Canada could cause an upset at the Qatar World Cup, with Chicago Bears kicker Cairo Santos suggesting they will "fly under the radar" in a similar fashion to Croatia.

The Maple Leafs secured a long-awaited return to the biggest tournament in world football with a 4-0 victory over Jamaica in Toronto on Sunday.

It ends a 36-year exodus from the World Cup, since Canada's only previous appearance was at Mexico 1986, where they lost all three group-stage matches without scoring against France, Hungary and the Soviet Union.

But Santos – the NFL's first Brazilian player and a keen footballer as a child – feels Canada will have nothing to prove to themselves when they step out onto the pitch later this year looking to make history, drawing comparisons with 2018 finalists Croatia.

"They're certainly a team that are going to be flying under the radar," Santos told Stats Perform. "They haven't been to the World Cup.

"The World Cup is part of some history that comes with a team, and when you step on the field, the history plays a big part, too.

"If they can be that story that we saw... Croatia kind of did that at the last World Cup. So, why not Canada? They've got some exciting players, too.

"I'll be following them. Maybe we'll see a US-Canada rivalry at some time in the World Cup, too. What a time that will be."

The United States will join Canada in the finals if they avoid a heavy defeat away to Costa Rica in their final CONCACAF qualifier.

USA and Canada, along with Mexico, are hosts of the 2026 World Cup, with their sides building towards that tournament in recent years.

Led by English coach John Herdman, Canada made the semi-finals of the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup in their best result in 14 years.

 

South America has not produced a World Cup-winning side for two decades because so many of their players are spread across the globe, Colombia coach Reinaldo Rueda has suggested.

Brazil were the last nation from the continent to win the biggest prize in football, triumphing at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Since then, Italy, Spain, Germany and France have all won the title, with only Argentina coming close from the CONMEBOL confederation when they finished second at Brazil 2014.

Brazil and Argentina will be among the favourites at Qatar 2022 later this year following superb qualification campaigns, alongside a host of familiar European rivals chasing success.

Asked ahead of Colombia's final qualifying clash with Venezuela this week – in which they must at least draw and rely on results elsewhere, too, to make an inter-confederation play-off – Rueda offered an explanation for why CONMEBOL sides have come up short over the past four editions.

"Without doubt, [players playing in Europe] has always been our biggest worry, the problem that we have in South America," Rueda stated. "I have said so many times.

"South America, with the potential and talent that it has, we are approaching now 20 years without a World Cup winner because of that situation.

"Because our biggest talents go to Europe and for some of them, it is difficult, depending on the percentage of those players that are in the national teams, to respond in the same way.

"Then players coming from Europe must attend two or three tournaments. South America has been a victim of this problem in the last 20 years

"That has been a factor that explains why strong national teams haven't been able to consolidate good performances and to win a world title that hasn't happened since 2002."

Roberto Mancini has revealed the decision to release several senior Italy faces such as Jorginho is to help repay the efforts made between club and country.

The Chelsea midfielder, along with a clutch of other key players such as Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, have left the Azzurri camp ahead of Tuesday's clash with Turkey.

Defeat against North Macedonia last week left the Euro 2020 hopes' of reaching Qatar 2022 in tatters, ensuring they will miss a second successive World Cup.

With that in mind, Mancini looks set to field a more experimental side for a dead rubber against Turkey, who were also eliminated from the play-offs.

Speaking ahead of the match at Torku Arena, Mancini explained that it was on his orders that Jorginho and others departed early, stating that it was intended as a favour to their respective clubs.

"I forced them to leave," the manager sought to clarify in his pre-match press conference. "If I can do something for them and for the clubs, we do it.

"They would not have played. Some were not physically at their best. Some of them, I forced them to go.

"Chelsea sent us Jorginho three days earlier [and] did not let him play in the FA Cup. I sent [him] back home because [he] would not have played."

Jorginho has endured a tough few months in the Azzurri fold, with his crucial missed penalties against Switzerland in the group stage qualifiers effectively costing his side a straight passage to Qatar.

While Mancini added that neither Napoli forward Insigne or Lazio striker Immobile would have featured against Turkey, but still paid tribute to their contributions.

"Lorenzo had physical problems [and] Immobile would have gone to the stands," he stated.

