Jack Grealish was "buzzing" when Gareth Southgate decided to remain as England manager after the World Cup, and believes that call will reap rewards at next year's Euros.

England start their qualifying campaign for Euro 2024 on Thursday when they face Italy, who beat the Three Lions in the Euro 2020 final, before hosting Ukraine three days later.

It will be England's first encounter since their World Cup quarter-final defeat to France in December.

Southgate was considering his future ahead of England's campaign in Qatar, but elected to stay on, sticking with a contract that expires next year.

The decision proved to be a popular one among the England squad, with many of the players having been given their debut by Southgate, who has been in charge since 2016.

"I was buzzing," Grealish told reporters. "Gareth called me up to my first squad, he gave me my debut and he has given me chances to play for my country – it's the best thing that can happen to you as a player.

"Go and ask anyone in that changing room what they think of Gareth and they would all say the same. He is a brilliant manager and a brilliant person as well.

"I can't speak highly enough of him for what he has done for me."

Euro 2024, hosted by Germany, will be Southgate's fourth major tournament as England manager and Grealish thinks that experience will help the Three Lions go all the way after their heartbreak in 2021.

"We have come close so many times," said the Manchester City star. "The last three tournaments have been a semi-final, a final and then the quarters.

"I think it is obvious what we want to do and I think we are getting better and better. Players are coming through and playing with so much confidence.

"I feel like the next one really could be our one. Everyone will be in their prime. I actually feel old at the moment but when I think about it, I will only be 28 at the Euros.

"It's no secret that we all want to win a tournament – and I do think it is there to be done."

 

After impressing at the delayed Euro 2020, Grealish became the most expensive English player when he joined City from boyhood club Aston Villa for £100million.

Having struggled to hit his best form during his debut season, his sophomore year has seen much improvement. Grealish has scored three goals, set up a further seven and created 61 chances for team-mates from 36 appearances, 28 of which have been starts.

He added: "I feel I am in the best form since I moved to City. I feel a bit like I did when I was at Aston Villa.

"I feel like one of the main players and it is the fittest I've been. That comes down to playing a lot of games on the bounce and playing in big games and making an impact, like scoring against Arsenal and [Manchester] United and getting assists at Chelsea away and Arsenal in the cup.

"I'm really confident at the moment. [Pep Guardiola] is trusting me in big games and I do feel I have repaid him, played my part, done well."

England full-back Ben Chilwell revealed how tough he found missing last year's World Cup through injury.

A hamstring problem saw Chilwell watching his national team colleagues from home rather than playing alongside them in Qatar last year.

The Chelsea defender argued that there is too much of a stigma around discussing mental health, in men's football especially.

Chilwell, who disclosed he has been "talking to someone" to benefit his mental well-being, is now back in the England squad as the Three Lions hope for a strong start to their Euro 2024 qualification campaign.

Reflecting on his injury, Chilwell said: "Of course mentally it was very challenging.

"I've been talking to someone for a few years now.

"I think the stigma around it is silly really, especially with men and men in football in particular.

"The way it has helped me, it can definitely help everyone. The stigma around it is something that needs to go.

"All footballers go through periods of their career where things are mentally challenging.

"You have got to be resilient, be strong and try to come through it. That is the way I have tried to look at injuries I have had, spin them into positive situations where I can better myself mentally and physically."

Chilwell's Chelsea team-mate Reece James also missed the World Cup through injury.

For Chilwell, that was something of a blessing in disguise.

He added: "In a weird way it was nice we had each other during that time because it was someone you could share the pain of missing a World Cup with.

"We helped each other a lot through that experience."

The pair returned to Gareth Southgate's latest squad for matches against Italy and Ukraine, and after England went winless in their last Nations League campaign, Chilwell insists qualification is not being taken for granted.

"We're confident that we will qualify and with the talent we have in the squad we're going to do everything to do that," he said.

"But we know we have to work hard to do that. I don't think that sort of mentality really needs to be told.

"The senior players don't need to be telling the younger players that we need to qualify."

England face Italy in Naples at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Thursday before hosting Ukraine three days later.

What Zlatan Ibrahimovic likes most about Qatar is everything.

