other tournaments scheduled between 2018 and 2030, in exchange for payments from Greek businessman Dinos Deris, who has also been charged.

The Frenchman was cleared of the most serious charges involving accepting bribes and aggravated criminal mismanagement.

While believing 1998 was not his best year as a footballer, Zinedine Zidane has conceded he wanted to be recognised as the best player in the world.

Zidane was a talismanic figure on French soil as Les Bleus claimed their first World Cup, scoring two goals in the final against Brazil and propelling him to the Ballon d'Or.

Despite going on to scale further heights in football at both club and international level, it remained the only year he ever won the prestigious individual award.

Speaking to L'Equipe to mark his 50th birthday, Zidane revealed it is one of the few trophies he kept from an exceptional playing career, while admitting he particularly wanted the status in the game that accompanied it.

"Because I give everything, I am able to offer everything," he said. "I have almost nothing at home from my career. Two or three objects. I am not at all conservative or materialistic. When I want to see souvenirs, I go to Marseille [where his parents live]. I don't live with it.

"I was a little overconfident the weeks before the vote. I got a little fired up in a few interviews. I've never been one to say, 'I deserve this or that,' but with this Ballon d'Or, in 1998, I told myself a little bit. It wasn't really me but I really wanted to have it.

"I was the best player in the world. It does not happen often, and to me only once. There may be preferences in the votes but when you have it, you have it. You are the best player in the world at this time, and it's beautiful."

Zidane admitted to a dip in form with Juventus after the World Cup success, but believes 2000 was his best year as a footballer as he led an "unplayable" France to a second European Championship.

"After the World Cup, I was catastrophic," he said. "I no longer put one foot in front of the other. Even my friends told me: 'But it's your cousin who plays, it's your cousin who came back to Juve!' When you win a big title like the World Cup, you tend to slack off. And me, I really relaxed.

"It takes time. After January, I restarted. Very well in January and February then I injured myself. One hundred days. The season is over. Then I resumed for the 1999-2000 season with the victory at the Euro. There, I was at the top.

"For the next two or three seasons, I never let go. 1998 was my year but I think 1999-2000 was my greatest season. Not just for me. For our whole generation in blue. Our France team was exceptional. Euro 2000 remains the pinnacle of this generation. At the Euro, we were unplayable."

Zinedine Zidane has not ruled out taking over as head coach at Paris Saint-Germain or following Didier Deschamps as France's national team coach, amid growing speculation over his future.

Mauricio Pochettino's departure from PSG has not yet been finalised, but reports have linked both Zidane and Nice boss Christophe Galtier to the job, with club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi even confirming talks with the latter.

Stepping down in 2021 as a two-time LaLiga and three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, Zidane would assume either role as a highly-decorated coach, having also enjoyed an exceptional playing career.

In an interview with L'Equipe to mark his 50th birthday, the Marseille native indicated he would not turn down the opportunity to coach the fiercest rivals of the club he supported as a child, citing a lack of realistic options in both personal and logistical senses.

"Never say never," he said. "Especially when you are a coach today, but the question is moot. This is absolutely irrelevant. When I was a player, I had a choice, almost every club.

"As a coach, there are not 50 clubs where I can go. There are two or three possibilities. This is the current reality. As coaches, we have much less choice than players. If I go back to a club, it's to win. I say this with all modesty. That's why I can't go anywhere. For other reasons, too, I might not be able to go everywhere.

"The language, for example. Some conditions make things more difficult. When I'm asked: 'Do you want to go to Manchester?' I understand English but I don't fully master it. I know there are coaches who go to clubs without speaking the language, but I work differently. To win, many elements come into play."

From leading France to the World Cup in 1998 as a player – propelling him to his sole Ballon d'Or award in the process – to his straight red card in the 2006 World Cup final after headbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi, Zidane experienced both the highs and lows with Les Bleus.

Punctuating his stellar international career with that sending off in Berlin leaves him with unfinished business at international level, but Zidane insisted his ambition will be with respect to current France boss Deschamps and his preparations for this year's World Cup in Qatar.

"I want to [be head coach of France], of course. I will be, I hope, one day," Zidane said. "When? It's not up to me, but I want to come full circle with the France team. I knew this French team as a player, and it's the most beautiful thing that's ever happened to me.

"But really, this is the pinnacle. And so, as I experienced that and today I am a coach, the France team is firmly rooted in my head.