"The boys in recent years have deserved a lot. There are special players here, a special group has been created."

It's almost taken for granted that the best players in football appear at the biggest tournament of them all, the World Cup.

But look a little closer, and we can see that is just not the case. Every four years there are a handful of big names who miss out, usually those born to countries without the same footballing pedigree as the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Spain.

There are even countless greats who, down the years, have failed to register a single appearance at a World Cup finals. Either they've been something of an anomaly in terms of the quality available to their country at a given time, injury has struck, or the coach simply hasn't picked them. Alfredo di Stefano, Ryan Giggs, George Best, Eric Cantona all enjoyed illustrious careers without playing in a World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robert Lewandowski have at least all appeared at previous editions of the tournament, so this week's qualifying climax in Europe isn't exactly the only opportunity they have to ensure they represent their respective countries on the grandest stage.

But, given their ages, it has to be considered likely that Qatar 2022 will be the last World Cup at which any of them appear.

Waiting to make their mark

Ibrahimovic and Lewandowski have, obviously, enjoyed incredible careers. At club and international level, both have titles and records practically coming out of their ears.

Lewandowski already has more caps (128) and goals (74) for Poland than anyone else ever, while Ibrahimovic is Sweden's all-time top scorer (62).

Historically, both strikers are their respective nations' most-recognisable footballers, and surely the most talented they've ever produced.

Yet, one cannot say either of them has ever caused much of a stir at a World Cup.

Of course, neither Ibrahimovic nor Lewandowski has ever played in a senior international team that would be considered a challenger for major honours – in fact, each of them has only ever featured at one World Cup.

Ibrahimovic was a part of the Sweden team that got to the last 16 of the 2006 edition, while Lewandowski made his World Cup bow four years ago in Russia.

Sweden coach Janne Andersson opted against offering Ibrahimovic a way out of international retirement ahead of the 2018 World Cup, but he did eventually return in March last year. He will be 41 by the time Qatar 2022 comes around in November.

Lewandowski will be 34, so it's by no means outside the realm of possibility that he'll make an appearance in 2026, particularly if we look at Ibrahimovic's longevity.

But there won't be room for both of them in Qatar. Tuesday's play-off final in Chorzow pits Poland and Sweden against each other for the right to secure passage to the finals and what could be a last World Cup appearance for one of these two all-time greats.

No one will be expecting Sweden or Poland to go deep into the tournament, given neither has been beyond the last eight since 1994. But it would seem a travesty if players as good as Lewandowski and Ibrahimovic never managed to score at a World Cup.

Primed for World Cup number five, unless…

While Ibrahimovic and Lewandowski are still waiting to make a memorable impact at a World Cup, Ronaldo will be featuring at a fifth assuming he and Portugal qualify.

Ronaldo first appeared at the 2006 World Cup, something few England fans will forget given his role in Wayne Rooney's sending-off during their quarter-final tussle. Portugal went on to win 3-1 on penalties after a 0-0 draw, with Ronaldo netting the decisive spot-kick.

They finished fourth that year, but in the three tournaments since, Portugal haven't got beyond the last 16.

While Portugal's success at Euro 2016 means Ronaldo should never have his international legacy questioned in future, that World Cup record must be something he is keen to improve.

Additionally, Qatar 2022 looks likely to be the last time a certain rivalry can dominate headlines in a major tournament.

Lionel Messi has already helped Argentina secure a place and, given their 30-match unbeaten run and the fact they head to Qatar as South American champions, there's every reason to expect La Albiceleste will be an entirely different proposition compared to the team at Russia 2018.

While Messi and Ronaldo have shown signs of decline this term at club level, they remain fundamental for their respective national teams – but this surely won't be the case in 2026.

Qatar 2022 should offer Ronaldo the chance to boost his World Cup goals record of seven in 17 games. While by no means poor, a player of such self-belief will surely be aiming for more.

 

Those leading the way appear out of reach, barring an utterly freak showing from Ronaldo. Miroslav Klose (16) holds the record for most World Cup goals, while the 'other/original/Brazilian' Ronaldo is just behind on 15. Then there are other greats Gerd Muller (14), Just Fontaine (13) and Pele (12).

Reaching double figures would seem a realistic target and at least put him in great company, with only 13 players reaching 10 World Cup goals in the tournament's history.