He made that point in a Sweden press conference on Tuesday, giving 10/10 ratings to all aspects of the World Cup experience and saluting the country's lack of crime and drug problems.

The 41-year-old Milan striker had no part to play in the Qatar 2022 finals, owing to Sweden's failure to qualify, but he was a guest at the final, being pictured at the Argentina versus France showpiece game along with tennis superstar Novak Djokovic.

Asked for his impressions of the tournament and the country as a whole, Ibrahimovic said: "It was fantastic. As awesome as it gets. I was there for two days with the family."

He gave a rundown of his ratings for all aspects he encountered, saying: "The organisation: 10 points. The experience: 10 points. The match: 10 points. Crowd: 10 points. The food: 10 points. The journey: 10 points. Everything was 10 points."

When it was pointed out to Ibrahimovic that Qatar has faced criticism over alleged human rights abuses, Ibrahimovic stuck to his theme and gave a final mark to the country.

"Ten points," he said.

Pressure groups have claimed women and people from LGBTQ+ communities are particularly badly treated in Qatar, along with migrant workers.

Amnesty International said ahead of the World Cup that hundreds of thousands of such workers had been exploited, pointing to thousands dying suddenly or unexpectedly.

The same organisation said last week that "many thousands of workers have been unable to obtain compensation for horrific abuses linked to the World Cup", calling on football's world governing body FIFA to ensure this is rectified.

Qatar has been accused by its critics of attempting to 'sportswash' its reputation by putting on a successful major event that runs smoothly and paints the country in a positive light internationally.

Ibrahimovic will not be levelling such an accusation at Qatar's door, though, because he had a 10/10 time during his stay.

Speaking in a further interview with broadcaster SVT, the former Barcelona, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain striker added: "I think they have given opportunities to get a job. Then how they treated them, I haven't been there and seen, so I can't judge and answer those questions."

Ibrahimovic played for PSG during the early years of the Qatar Sports Investments era at the Parc des Princes, and Qatari club chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi joined him and Djokovic in their World Cup final photo.

The veteran Swede therefore has that close connection, and Ibrahimovic said: "Qatar as a country, I think it is a system that works. Are there drugs? No. Is there crime? No. Is there crime in Sweden? Yes, very much. Drugs? Yes.

"Qatar's system works. The Swedish system? It works, but if it works 100 per cent, I don't know."

Didier Deschamps wants to put a lid on the public spat with Karim Benzema that has rumbled on since the World Cup.

France head coach Deschamps lost Benzema from his Qatar 2022 squad on the eve of the tournament when the Ballon d'Or winner and Real Madrid captain suffered a thigh injury.

According to Deschamps, Benzema said he would not be able to return to the France camp to take part in the latter stages of the tournament.

As it turned out, Benzema was back in training with Madrid in early December, and that led to speculation he might make a dramatic return for Les Bleus, as they chased a successful trophy defence.

That did not happen, with Benzema absent as France lost on penalties to Argentina in the final on December 18.

Deschamps told Le Parisien this month that he had spoken with Benzema after the striker had an MRI scan after his injury blow, and the then 34-year-old declared his World Cup hopes to be over.

According to Deschamps, the coach told Benzema there was no need to rush his departure, but the next day he made an early exit.

"When I wake up, I learn that he is gone," Deschamps said in the newspaper interview. "It's his decision, he won't tell you otherwise, I understand and respect it."

Benzema, who announced his international retirement on the day after the World Cup final, also his 35th birthday, swiftly attempted to counter Deschamps' version of events.

He responded in a series of posts on his Instagram stories, posting a clown emoji alongside the comment: "What audacity."

In another message, he posted "Sacred Didier" alongside a video of a well-known French social media figure repeatedly accusing someone of being a "liar".

Speaking on TF1 show Telefoot on Sunday, Deschamps refused to nudge the saga along.

Deschamps said: "I am not in the controversy. I needed to speak to say what had happened. But that is a thing of the past for me."

Benzema was set to be involved for Real Madrid against Barcelona in Sunday's LaLiga Clasico at Camp Nou, and he will then have a break while internationals take place over the coming fortnight.

It was claimed by RMC Sport on Sunday that Benzema will play no part when France mark a number of international retirements on Friday, when Les Blues host the Netherlands in a Euro 2024 qualifier.

