Boubacar Kamara's hopes of making France's World Cup squad have been severely dented after Aston Villa confirmed the versatile midfielder has suffered knee ligament damage.

Kamara limped off the field during the first half of last week's 1-0 loss to Southampton and was forced to withdraw from France's squad for their games with Austria and Denmark.

Villa provided an update on the injury on their official website on Friday, though they did not offer a timeline for his recovery.

According to French outlet L'Equipe, Kamara – who joined Villa on a free transfer from Marseille in the recent window – is expected to face two months on the sidelines.

Should that be the case, the 22-year-old is almost certain to miss out on the France squad for the World Cup, which begins on November 20.

Kamara has been capped three times by France since earning his first call-up at the end of last season.

Villa are also awaiting news on the injury sustained by full-back Lucas Digne while away on international duty with Didier Deschamps' side.

Boubacar Kamara's hopes of making France's World Cup squad have been severely dented after Aston Villa confirmed the versatile midfielder has suffered knee ligament damage.

Kamara limped off the field during the first half of last week's 1-0 loss to Southampton and was forced to withdraw from France's squad for their games with Austria and Denmark.

Villa provided an update on the injury on their official website on Friday, though they did not offer a timeline for his recovery.

According to French outlet L'Equipe, Kamara – who joined Villa on a free transfer from Marseille in the recent window – is expected to face two months on the sidelines.

Should that be the case, the 22-year-old is almost certain to miss out on the France squad for the World Cup, which begins on November 20.

Kamara has been capped three times by France since earning his first call-up at the end of last season.

Villa are also awaiting news on the injury sustained by full-back Lucas Digne while away on international duty with Didier Deschamps' side.

England captain Harry Kane hopes to spread a "broader message" to make a "step forward" at the Qatar World Cup, where the striker and nine other skippers will wear anti-discrimination armbands.

The Three Lions forward has joined with captains from the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Wales as part of the OneLove initiative.

As England prepare to face Italy and Germany in the Nations League, Kane's decision to promote the movement to empower inclusion and diversity was the main talking point.

A distinctive heart-adorned armband will show England's stand against discriminatory practice in Qatar, where same-sex relationships and promotion of same-sex relationships are criminalised. 

"I talked to some captains on the human rights issue in Qatar, surely if we act together we can bring a broader message," Kane told reporters.

"The players can do a lot given the importance of the World Cup, we hope to make a step forward on this front."

England cannot reach the Nations League finals after disappointing in Group C1, with Gareth Southgate's side having gone winless in their first four games.

Defeat to Italy, who played out a goalless draw in the reverse fixture at Molineux, would condemn England to relegation on Friday and Kane knows it is vital his side must return to winning ways.

"Certainly determination characterises us, we have to get back to playing well," he added. "For four years we have been formidable and we know that the last few matches in June were not positive, but we are preparing to better manage the two months remaining until the World Cup.

"Tomorrow's match will not be easy at all, but we want to win this race to also improve for the World Cup."

Italy will not feature at the World Cup in November after missing out on a second straight edition of the global competition following play-off defeat to North Macedonia.

With Germany to follow for England after their clash in Milan, Kane insists the challenges against Roberto Mancini's side and Hansi Flick's team will provide a marker for the upcoming World Cup.

"We played against the best teams and tomorrow we will play again against one of them," he continued.

"Tomorrow's match will be very useful for the World Cup, we must try to impose our game and it will help us to practice at our best.

"We talked within the team about this possible relegation, but there are still two games. Relegation is possible, but it must not affect the determination with which we will take the field."

Ronald Koeman claimed an attempted move to bring Georginio Wijnaldum to Barcelona fell through after president Joan Laporta delayed a deal.

The Dutchman, who was fired by the LaLiga outfit last October after 14 months in charge at Camp Nou, struggled at times on the Barcelona bench and was replaced by Xavi.

Koeman, who will embark on a second spell as Netherlands head coach after the World Cup in Qatar, has confirmed he attempted to bring in compatriot Wijnaldum during the final transfer window of his Barcelona tenure.

However, Koeman contends that president Laporta, then recently returned to the position as Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor, stymied any move by dragging his heels.