"When I say that I want to take the France team one day, I assume it. Today, a team is in place, with its goals. But if the opportunity comes next, then I'll be there.

"Again, it's not up to me. My deep desire is there. The France team is the most beautiful thing there is."

Mario Gotze has all the qualities to return to the Germany squad ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, according to former Die Mannschaft coach Joachim Low.

Gotze has won 63 caps for his country and scored an extra-time winner against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final as Germany lifted the trophy for a fourth time.

The creative midfielder has not appeared for the national side since November 2017, though, when he appeared as a second-half substitute in a friendly against France.

That is due to a lack of club success for the former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich star, who has traded PSV for Eintracht Frankfurt in a reported €4million move to the Europa League winners.

Appearing in the Champions League for Eintracht, alongside returning to the Bundesliga, the 30-year-old will be hopeful of making his way back into the fold for Germany.

Low, who guided Germany to that World Cup triumph in the crowning achievement of his 15-year tenure, says Gotze has the talent to earn a place in Hansi Flick's Die Mannschaft team before the 2022 tournament in Qatar in November.

"He has all the qualities for it," Low told Sky in Germany. "He will play in the Champions League again, he is the focus here in the Bundesliga and wants to impress for the World Cup."

Gotze scored 12 goals and added 11 assists across all competitions for PSV in the 2021-22 season, playing in 52 games, with reports linking him to Serie A champions Milan.

Eintracht swooped in as Oliver Glasner looked to bolster his squad to compete in Europe, but the Germany international's arrival came as a surprise to Low.

"Of course I didn't expect Mario to return to Germany, not at this point in time," he added.

"But I'm very happy for Mario and Eintracht. Mario is an exceptional player, very professional and with his great playing intelligence, he fits in very well with Eintracht."

Vinicius Junior announced his desire to stay at Real Madrid, claiming they are the most "united" since he arrived in 2018.

The 21-year-old Brazilian enjoyed a breakthrough year this past season, providing 17 goals and 13 assists in Real Madrid's LaLiga title triumph, before scoring in the final to claim the club's 14th Champions League.

He has two years left on his contract but is expected to extend until 2026, turning down reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

In anticipation of a contract renewal, Vinicius cited the atmosphere at the Santiago Bernabeu as a critical factor in his growth.

"I will continue in the biggest team in the world," he told Sport TV. "It's the most united team since I arrived. The celebrations were different this year. We all felt something special. 

"Younger people arrived with Rodrygo, [Eder] Militao, [Eduardo] Camavinga and me. Everyone likes each other and that's important.

"It's the best atmosphere in the world. Everybody wants to be there. The most experienced give us peace of mind and freedom to do what they want."

In the meantime, Vinicius has become a more regular figure for the Brazil national team, playing in seven of the Selecao's final 11 World Cup qualifiers and starting in five of them.

Despite his own burgeoning status, the 21-year-old revealed he will still be looking to defer to the talismanic Neymar later in the year in Qatar, as Brazil seek a sixth World Cup title.

"He is our best player," Vinicius said. "The rivals always focus more on him and he asks us to run into space because he has great quality to find us. He does everything for me, he is a great friend.

"The pressure is greater for him being older. He calls it responsibility. He also takes it away from us, from those who are arriving. Playing for the national team is a lot of pressure, but we're getting used to it."

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."

Mohamed Salah has achieved "nothing" with Egypt and the Liverpool star must raise his level when featuring for the national team, according to former Pharaohs coach Hassan Shehata.

In response, Egypt's former sports and youth minister Khaled Abdel Aziz defended the forward, calling him a wonderful ambassador and unifying figure for the country.

Salah scored 31 goals and provided 15 assists across all competitions for Liverpool as they won the EFL and FA Cups last season, also finishing as runners-up in the Premier League and Champions League.

But the forward experienced a more frustrating campaign on the international front, as Egypt lost the Africa Cup of Nations final on penalties to Senegal in February and suffered the same fate in March's crucial World Cup qualification play-off – with Salah missing from the spot in the latter contest.

Those disappointing results have led Shehata, who coached Egypt from 2004 to 2011 and won consecutive Africa Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008, and 2010, to call for improvements from Salah.

"We all know that Salah is one of the stars of the world and not just one of the stars of Egypt," he told Sada al-Balad. "The awards he took and the goals he scored give him the right to be the top star.