Those whose careers for Les Bleus are expected to be celebrated include Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane and Steve Mandanda.

Meanwhile, France have lost two players for the Netherlands game and a trip to face the Republic of Ireland on the following Monday, with Arsenal's William Saliba and Chelsea's Wesley Fofana pulling out of the squad due to injury.

Monaco's Axel Disasi and Nice's Jean-Clair Todibo have been called up as replacements.

Gareth Southgate saw no need to lift Harry Kane after the striker's penalty miss sent England out of the World Cup.

Kane missed a spot-kick late on against France in the quarter-finals, having previously beaten his Tottenham team-mate Hugo Lloris from 12 yards in a thrilling clash that Les Bleus won 2-1.

Yet that failure has not seemed to disrupt Kane's fine season with Tottenham. The 29-year-old has scored 10 goals since the season resumed, with his latest coming against Southampton on Saturday.

And Southgate never felt he had to "pick up the phone" to his captain, who matched Wayne Rooney as England's record goalscorer with his successful penalty against France.

"I don't think it's a big hurdle really," Southgate said of Kane, who has been named in England's squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine.

"I had a good chat with him while we were away. I sent him a message before he went back to his club and then I took a step back and had a look at how it was, and I haven't really felt the need to pick the phone up.

"It is there in his performances for Spurs. Sometimes you can busy yourself and look for a pat on the back by getting in touch with a player but I can't take any credit for what he's done."

Kane became Spurs' leading goalscorer in the club's history when he netted against Manchester City in February, surpassing the great Jimmy Greaves.

"What I've observed is a player still super-confident, still ready to perform, still hungry to score goals," Southgate continued.

"He's obviously gone through the personal landmark with Spurs and then there's this one that he's going to nail with us at some point.

"I actually spoke to him earlier this week, but I've been able to take a step back and let him get on with it. Sometimes there's no need to interfere."

Other players who have overcome a setback while on England duty to thrive at club level this season are Arsenal's Bukayo Saka and Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.

Both enjoyed strong World Cups, having failed to score from the spot in the penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

Saka has scored 10 goals and assisted a further nine in the Premier League for leaders Arsenal, while Rashford has netted 27 times for United.

"[He] makes me smile. You feel a warmth," Southgate said of Saka.

"You feel a fabulous human being who has broken his way into the team at Arsenal at a time they weren't playing so well – and excelled. Now here they are pushing for the title – and he's excelling again.

"He's recovered from the obvious setback with us. He has the warmth of the fans with him who can see what he's about, can see the genuine nature of his personality.

"He's a top player. He's more and more of a goal threat, he's creating chances, he is totally reliable without the ball. He's a proper team player. I can't speak highly enough of him."

On Rashford, Southgate enthused: "You can see the confidence. He is benefiting from the environment at the club.

"He's in that flow that every player and athlete wants to be in. You can't remain in it forever and you have to try to get back into it when you are out of it, but he is definitely in that moment and he must feel super-confident."

Zlatko Dalic has been rewarded for Croatia's third-place finish at the 2022 World Cup with a new contract that runs through the 2026 edition.

Initially appointed on a short-term deal in 2017, Dalic has proven highly successful in the role.

He first secured qualification for the 2018 World Cup, which earned him a full-time contract, and then led Croatia's 'golden generation' all the way to the final before a 4-2 defeat to France.

But arguably more impressive was their run to the World Cup semi-finals in Qatar last year, going deep into the tournament despite a perception of their squad being significantly less talented than four years earlier.

Croatia's hopes of lifting the trophy were ended by eventual winners Argentina, though their 2-1 win over Morocco in an entertaining third-place play-off ensured they went home with the bronze medal.

"Zlatko Dalic absolutely fulfilled all of the goals that were set before him in these five and a half years, and at the same time he signed two magnificent achievements at the World Cup in Russia and Qatar and led Croatia to silver and bronze medals, thus becoming our most successful coach in history," Croatian Football Federation president Marijan Kustic said.

"Therefore, I am extremely pleased that we have agreed on the continuation of the cooperation that has been absolutely brilliant so far."