Similarly, that would also make him Portugal's most-prolific World Cup player, with Eusebio currently holding that record thanks to his nine strikes, all of which came in 1966.

Of course, it's by no means a given that Ronaldo or Portugal will make it. Up next for them on Tuesday in their play-off final are North Macedonia.

Fernando Santos' side will undoubtedly favour themselves, but North Macedonia have already shocked European champions Italy – who's to say they can't stun Portugal as well?

Mexico have all but secured qualification for the World Cup after a 1-0 away win over Honduras on Sunday.

Fourth-placed Costa Rica's 2-1 win in El Salvador earlier in the day meant Mexico could not immediately join Canada in sealing their spot in Qatar, but victory on the road means El Tri are on the brink.

With the top three CONCACAF sides gaining automatic qualification, third-placed Mexico sit three points clear of Costa Rica and have a four-goal advantage, meaning only a defeat at home to El Salvador on Wednesday and a significant goal swing will put Tata Martino's men in trouble.

Mexico had 70 per cent possession in the first half against Honduras but failed to create any clear-cut opportunities.

They upped the intensity after half-time, with Hector Herrera, Jesus Corona and Hirving Lozano all creating chances in the first 10 minutes.

Edson Alvarez eventually found the breakthrough in the 70th minute, heading in from Herrera's corner.

With Costa Rica playing second-placed USA in their final qualifying game, even a draw against El Salvador will see Mexico through to their eighth consecutive World Cup.

Christian Pulisic scored a hat-trick as the United States thrashed Panama 5-1 on Sunday to all but secure their place at the 2022 World Cup.

While still not officially assured of a spot in Qatar, only an implausible six-goal midweek defeat to Costa Rica would prevent Gregg Berhalter's side from returning to the tournament after missing out four years ago.

Costa Rica's 2-1 win in El Salvador earlier in the day meant USA were unable to join Canada in making absolutely sure of their qualification, though they went about their business professionally in Orlando.

Pulisic opened the scoring in the 17th minute from the spot after Anibal Godoy was penalised for grappling with Walker Zimmerman, and soon after it was 2-0 as Paul Arriola headed in Antonee Robinson's delivery.

Jesus Ferreira made it 3-0 just before the half-hour mark with a close-range finish and Pulisic ensured they went into the break four up thanks to his second penalty of the day – Godoy was again the guilty party, fouling Miles Robinson.

Pulisic completed his hat-trick in style with 65 minutes played, producing a lovely touch to turn and then convert, though a late Godoy consolation prevented Zack Steffen keeping a clean sheet.

USA need only a point on Wednesday to ensure they are in Friday's World Cup draw, though in reality they could lose 5-0 to fourth-placed Costa Rica and still qualify due to their superior goal difference.

Canada boss John Herdman said his team are "only getting started" after they ended the country's 36-year wait to get back to the World Cup.

The head coach is an Englishman, but he has a tight bond with Canada having previously led the women's team with distinction.

It meant Herdman was full of emotion after a 4-0 win against Jamaica in Toronto on Sunday guaranteed Canada's place at Qatar 2022.

"I still can't believe it," he said. "I've been preaching this belief, but when it finally happens I'm speechless.

"Canadians... we've won Champions League finals, we've got a kid [Alphonso Davies] playing in Bayern Munich, and we've got Canadians playing at all levels in Europe, and we've got Canadians going to a World Cup.

"We're a football country, that's all we ever wanted. We wanted that respect. We wanted people to believe we were a football country, and we've proved it.

"We're coming, we're only getting started here. What a privilege it has been as a coach. I'm proud for all of these people here."

Les Rouges have been the standout team in the CONCACAF section, and a first World Cup appearance since Mexico 86 now awaits them.

Speaking on Sportsnet, midfielder Jonathan Osorio said: "It's a dream come true. We all dreamed of this as little kids and as a Canadian that was impossible.

"And today the impossible happened. It's an incredible feeling."

Defender Richie Laryea added: "It's crazy, it's a great feeling. These guys, everyone on this team worked so hard for this moment. To do it here in Toronto where a lot of the guys are from, it's f****** incredible."