"But technically, and I'm sorry to say this, Salah has done nothing with the national team. He should have done much better than he has. He must provide more when he plays for his country."

However, Shehata did admit Salah was playing with inferior players when joining up with the national team, and said it was up to coaches to get the best from the 30-year-old after Egypt put in a series of dull displays at this year's Cup of Nations.

"It's true [that there is a difference in quality compared to Liverpool]," Shehata said. "He should have said this to the officials here - although he is not the one who chooses the players - but he should've said that the players here are not like the players in England."

Shehata's criticisms have not gone unnoticed in Egypt, with the country's former sports minister Aziz defending Salah's role on and off the pitch.

"Mohamed Salah was one of the most important soft forces that returned life in Egypt to normal after the [2013] June 30 revolution," he wrote on Twitter, alongside an image of himself with the Liverpool star.

"He was a wonderful global ambassador for his country in a difficult political period and led the national team to the World Cup after 28 years [in 2018].

"And despite the suspension of the league [after deaths occurred amid stadium violence in 2015] and then the league of the two groups, he led the team to the final of Africa [Cup of Nations] 2017 after three consecutive times we did not qualify at all."

Egypt are seeking their third head coach of the calendar year after sacking Ehab Galal after only three games at the helm last week, just two months on from Carlos Queiroz quitting the role.

Ryan Giggs has resigned as manager of the Wales national team.

Giggs stepped back from his role as Wales boss, which he assumed in 2018, in November 2020 after being arrested of suspicion of assault. He was charged with assaulting two women by Greater Manchester Police in April 2021.

The former Manchester United winger was replaced by Robert Page for Wales' campaign at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, with the caretaker boss since leading the team to qualification for the World Cup later this year.

Giggs was originally due to face trial on January 24 this year after being charged with causing actual bodily harm to a woman in her 30s and common assault of a woman in her 20s, but his case was adjourned until August 8 due to a lack of court space.

The 48-year-old has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to the charges, as well as to one count of controlling and coercive behaviour.

He announced on Monday he was stepping down to allow the team to prepare for the World Cup without any distractions.

"After much consideration, I am standing down from my position as manager of the Wales men's national team with immediate effect," read a statement issued by Giggs.

"It has been an honour and a privilege to manage my country, but it is only right that the FAW, the coaching staff and the players prepare for the tournament with certainty, clarification and without speculation around the position of their head coach."

In the statement, widely reported by UK media, Giggs said: "I do not want the country's preparations for the World Cup to be affected, destabilised or jeopardised in any way by the continued interest around this case. I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed some unforgettable moments during my three years in charge of the national team.

"I am sad that we cannot continue this journey together because I believe that this extraordinary group will make the country proud at our first World Cup since 1958.

"It is my intention to resume my managerial career at a later date and I look forward to watching our national team alongside you in the stands."

In a separate statement, the Football Association of Wales said: "The FAW places on record its gratitude to Ryan Giggs for his tenure as manager of the Cymru men's national team and appreciates the decision he has taken, which is in the best interests of Welsh football.

"The full focus of the FAW and the Cymru men's national team is on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year."

Brazil coach Tite declared "it's time to be champions" as the Selecao eye World Cup success in Qatar.

Tite's side coasted through South American World Cup qualifying, going unbeaten as they booked a place at this year's showpiece tournament.

Brazil have not won the World Cup since 2002, their fifth triumph overall, and will first have to contend with Serbia on November 24 before clashes against Switzerland and Cameroon follow in Group G.

Argentina are another force in the battle for the trophy, with the Copa America champions undefeated in 33 games – the longest intact unbeaten run in international football.

Holders France will also prove stern competition, while England, Belgium, Spain and Germany are among the favourites for success.

But Tite insists it is time for Brazil, who have overtaken Belgium at the top of the world rankings, to deliver.

"I'm expectant but focused. We reached the World Cup; now it's time to reach the final and be champions. This is the truth," he told The Guardian. 

"At the last World Cup I was the manager because of other circumstances [Dunga was fired in 2016 and Tite took over].

"Now I have had the opportunity to do the full four-year cycle. Expectations are high but the focus is on work. The pressure we face is a problem: the responsibility, the pressure of the position, the demands.

"When I was a supporter, I wanted the team to be the best. It's what moves us. But mental health is important. I think about what [Nelson] Mandela said: 'Courage is the ability to face fear'. 