Dalic added: "I have pointed out many times that this job is the greatest honour and the greatest pleasure I can have as a coach, and I am truly looking forward to the future with the Croatian national team.

"Regardless of the wonderful successes we have already achieved, I have great passion and ambition to continue working with Croatia and I believe that there are still many great challenges ahead."

Dalic will now hope to make a strong start to Euro 2024 qualification when Croatia face Wales and Turkey later this month, before turning their attention to the Nations League finals – they face Netherlands in the semi-finals in June.

England manager Gareth Southgate had doubts over his future ahead of the World Cup but is now targeting Euro 2024 success.

The Three Lions reached the quarter-finals in Qatar, losing 2-1 to eventual runners-up France, though had up to that point been one of the most impressive teams in the tournament.

Yet his position had been called into question in some quarters given England's poor form prior to the World Cup.

After starting 2022 with friendly wins over Switzerland and Ivory Coast in March, England failed to win any of their six Nations League matches, with their campaign including a humbling 4-0 home defeat to Hungary.

A 3-3 draw with Germany in September gave Southgate cause for optimism, but he conceded he came close to calling it a day.

"The doubts I had came before the [World Cup], really," Southgate told reporters after naming his squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine.

"I spoke about this a couple of months ago so I'm going over old ground, but I never wanted to be a divisive figure, in terms of me doing the job affecting the performance of the team.

"Then there would be a debate where people say 'I'd rather you lose so you're gone'. I did worry before the World Cup whether I should say I was going at the end, to allow the team the freedom to play.

"I decided not to do that, because when we left Wembley after the Germany game there was an uplift with the mood, and we've always known where we stand with the players.

"I also wanted to show that you've got to come through tough spells as a manager, I'm not going to duck a challenge just because there's criticism.

"But if there's not the level of support and it starts to affect the team, that's something I'm conscious of and that was my thought well ahead of Qatar."

Having committed to staying on for the Euros in Germany next year, Southgate is now looking for a fresh start as he set out his aim for England to go a step further than they managed in the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, when they lost to Italy on penalties in the final.

"I think it's right to assess after a tournament," he added. "We have to start from scratch.

"We have some great experiences over the last few years, which mean being European champions is a realistic aim.

"But we're starting from the beginning again, and we've got to find the hunger to qualify.

"We've got two crucial games and we need everybody firing for two really difficult qualifiers."

Southgate stuck with the majority of his World Cup squad for the first fixtures of 2023, though Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben White both missed out, with Conor Coady replaced by March Guehi.

Ivan Toney was included despite an ongoing Football Association (FA) investigation into alleged breaches of gambling rules, while Raheem Sterling was absent due to injury.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has set a target for prize money at the 2027 Women's World Cup to be equal to payouts at the men's tournaments.

Infantino, who was re-elected at Thursday's FIFA congress after running unopposed, also denied there is a deal for Visit Saudi to sponsor the 2023 Women's World Cup, to be held in Australia and New Zealand.

The prize money for the 2023 World Cup is set to be $150million (£124m), a rise of 300 per cent from the 2019 tournament, with the number of competing teams increasing to 32 from 24.

The 2022 men's World Cup in Qatar involved prize money totalling $440m (£365m).

Infantino said that "broadcasters and sponsors have to do more" and be willing to pay more into the women's tournament, adding: "FIFA is receiving between 10 and 100 times less from public broadcasters for the women's World Cup than the men's World Cup. Do you think that is normal?

"At the same, these public broadcasters who are paid by the taxpayers' money, they criticise FIFA, a bit less the others, for not guaranteeing equal pay to men and women.

"You pay us 100 times less but your viewing figures are very similar, maybe 20-25 per cent less, not 100 per cent less. Well offer us 20 per cent less or 50 per cent less, but not 100 per cent less. How can we do it, otherwise?"

Regarding reports Saudi Arabia's tourism arm was due to sponsor this year's tournament, which sparked concern from football authorities in Australia and New Zealand, Infantino confirmed talks had taken place but said a deal was not reached.

"I can clarify that there were discussions with Visit Saudi," the FIFA president said. "At the end, this discussion didn't lead into a contract. How do you say it? It was a storm in a water glass. A storm in a teacup."