Osorio is a Toronto FC stalwart, and Laryea, who plays in England at Nottingham Forest, said of him: "This guy's done a lot for this programme. He's led the way. It's special to see him do this for club and country. For him to have that moment, it's big for all of us but especially him and his family. Everyone here knows who he is, so it's great."

Canada have qualified for the 2022 World Cup thanks to a 4-0 win over Jamaica in their penultimate qualifying match.

Les Rouges have been the standout team in the CONCACAF section and their participation in Qatar had long seemed a formality.

But having passed up the opportunity to make sure of their place at this year's tournament earlier in the week with their 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, they eventually got the job done on Sunday.

Cyle Larin settled any early nerves with a clinical finish from Stephen Eustaquio's incisive pass in the 13th minute, and although Canada were rather wasteful thereafter, they deservedly made it 2-0 thanks to Tajon Buchanan's tap-in just before half-time.

Junior Hoilett's smart finish eight minutes from time was then added to late on by an Adrian Mariappa own goal as the celebrations began in Toronto.

Canada had been absent from the World Cup since the 1986 edition in Mexico, which was also their only previous appearance at the tournament – they played three matches and lost all of them.

But having unearthed something of a 'golden generation', John Herdman's side head to Qatar as no pushovers.

The Maple Leafs have suffered just one defeat in the third and final round of CONCACAF qualifying, form which has seen them beat both the United States and Mexico at home and draw away to their two biggest qualification rivals.

They climbed up to 33rd last month when the most recent world rankings were announced, making it the highest Canada have ever been on the FIFA ladder.

Regardless of the USA's and Mexico's results later on Sunday, Canada need only a point away to Panama in their final qualifier on Wednesday to win the group.

Gareth Southgate is not worried about the prospect of Harry Kane struggling with pressure as he closes on Wayne Rooney's England goals record.

Kane scored the winner as the Three Lions beat Switzerland 2-1 in Saturday's friendly at Wembley, converting a penalty 12 minutes from time.

It took him level with Bobby Charlton on 49 goals for England, meaning only Rooney on 53 is now ahead of the Tottenham star.

Rooney, who coincidentally broke Charlton's initial record with a penalty against Switzerland in 2015, was considered by many to have passed his peak when he reached 50 goals, as he only went on to score another three.

There was also a degree of obsession around the achievement in the lead up, with the idea that Rooney struggled somewhat with the pressure a common theory.

Whether that truly was the case, only Rooney knows, but Southgate is convinced Kane will not be impacted in such a way.

Asked if he wanted Kane to break the record before the World Cup so it does not become a distraction, Southgate jovially replied: "I'd like him to break it in the World Cup final!

"I think he's quite calm about it, confident he can get there because his goals per game record is phenomenally good.

"I don't know where that would compare to Jimmy Greaves, but I imagine he's the only other player who'd be close [to Greaves], so I think he knows there's always going to be speculation.

"If he doesn't break it before [the World Cup] then [the country] will be saying he's out of form and should he be in the team.

"One way or another, the focus will be on him – he's used to dealing with it and I'm sure he'll be very calm about it whichever way."

But in the eyes of Southgate, there is much more to Kane than just his goals, with the England manager delighted to have such a talent who also acts as an example with his attitude.

"I think the names he's amongst now are incredible, aren't they? He'll appreciate that history and it'll mean a lot to him to be in with those people," Southgate said of Kane pulling level with Charlton.

"You'd have to say he looks favourite to go and do that [break Rooney's record], I don't want to put any sort of curse on that and say any more, but he wants the team to do well.

"He has this dual drive. What's great is that means that whenever he turns up, because he also has the individual ambition, there's never a camp where he doesn't look like he wants to play, or doesn't want to be involved or at the forefront of things.

"That's the mentality that then spreads through the rest of the group, so I'm very pleased for him and I think in the second half especially we were just about value for the win."

England are in action again on Tuesday when they host Ivory Coast. Three days later they will find out their opponents at Qatar 2022 when the World Cup draw is made.

Harry Kane appreciated being alongside "amazing company" after joining Bobby Charlton on 49 goals for England with his penalty in a 2-1 win over Switzerland. 

England fell behind to Breel Embolo's opener at Wembley on Saturday but Luke Shaw equalised on the stroke of half-time and Kane converted a winner from the spot after Steven Zuber was adjudged to have handled the ball following a VAR review. 