"I tried to sign Wijnaldum for Barca, but I failed because the president wanted to play with me more than bring in a player," Koeman told Dutch newspaper AD.

"That delayed the operation, and for that reason, he opted for PSG. Otherwise, he would have played for Barcelona."

Wijnaldum left Liverpool in June 2021 to join Paris Saint-Germain, but he struggled across a dismal first season, resulting in him being loaned out to Roma for the current campaign.

A serious leg injury has since left Wijnaldum sidelined, however, making it highly unlikely he will be included in the Netherlands' squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Luka Modric says he is not thinking about any international retirement call ahead of Croatia's Nations League clash with Denmark.

The Real Madrid veteran is looking to skipper his country through to next year's finals in their last major pre-Qatar 2022 World Cup run-out.

Four years on from reaching the final at Russia 2018, Modric is among the elder statesman of the world game on the pitch, at 37, with many wondering if this year's tournament will be his international swansong.

But speaking ahead of their Group A1 encounter at Stadion Maksimir, the playmaker has poured cold water over any imminent exit talk and suggested whatever decision he makes will likely wait for the new year.

"I'm not thinking about that," Modric stated. "I haven't made any decisions. I'm focused on the Nations League.

"We have an opportunity to qualify for the last four, then we have the World Cup and then we will see.

"I'll try to make the best decision. At that that time, I'll talk with our head coach, with the people I trust. I'm not thinking about that at the moment."

Between Croatia's hopes of a finals spot stands Denmark, atop Group A1 and out to follow up last year's Euro 2020 semi-final with another impressive tournament run.

Modric is under no illusion what challenge they possess, adding: "Denmark is an excellent team. I think the biggest strength is the unity of the group itself.

"There are many excellent players, like [Christian] Eriksen or [Pierre-Emile] Hojbjerg from Tottenham. [But] their biggest strength is the group.

"[It is] the togetherness, the fighting spirit, and we need to perform the same way if we want to achieve a good result."

Everyone is presumably looking forward to more talk of football "coming home" when the World Cup kicks off in November, with England among the favourites to win the tournament for the first time since 1966.

However, the Three Lions have had a stinker of a Nations League campaign in 2022, having failed to win any of their four games in June.

A 1-0 defeat in Hungary was followed by a draw in Germany thanks to a late Harry Kane penalty, before a dull 0-0 at Molineux against Italy and an abysmal performance in their 4-0 defeat to Hungary at the same venue.

Three months on from that chastening loss in Wolverhampton, manager Gareth Southgate picked his squad for the final two Nations League games against Italy and Germany, and while there was a new face in Brentford striker Ivan Toney, it was otherwise more of the same, with some notable absentees too.

In February, Southgate said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph: "I'm very conscious I've got to get the balance right because ultimately my responsibility is to produce a winning England team.

"I never pick on reputation; form has to come into it. You have to look at the opposition and the type of game you're expecting and select the players best suited to that."

It therefore raised some eyebrows when some players who have subjectively been somewhat out of form in the opening weeks of the season, and who were at the scene of the crime in previous disappointing England results, kept their places ahead of others who have stepped up their game domestically in recent weeks.

Stats Perform has taken a look at some who were perhaps lucky to get another call, and others unfortunate to miss out in the last Three Lions squad before the World Cup.

Who made it?

Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw

It makes sense to pair the two Manchester United defenders, as the reasons why they can consider themselves lucky to keep their international places are essentially the same.

Maguire and Shaw received their fair share of blame for United's poor showings in recent years, and it came to a head in the 4-0 defeat at Brentford in the second game of this season's Premier League campaign, having already lost at home to Brighton and Hove Albion.

New boss Erik ten Hag dropped both after that, and United have won four from four in the league since.

Left-back Shaw has been reduced to occasional substitute appearances after losing his starting spot to young Dutchman Tyrell Malacia, while Maguire has been ousted by France centre-back Raphael Varane.

The only game in the past five Maguire has started was at home to Real Sociedad in the Europa League, which United lost 1-0.