Infantino expressed his belief there had not been as much backlash around trade deals between Saudi Arabia, which has been criticised for alleged human rights violations, and Australia.

"This doesn't seem to be a problem," Infantino said. "But between a global organisation like FIFA and Visit Saudi this would have been an issue. There is a double standard here, which I really don't understand."

He added: "There is no issue and no contract. There are discussions and of course we want to see how we can involve Saudi sponsors in women's football generally, how we can involve Saudi sponsors in men football, or we can involve Qatari sponsors in women's football and men's football, and all other sponsors from all over the world."

The chief executive of Football Australia, James Johnson, was pleased to hear Infantino's comments, saying: "Equality, diversity and inclusion are really deep commitments for Football Australia, and we'll continue to work hard with FIFA to ensure the Women's World Cup is shaped in this light."

Christian Pulisic has expressed sympathy for Gregg Berhalter amid what he considers a "childish" saga involving Giovanni Reyna's family and the erstwhile United States head coach.

Berhalter's contract with US Soccer expired at the end of December, with the governing body putting any decision on his future on hold amid an investigation into claims he kicked his wife in a 1992 altercation.

The allegation – which Berhalter has admitted to – was brought to US Soccer's attention by Reyna's mother Danielle, who was angered by Berhalter's treatment of her son at last year's World Cup.

Reyna had limited playing time at the tournament, after which Berhalter suggested the Borussia Dortmund youngster was almost exiled from his squad due to poor behaviour.

US Soccer has appointed Anthony Hudson as interim boss, but it also confirmed Berhalter remains under consideration for a new deal when announcing the findings of the investigation this week, and national team winger Pulisic sympathises with the coach.

"I'm not here to appoint the next manager – it's not my job – and whoever it is, I'm going to play and give it 100 per cent," Chelsea's Pulisic told ESPN.

"Everything that happened with Gregg, first of all, has been handled in an extremely childish manner. I think we've seen what's been going on.

"I think it's childish, it's [like] youth soccer, people complaining about playing time. I don't want to go too far into that, but I think Gregg has been extremely unfortunate to get into the position he is in now."

The USA earned plaudits for their energetic performances as they reached the last 16 in Qatar last year, having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Asked whether the team required major changes, Pulisic said: "I don't think it's necessary. We are not in a phase like we were after not qualifying, where we needed a complete rebuild.

"We don't need a bunch of new guys coming in. We have a strong core in my opinion, people have seen that and we need to carry on with that.

"It's a tough one for me because we should continue that as soon as we can and build off this World Cup, which I think had a lot of positives in it. We want to get going with that as soon as we can."

Gianni Infantino believes there should be "way more" football as he defended FIFA's expansion of the World Cup and new Club World Cup proposal.

Infantino was re-elected as FIFA president at the FIFA Congress on Thursday after running unopposed.

FIFA confirmed earlier this week that the 2026 World Cup will consist of 48 teams, up from 32, split into 12 groups of four, while plans were also confirmed for an expanded Club World Cup containing 32 teams.

Speaking at the Congress in Rwanda, Infantino said: "When I hear there is too much football, yes, maybe in some places, but not everywhere. In fact, in most parts of the world there is not enough football played.

"We need way more and not less competitions, we want football to develop worldwide.

"We are discussing organising a women's Club World Cup and a FIFA World Series in March every two years, when teams are free from playing qualifiers."

He also later pointed to the English football calendar as well as the Super Cup tournaments in Italian and Spanish football, believing that there is less criticism of others from the media than there is of FIFA, which was a theme of the president's closing remarks.

Infantino also addressed previous controversial comments he believed had been falsely reported, including at the World Cup where he accused reporters of racism for criticising the host country of Qatar.

"I think I called racists those who were qualifying fans who had different skin colour of fans who were cheering European teams as not real fans, that's when I used the word 'racist', and I stick to that," he said.

He had also appeared to compare his refusal to give up on becoming FIFA president with Rwandan genocide in his opening remarks on Thursday, but was quick to quash this suggestion when it was put to him by The Athletic's Matt Slater at the closing press conference.

"I find it really incredible that you can interpret what I say as making an association with one of the most terrible tragedies that happened with anything that happened in my life," he said.