The Tottenham striker now sits joint-second on the all-time goalscoring list for the Three Lions, with only Wayne Rooney (53) ahead of him. 

Kane's penalty was his 14th in international football – five more than any other England player – and the 100th the country have scored in all competitions.

"It is amazing company to be with," Kane told Sky Sports of moving level with Charlton. 

"[I'm] super proud to be doing that but we look forward to the next one. A big year ahead to get more caps and more goals. I will be ready for Tuesday [against Ivory Coast] but it is down to the manager." 

He added: "You have to be ready for any chance at any moment. Penalties are a great way of getting on the scoresheet, I practice and work on them a lot." 

Gareth Southgate handed debuts to Marc Guehi, Kyle Walker-Peters and Tyrick Mitchell and Kane was pleased to get the win with a number of less experienced players in the squad. 

"Tough game. A big year ahead and a chance for us to try different systems and formations to see how we get on. I felt it was a good performance but room for improvement but a good win to start the year," he said. 

"We rotated the squad, new faces getting debuts and these are the games you have to try stuff. There is not a lot of time between now and the World Cup. 

"The new boys did great, really well. Marc Guehi got the penalty and good to see the young players coming on. You want to start your England career with a win and thankfully we did that." 

England began their World Cup year with a 2-1 friendly victory over Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday thanks to Harry Kane's late winner.

The Three Lions were by no means spectacular, but Gareth Southgate will in all likelihood be content as they got the job done despite fielding a somewhat unfamiliar starting XI.

Nevertheless, Southgate may have expected more from a first half that Switzerland had by far the better of, with Breel Embolo's headed opener one of nine shots to England's two.

But a fierce Luke Shaw hit right before the break had the hosts level at the interval.

The hosts enjoyed greater control in the second half and eventually dealt the decisive blow via Kane's penalty, his 49th international strike, leaving him behind only Wayne Rooney (53) for the most England goals.

Victory looked unlikely for a while, however. The Three Lions found themselves trailing after 22 minutes as Embolo nodded in from Xherdan Shaqiri's right-wing cross.

It would have been 2-0 a few moments later were it not for Jordan Pickford, whose sharp reflexes ensured Fabian Frei's goal-bound effort was pushed onto the crossbar.

Ricardo Rodriguez's long-range strike forced Pickford into action again late in the half, before Embolo scuffed the rebound wide.

England capitalised on those let-offs on the stroke of half-time when Shaw ran on to Conor Gallagher's cut-back and smashed home from 20 yards.

Shortly after the restart, Kane's attempted lob from a tight angle came back off goalkeeper Jonas Omlin's face and debutant Marc Guehi's glancing header at the resulting corner flew agonisingly wide.

England's belief grew as the half progressed and Kane made no mistake from the spot late on after Steven Zuber handled Guehi's header inside the box.

The CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying format is too tough on the players, with Thiago Silva keen for an alternative that can aid performance to be found. 

In the current system, South American teams play one another twice in a single group for a total of 18 matches. The top four qualify for the World Cup, with the fifth-placed team entering a play-off against a team from Asia. 

Given the scale of the continent and the fact many players ply their trade with European clubs, huge distances need to be traversed and matches can be played at significantly varying altitudes and temperatures in the space of just a few days. 

Brazil centre-back Silva believes a change is needed, with FIFA having reportedly met with some players to discuss what a new format could look like for the first 48-team World Cup in 2026. 

"It's not the 18 games, but the travelling we do. It's a lot of mileage compared to the Europeans, who play close together," Silva was quoted as saying by Globo Esporte. 

"There's a lot of wear and tear, in addition to the climate, which is totally different from what we are used to in Europe. 

"Me and the team had a hard time training in Teresopolis, which is colder than Rio de Janeiro [where Brazil played Chile on Thursday]. This can hinder performance. 

"If we could somehow find a balance in these trips, it would certainly facilitate our stay and our performances. 

"It's definitely unnecessary wear and tear, in my opinion." 

After defeating Chile 4-0 in the heat of Rio on Thursday, Brazil play their final qualifier against Bolivia at over 3,500 metres above sea level on Tuesday.

Leonardo Bonucci has no doubt Italy will recover from their World Cup qualifying humiliation to be a major power once again, pointing out they produced a similar response not so long ago.