"In every decision he made, fear was present. When I read that, I saw that I am a normal citizen. I have my fears, my nightmares, my little goosebumps. Fear but not dread; fear and dread are different."

Vinicius Junior has come to the forefront for Real Madrid in the 2021-22 campaign, but Tite believes Neymar remains the main star for Brazil.

"Neymar is Neymar. He remains our biggest star. The difference now is that the glow is diluted by nearby stars that can also shine," he added.

"Neymar's greatness is that he understands this – about the growth of these kids. He encourages the boys to go up a level. Time and experience provide this maturity.

"Because of Neymar's greatness, there will always be great expectations. But now it's diluted. It's Neymar, but also Vinícius, Raphinha; Thiago [Silva] is at a high level again, Paqueta, Casemiro, Fabinho too."

Tite has come into criticism during his spell as Brazil boss, particularly after a quarter-final exit at the 2018 World Cup, but he believes the questioning of his methods is unfair.

"We need time to understand. Works are best seen when they are at a distance, finished. We have results," Tite said.

"What people are expecting? We beat the record [for the most points] in the qualifiers. We have the longest unbeaten streak, 12 games [under Tite in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup] and now 17 games without a loss [in the 2022 qualifiers]. That is 29 games."

Kylian Mbappe and French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet have cleared the air over an image rights issue that could have disrupted France's World Cup preparations.

Le Graet indicated on Saturday that Mbappe has agreed for now to accept the existing collective agreement that governs rights for the France team as a whole.

Image rights are an increasingly lucrative market, and Mbappe is well aware of his own value after recently committing to a three-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain, snubbing Real Madrid. He is thought to have agreed to some of the most lucrative terms ever offered to a footballer.

With Les Bleus, though, there is a collective agreement that means each player receives the same amount in image rights income.

It was reported that lawyers for Le Graet and Mbappe met at the end of May to discuss that position, with the player's representatives saying an agreement was struck that will see a review of the terms that were drawn up in 2010. That now appears set to come after this year's World Cup.

Le Graet spoke about the matter after the federation's general assembly, telling a news conference: "I saw Mbappe by himself, then Mbappe at Clairefontaine [the national team headquarters], Mbappe in a group, then all the players."

According to RMC Sports, Le Graet added: "The conclusion remains: no change until the World Cup, perfect equality between all players. Frankly, there is no major problem to deal with.

"On the contrary. It was done in a very friendly manner with him, first, then the old soldiers of the federation, the players."

Mbappe had said in May that the matter would be handled "with intelligence and respect", as he sought greater control over where his image is used.

The 23-year-old striker has scored 27 goals in 57 internationals for reigning world champions France, becoming the leader of his generation of players.

He was a World Cup winner with Les Bleus as a teenager in 2018 and, with Karim Benzema, will carry the main goal threat for France at the Qatar 2022 finals in November and December.

Rodrygo has revealed that international team-mate Neymar wants him to inherit Brazil's famous number 10 shirt when the Paris Saint-Germain star retires from international football.

The Selecao are seeking to win a first World Cup title in 20 years in Qatar, where an impressive forward line is set to include Neymar, along with Real Madrid duo Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior.

Neymar had already hinted that the 2022 tournament could be his last and appears to have relayed that message to his compatriots, with Rodrygo apparently in line to inherit the iconic number 10 shirt.

"Neymar said to me 'I'm already leaving the national team and the 10 is yours'," he told Podpah.

"I didn't even know what to say to him. I was embarrassed, I giggled and didn't even know what to say properly.

"I told him that he must play some more, that I didn't want [him] to [do so] now. And then he laughed."

Neymar is the latest in a long line of greats to grace the famous shirt for Brazil, following the likes of Zico, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Pele – while he sits just three goals shy of the latter's goalscoring record for his national team.

Expectations are high for Rodrygo, who has been capped five times, and the 21-year-old revealed that Zinedine Zidane has also touted him to become the best player in the world.

"Zidane said that one day I would be the best in the world," he added.

"Carlo Ancelotti also spoke about me. I try to train and evolve every day to get there. I was very happy. 

"I have this dream and I know that if I dedicate myself every day, I can get there."

Brazil open their World Cup campaign on November 24 against Serbia, with Switzerland and Cameroon also in Group G.

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