"I would never make a comparison with a tragedy and my life. What I want to say is that this country is so inspiring for so many people that when we come with our little problems, we should just be a bit more humble about things. That's all that I said."

LaLiga has spoken out against FIFA over plans to reshape the structure of the 2026 World Cup into four-team groups.

Football's governing body had originally intended to have 16 groups of three teams after expanding from 32 to 48 nations for the tournament jointly hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

However, following the Qatar 2022 edition, plans to maintain the current four-team system resurfaced and have now been rubber-stamped at FIFA's annual congress.

The decision has enraged LaLiga however, with the competition set to expand to 104 games from 64.

LaLiga has also objected to plans for a new international club tournament, which will join an expanded Club World Cup on the football calendar. The latter is due to take place every four years starting from 2025, but an as-yet-unnamed additional event is set to take place annually alongside it.

"Following the announcements made today at the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, LaLiga states that FIFA continues its malpractice of making unilateral decisions on the world football calendar," read a statement.

"[FIFA is] showing complete disregard for the importance of national championships, and the football community in general. FIFA completely neglects the economic damage these decisions inflict on leagues around the world.

"Leagues were not consulted about any of the changes presented, especially about the new annual club competition, of which we were completely unaware, and which seriously affects our competitions.

"These decisions do not take into account the competitive, sporting and economic impact on national leagues, clubs and players, by further cramming an already overloaded schedule.

"LaLiga and other leagues represented in the World Leagues Forum will analyse FIFA's decisions and decide on the most appropriate next steps."

Under the three-team World Cup group structure, all nations would have played two games before the top pair from each group would have proceeded to a round-of-32.

Now however, the eight best-ranked third-place sides from 12 groups will also be included in the mix, with the revised format ensuring every side plays at least three games.

It also means those who reach the final will play eight games, including the showpiece match itself, one more than teams who reach the end of the tournament currently partake in.

The 2026 World Cup will maintain the four-team group stage format rather than change to three, FIFA has confirmed.

With the next iteration of the tournament in the United States, Mexico and Canada seeing the number of competing teams increase from 32 to 48, the intention had been to have 16 groups of three teams.

However, it is believed the exciting nature of the group stage at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar prompted a rethink, and it has now been confirmed that the four-team groups will continue, with the top two in each group and the eight best third-place teams going through to the knockout stage.

FIFA said in a statement on its website: "Based on a thorough review that considered sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team and fan experience, the FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the FIFA World Cup 2026 competition format from 16 groups of three to 12 groups of four with the top two and eight best third-placed teams progressing to a round of 32.

"The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams."

It was also announced at FIFA's council meeting in Rwanda that the next men's World Cup final will take place on Sunday, July 19, 2026 as the men's international calendar from 2025-2030 was confirmed.

Further details will be "published in the coming days", but FIFA was able to confirm some headline information from the calendar, including plans to have a 16-day, four match international window in late September/early October from 2026.

It was also confirmed that the women's international calendar from 2024-2025 will "contain six international windows per year".

Gregg Berhalter remains under consideration for a new contract as United States head coach following an investigation into a 1992 domestic altercation with his wife, U.S. Soccer has confirmed.

Berhalter revealed in January he was the subject of an investigation pertaining to an incident in which he pushed and kicked Rosalind Berhalter, then his girlfriend, in a nightclub when they were both freshmen at the University of North Carolina.

It was subsequently revealed the incident was reported to U.S. Soccer by Giovanni Reyna's mother Danielle, who was angered by Berhalter's treatment of her son at last year's World Cup.

Reyna enjoyed limited playing time at the tournament, after which Berhalter suggested the Borussia Dortmund man was almost exiled from his squad due to poor behaviour in Qatar.

Berhalter's contract with U.S. Soccer expired at the end of December, though he said he was hopeful of returning to the post as a probe into the domestic altercation was announced.

While that investigation has concluded Berhalter did kick his wife, the legal firm that carried it out has advised U.S. Soccer there is no legal impediment to re-employing him.

A statement from U.S. Soccer read: "Upon learning of a serious allegation of past misconduct against then-U.S. Men's National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter, U.S. Soccer immediately engaged a team at Alston & Bird LLP to conduct an independent investigation into the matter. 