Italy were incredibly defeated 1-0 by North Macedonia in Thursday's Qatar 2022 qualifying play-off semi-final, with Aleksandar Trajkovski's stoppage-time winner stunning world football.

Roberto Mancini's men had dominated the match, but Trajkovski's speculative long-range effort left Azzurri players and coaching staff looking dismayed.

It marked a monumental change in fortunes from last year when a largely unfancied Italy side won Euro 2020, which was seen a huge achievement given their absence from Russia 2018.

As such, this will be the first time in World Cup history Italy have missed consecutive tournaments, with their failure to reach the 2018 edition instigating something of rebuild of the senior set-up.

Mancini has seemingly escaped much of the criticism, with many fans of the opinion he overachieved significantly when guiding them to European Championship success last year, and Bonucci appears to be confident Italy will respond swiftly and efficiently.

Bonucci, who missed Thursday's defeat due to injury, wrote on Instagram: "The two emotions are at opposite ends. The great euphoria and joy of the summer [at Euro 2020] are clearly contrasted with the disappointment and bitterness of this exclusion, exacerbated even more by not being able to help my team-mates for those 90 minutes.

"Now is the time to look ahead. Last summer we took the credit and praise for having done something unique; today we must take responsibility for not having earned the passage for our own demerits, more than for the merits of others.

"It is time for concrete and in-depth analysis to start over, to give Italy and the Italians what they deserve.

"We have done this before. And the climb has already begun, for me, for us.

"It will be hard to get back to the top, but we have already shown that we know how to get there. The future is now!"

 

Angel Di Maria said "thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you" to the Argentina fans after playing what he expects to be his final international match on home soil.

Di Maria scored one and created another in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela at La Bombonera on Friday – La Albiceleste's 30th consecutive match without defeat.

Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Lionel Messi was the beneficiary of Di Maria's assist and, with Argentina already sure of their place in Qatar, suggested after the match he would consider his international future following the World Cup.

Di Maria was slightly more definitive in his own post-match comments, as the 34-year-old reflected on "a wonderful night".

"I'm just going to say thank you for the enormous love I have received," he wrote on his Instagram page.

"I always dreamed of everything I lived on this beautiful night. It was probably my last match with this shirt in Argentina, and being able to say that it was a wonderful night is an understatement.

"Thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you.

"Now to congratulate the whole team for the great match that was played, a perfect match by all. We continue growing and dreaming together. Let's go Argentina!!!"

Di Maria has earned 121 caps and scored 24 goals since his Argentina debut against Paraguay in 2008.

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United winger is in line to go to his fourth World Cup, although he has scored only twice and failed to provide an assist across 13 appearances in the previous three.

In his final major tournament, Di Maria will hope to repeat his Copa America heroics, having scored in July's final against Brazil to secure Argentina their first silverware with Messi in the side.

Friday's assist for Messi was Di Maria's first in qualifying for Qatar – from 13 chances created – yet only the captain and Lautaro Martinez (both seven) can top his three goals in this campaign.

Roberto Mancini has "worked miracles" in charge of Italy and should not be hounded out of the role after their stunning failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

That is the view of former Italy international Antonio Cassano, who described the current Azzurri vintage as "mediocre", citing last year's Euro 2020 triumph as proof of Mancini's brilliance.

Italy suffered a shock 1-0 loss to North Macedonia on Thursday to miss out on the World Cup for a second edition in a row, with some pointing the finger of blame of boss Mancini.

However, Cassano, who played 39 times and scored 10 goals for his country, said those critics "should be ashamed".

"Let's face it: our national team is a mediocre team and Mancini took them to the top of Europe last summer, making a miracle, playing in a way never seen before," he told Bobo TV. 

"I am truly sorry for Roberto, whoever asks for his resignation should be ashamed.

"We should all pray that Mancini will remain at the helm of the national team, he is the lifeline of Italy.

"[Ciro] Immobile, [Lorenzo] Insigne... many players seemed to me in difficulty. Italy has a mediocre team and Mancini had worked miracles so far."

The 39-year-old, who last played for his country in 2014, said Italy had been missing a talisman since Christian Vieri left the international stage in 2005.

He said: "Bobo, we haven't had a striker in the national team since you left."

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