That is not to say the duo are solely responsible for the insipid showings from their team, but it also doesn't feel like purely coincidence Ten Hag's men's results immediately improved without them.

 

Jarrod Bowen

This might be a little harsh as Bowen was being championed by everyone to be included on form last season, which he was, featuring in all four Nations League games in June.

However, having scored 18 goals in 51 games in all competitions last season for West Ham, Bowen has managed just two in 10 this season, both of which have come in the Europa Conference League.

The Hammers have struggled for form this season, sitting in 18th place after seven games, so it would be unfair to blame Bowen, but he also failed to make much of an impact in any of his England appearances.

The door certainly should not be shut on an undoubtedly talented player, but it seems odd to see him back with the national team after a noticeable drop in form at a time when others in his position are excelling.

Jack Grealish

Arguably the player who causes most debate in England, Grealish will always feel too talented to leave out.

Comparisons to Paul Gascoigne seem lazy, but it's hard not to resort to them when you see him at his best, able to turn a game on his own if he finds that spark almost all other players lack.

Grealish had a poor first season at Manchester City, though, recording just 10 goal involvements (six goals, four assists) in 39 games.

He scored and played well in the 3-0 win at Wolves last weekend, but it was his first goal involvement in six appearances this season, and while he is clearly capable of being a key part of Southgate's team on his day, his form arguably does not justify inclusion at the moment.

 

Who missed out?

Ben White

The Arsenal defender is a difficult one to champion, frankly, because it's not clear what position you would be arguing for.

White did not really blow anyone away at centre-back in his first season with the Gunners but has thrived at right-back in Mikel Arteta's system so far this campaign.

If Southgate is to go back to his favoured three-at-the-back formation, White on the right of that would make sense, albeit Kyle Walker probably has the shirt right now.

White is improving all the time, though, and has played a big part in Arsenal winning six of their first seven Premier League games, and his versatility would be a bonus.

James Maddison

Possibly the man most justified in feeling miffed at missing out as, unlike the other three in this list, Maddison is rarely ever seen in an England squad, despite his output at club level.

Although he has been named in squads before, Maddison has just one cap, which came when he played 35 minutes against Montenegro in November 2019.

Like Grealish, Maddison can be seen as enigmatic, but his recent form for Leicester City speaks for itself.

He has been directly involved in 24 Premier League goals since the start of last season (15 goals, nine assists). The only English player with more in this time is Harry Kane (33) having made three more appearances than Maddison (44 to 41).

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford

As their United team-mates were paired up, it makes sense to do the same here, and because their turn around in form has synced up as the Red Devils have won five of their past six games.

Sancho struggled to make an impact in his first season back in England, with just eight goal involvements (five goals, three assists) in 38 games.

However, this season he already has three goals in eight matches, showing glimpses of his Borussia Dortmund form.

Rashford ended a run of 997 minutes without a goal in all competitions for Manchester United when he scored against Liverpool in August, and netted another two against Arsenal as his scoring touch returned at Old Trafford.

The duo were a part of England's squad that reached the final of Euro 2020, but both also played a part in the penalty shoot-out loss to Italy.

That does not mean they cannot be of use in Qatar, and it would seem foolish of Southgate to ignore players already proven at international level who seem to be peaking at just the right time for a mid-season tournament.

 

Ultimately, as Southgate said, it is his job to build a team he thinks can win games. It is hard to argue with a record that has seen England reach the final four of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020.

He also said "form has to come into it" rather than it being the be all and end all.

Rather than "reputation", perhaps Southgate is just picking players he knows, therefore allowing him full awareness of what he is going to get if he selects them. Heading into a World Cup is not really the time to be introducing unknown quantities.

The likes of White and Maddison will be well within their rights to blame the former Middlesbrough boss for them continuing to be relatively unknown to him, though.

Raphael Varane has hailed Ousmane Dembele's "extraordinary qualities" and believes the 25-year-old is finally "blossoming" at Barcelona.

Dembele has been a player reborn since Xavi took charge in November 2021, with his 17 assists in all competitions bettered only by Lionel Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time represent a league high.

The former Borussia Dortmund man also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga.