"U.S. Soccer takes seriously both allegations of violence and allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards our officials and staff.

"U.S. Soccer's process for determining who will serve as sporting director is ongoing, and interviews are underway. The sporting director will lead the process of determining who will serve as head coach of the Men's National Team. 

"Given the investigators' conclusion that there is no legal impediment to employing him, Gregg Berhalter remains a candidate to serve as head coach.

"The report also identifies a need to revisit U.S. Soccer's policies concerning appropriate parental conduct. We will be updating those policies as we continue to work to ensure safe environments for all participants in our game."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino committed to avoiding conflict over OneLove armbands at the Women's World Cup, promising to "have a position in place well before" the tournament begins.

A number of national teams at the Qatar 2022 men's World Cup, including Denmark, England and Germany, were planning to support the campaign that promotes inclusivity and opposes all discrimination.

Their captains were intending to wear an armband bearing the OneLove logo, but the teams backed down when FIFA threatened sporting sanctions – expected to be a yellow card for the captains.

The decision to host the World Cup in Qatar attracted criticism due to the country's stance on same-sex relationships, as well as the treatment of migrant workers.

Australia and New Zealand will co-host the women's tournament in July and August of this year, and senior figures from both countries have questioned what they believe is FIFA's intention to have the Visit Saudi tourism authority as a tournament sponsor.

Like Qatar, Saudi Arabia's position on rights for women and LGBTQ+ people has also been called into question by human rights groups. Both countries have been accused by critics of 'sportswashing', the attempt to bolster their international reputations by becoming closely involved with sport at the highest level.

Infantino was asked about the OneLove armbands on Saturday, following a meeting of football law-makers the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

He said: "What I can say on this issue is I think we all went through a learning process there [at the Qatar World Cup].

"What we will try to do better this time is to search and look for dialogue with everyone involved – the captains, the federations, the players generally, FIFA – from all over the world to capture the different sensitivities, to explain, to exchange, and to see what can be done in order to express a position, a value or a feeling that somebody has without hurting anyone else.

"In a positive way, we are looking for a dialogue and we will have a position in place well before the Women's World Cup, I hope so."

Human rights group Amnesty International was among the bodies that poured scorn on FIFA's position in Qatar.

Infantino was also asked about FIFA's progress on reviewing its transgender eligibility policy.

The world governing body said last year it was looking again at its rules and receiving help from experts in the matter, which has been a matter of great contention across sport.

It remains to be seen whether players who identify as female but were born male will be allowed to play at the Women's World Cup.

Infantino said: "There is no update yet, but also there we want to be as clear as possible as soon as possible, not to leave it until the end. On all these topics we need to learn our lesson and be a bit faster."

Manchester United teenager Alejandro Garnacho is set to win his first cap for Argentina as the world champions named their squad for their first matches since the Qatar success.

Lionel Scaloni's men beat France 4-2 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the World Cup final in December as Lionel Messi won international football's premier tournament for the first time in his decorated career.

The Paris Saint-Germain star is set to add to his 172 appearances for Argentina after he was named in Scaloni's squad for the friendlies with Panama and Curacao later this month.

But a fellow forward looks likely to play for La Albiceleste for the first time, with Garnacho's excellent form since breaking into the United squad this season earning him a maiden call-up.

The 18-year-old has registered eight goal involvements in 27 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils this term, becoming an important part of their squad as they enjoy a successful first season under Erik ten Hag.

Angel Di Maria is named in the 35-man squad after scoring Argentina's second in the World Cup final, while shoot-out hero Emiliano Martinez also features.

Martinez's Aston Villa team-mate Emiliano Buendia is included while Enzo Fernandez, who joined Chelsea from Benfica in the January window for a British-record £106.8million (€120.6m), retains his place.

Argentina squad: Franco Armani (River Plate), Geronimo Rulli (Ajax), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa); Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Nehuen Perez (Udinese), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Lautaro Blanco (Elche); Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Enzo Fernandez (Chelsea), Maximo Perrone (Manchester City), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Facundo Buonanotte (Brighton and Hove Albion), Thiago Almada (Atlanta United), Giovani Lo Celso (Villarreal), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion), Valentin Carboni (Inter); Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paulo Dybala (Roma), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla).

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