Dembele signed a new two-year deal with Barca in July, and Varane thinks the best is still to come from his compatriot.

"I'm very happy to see him at this level," he said. "We see him blossoming. He has extraordinary qualities.

"As a person, I always find him with the same joy of living, he brings this freshness to the group.

"He is also more calm, always quiet. He has managed to find the recipe for physical recovery, to feel better, and we are very happy.

"He had some difficult moments with some injuries that followed one another, but now we have the chance to see him having fun and enjoying himself on the field, so we are all very happy."

 

Varane also praised the impact of France team-mate Aurelien Tchouameni at his former club Real Madrid.

Tchouameni, who joined from Monaco in June for a fee that could rise to €100million, has started the season in impressive form for Carlo Ancelotti's side, and Varane believes he has the maturity to keep on getting better.

"I think we can welcome his lightning adaptation in a club like Real Madrid," the Manchester United defender said.

"I know from experience how difficult it is. He has the maturity and the qualities for it, so hats off to him. He is a very complete player. He has the ability to defend well, protect the defence, and also the ability to organise the game.

"He does not hesitate from his first selections to ask for the ball, to impose the tempo in midfield. For his young age, he is already very mature, and I wish him to stay the course, to continue like this, because what he is doing is already extraordinary."

Wales captain Gareth Bale is confident he will be fully fit for the start of the World Cup despite concerns over his lack of game time for Los Angeles FC.

Bale has only started two matches since making the move to MLS at the end of his time with Real Madrid. 

But the forward allayed worries over his fitness with the World Cup in Qatar on the horizon.

"We have a plan in LA with what we're doing," said Bale, who has reported for international duty for Nations League encounters with Belgium and Poland.

"We're not doing too much straight away.  But we're being clever and building myself up for the last important part of the season. Hopefully, that should put me in great shape for the World Cup."

Bale was hampered by injury problems during his time with Madrid and says it is important to manage his workload.

He added: “The most important thing is to take each week as it comes.

“It's taken a little while to get everything sorted, but I am playing games and have been training for the last 10 weeks and getting stronger.

"Hopefully that will be good enough for me to help LAFC and, ultimately, be ready for the World Cup."

Wales boss Rob Page echoed Bale’s sentiments, saying it would be foolish to take any chances.

He said: "We've always had a common-sense approach with Gareth with regards to his planning and training. It'll be no different on this camp. I'm not going to jeopardise it and run the risk of him getting injured. 

"I want him to go back to his club fully fit, and continuing to get fitter ahead of the World Cup."

England have joined a host of other nations in pledging to their allegiance to the OneLove campaign against discrimination ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

The Three Lions will join the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and Wales in supporting an initiative designed to promote inclusion before and during this year's tournament.

Starting with their UEFA Nations League trip to Italy on September 23, captain Harry Kane will wear a distinctive heart-adorned armband to show the team's stand against discriminatory practice.

Kane will be among the skippers who will also have the OneLove armband on in Qatar, where same-sex relationships and promotion of same-sex relationships are criminalised. 

"I am honoured to join my fellow national team captains in supporting the important OneLove campaign," Kane said.

"As captains we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we stand together against all forms of discrimination.

"This is even more relevant at a time when division is common in society. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching."

Sweden and Norway, who have not qualified for the World Cup, will back the campaign during this month's Nations League matches.

The World Cup in Qatar is now just two months away and the first international break of the season is the final opportunity for squads to convene before coming together for the tournament.

In Europe, the Nations League offers competitive action in the build-up to Qatar, while teams elsewhere will face friendlies.

With a mid-season window and just one break before the action commences in November, it presents a challenge for any new faces to establish themselves in their international side before the squad for the World Cup is selected.

Some have been handed glorious opportunities though and Stats Perform has assessed some of the newcomers.

 

Ivan Toney

England's main striker role is nailed down by skipper Harry Kane but the role of understudy is a competitive one with the likes of Callum Wilson, Tammy Abraham and Ollie Watkins having earned opportunities – and Ivan Toney is the latest to join that list.

Quickly settling into life in the Premier League, Toney netted 12 goals for Brentford in their inaugural campaign last season but has hit new heights in 2022, scoring 13 goals this calendar year.

Toney doesn't just offer goals, though, as he has also contributed seven assists since August 2021, totalling 24 goal involvements (17 goals, 7 assists) in that period, with Kane (31) the only English player to have more in the Premier League.

This season, Toney has five goals and two assists for Brentford, with a tally of seven goal involvements only bettered by Erling Haaland (12) in the Premier League.

Nico Williams

Brother of Inaki Williams, capped once by Spain in a friendly before switching allegiances to Ghana, 20-year-old Nico Williams has been handed a chance by Luis Enrique, who insists the decision is not to ensure he doesn't follow in the footsteps of his sibling.

The right-winger has established himself in Athletic Bilbao's first-team and has made a firm impact this season, scoring twice – including in the recent 3-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano, which marked the first time both he and Inaki had scored in the same match.

Williams' role with Athletic will continue to grow, having only recently become a regular starter for the Basque side towards the end of last season and now starting five of Athletic's six LaLiga matches.

Securing a spot on the plane for Qatar will not be easy considering the vast competition, but Williams may get his opportunity due to his age, with a forward line of the future potentially being created alongside Yeremy Pino and Ferran Torres.

Kenneth Taylor

Only earning his first start for Ajax in the Eredivisie last season, Kenneth Taylor has become a mainstay in the side this term with five starts across six league appearances for the Dutch champions, following Ryan Gravenberch's move to Bayern Munich.

The 20-year-old has grabbed his opportunity with both hands, scoring three goals and contributing two assists in the league. His control on the ball has also been impressive, misplacing 41 of 352 passing attempts in the Eredivisie for an accuracy of 88 per cent.

In the Champions League, Taylor has yet find the net or contribute an assist, but he has caught the eye. In the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, he won three tackles, the joint-most in the Ajax side, and completed 92 per cent of his passes.

Those performances have earned Taylor a call-up to Louis van Gaal's squad ahead of Gravenberch, who has been capped 10 times by the Netherlands but has found playing time difficult to come by since moving to Bayern.

Enzo Fernandez

Only arriving at Benfica from River Plate ahead of the current season, Enzo Fernandez has quickly made an impression in Portugal, where he was named the Primeira Liga's Midfielder of the Month.

In the third qualifying round of the Champions League, the Argentine struck in both legs against Midtjylland and made a significant impression in the 2-1 group stage win against Juventus – with the most touches (92), pass attempts (71) and accurate passes (68) of his team, as well as the highest pass completion percentage (96%).

He also won 12 duels and won possession on 12 occasions, both tallies that were bettered by none of his team-mates.

His form has already seen him linked with Liverpool, just months after his arrival in European football, and the 21-year-old could be once to watch in Qatar if he secures a seat on the plane.

 

Borja Iglesias

At the age of 29, Borja Iglesias is finally poised to make his international bow with Spain after a sensational calendar year in which he has scored 18 LaLiga goals – with only Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (28) scoring more.

Six of those goals have come in the opening six matches of the 2022-23 season, from which Real Betis have won 15 points to sit behind only Barcelona and Real Madrid in the early-season standings.

Robert Lewandowski (8) is the sole player to score more LaLiga goals than Iglesias this season and he has averaged a goal every 103 minutes, though he is yet to feature in the club's Europa League campaign thus far.

Spain's lack of central striking options may well play into Iglesias' hands in his bid to make the World Cup squad, with the 28-man party for September's Nations League fixtures having only Alvaro Morata as the other natural option through the middle.

Everything appeared to be heading towards Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele parting on poor terms after a largely unsatisfactory association.

"Either he renews, or we look for an exit," Xavi said in January, fielding the latest in a series of questions about the winger.

With Dembele failing to agree to a new Barcelona contract at the start of 2022, director of football Mateu Alemany was even more forthright, declaring: "He must leave the club immediately."

Fast forward eight months, and the unpredictable attacker has emerged as a key cog in a revitalised Barca side, one tipped to compete with Real Madrid after making an unbeaten start in LaLiga.

Having been in the cold since Euro 2020, Dembele is also back in the France squad for their upcoming Nations League matches, with his sights set on claiming a spot in Didier Deschamps' party for the World Cup in Qatar.

Football loves a redemption arc, and that of Dembele in 2022 is up there with the very best in recent memory.

On the eve of his France return, Stats Perform looks at Dembele's journey from €105million flop to the creative hub of Xavi's side, asking whether a World Cup flourish is next for the winger.

Injury woes and the long shadow of Neymar

Barcelona's failings following Neymar's 2017 move to Paris Saint-Germain have been well-documented, with Dembele long viewed as the ultimate personification of the shambolic recruitment policy during Josep Maria Bartomeu's tenure.

The Blaugrana parted with an initial €105m for Dembele, who recorded 30 goal contributions (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances in his lone season with Borussia Dortmund.

That substantial fee saw Dembele, a talented yet raw 20-year-old, touted as a replacement for Neymar, a pressure that appeared to weigh heavily on the Frenchman; he needed over seven months to score his first goal in LaLiga, finally finding the net at Celta Vigo in April 2018.

While Ernesto Valverde led Barca to a domestic double in 2017-18, Dembele's own contribution was limited by a series of injury setbacks, which represented a sign of things to come.

 

Dembele made just 17 league appearances and 12 starts in his debut campaign, having been ruled out until January 2018 after suffering a serious hamstring injury within a month of his arrival.

In three of Dembele's first five campaigns at Barca, injuries ruled him out for 100 days or more. Between the beginning of 2017-18 and the end of 2020-21, meanwhile, he started just 36 per cent of the club's league games.

On the rare occasions Dembele did stay fit, meanwhile, his output was negligible in a side increasingly reliant on Lionel Messi's brilliance. Dembele's tally of 17 league goals and 14 assists in his first four seasons hardly represented value for Barcelona's mammoth investment, meaning the winger was considered ripe for a sale as the club's economic position worsened.

From contract rebel to key man: Spearheading the Xavi revival 

Even LaLiga's casual observers must have grown tired of discussions over the economic "levers" being pulled by Joan Laporta's regime. But before the sales of future TV rights and production companies, shifting Dembele was touted as a means by which to balance the books after the January arrival of Ferran Torres.

With a loan move for Adama Traore leaving Barcelona's forward line well-stocked, the message could not have been clearer; if Dembele would not agree to fresh terms, he was surplus to requirements.

But with Traore struggling on his return to Spain and Torres regularly deployed centrally, Xavi decided to utilise Dembele once the January transfer window closed. He was richly rewarded after reinstating him on the right of Barca's attack.

Since Xavi took charge in November 2021, Dembele's 17 assists in all competitions is bettered only by Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time is a team-high.

Dembele also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga, finally combining his menacing dribbling ability with genuine threat and creativity.

 

And Dembele's 68 dribbles completed in that time – also a team-high – show he has not sacrificed the individual skill that attracted Barcelona's attentions five years ago. 

Three months on from Dembele being booed by his own supporters during a Europa League clash with Napoli, Xavi said: "When he has not been involved, we have noticed."

The former midfield maestro was right. Barcelona won two-thirds of the league games Dembele started last season, and 47.8 per cent of those he didn't.

That impact meant Dembele's belated contract renewal, finalised in July, was received with enthusiasm by everyone at Camp Nou, with the winger subsequently going from strength to strength.

The tonic to Deschamps' blues?

If some thought the arrival of Raphinha might threaten Dembele's place in Xavi's side, he has made them eat their words at the start of the new campaign.

Having tallied the most assists (13) and expected assists (9.2 xA) in LaLiga last season, Dembele has recorded four league goal contributions since the August restart (two goals, two assists), forcing his way back into Deschamps' thoughts.

By the end of August, Dembele had been involved in more shots (15) as a consequence of ball carries than any other player in LaLiga, and his dynamic, unpredictable style may be just what Les Bleus require.

 

Dembele was used sparingly at Euro 2020, with Antoine Griezmann preferred alongside Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe as France won just once in four outings. However, it's easy to see why Dembele's ability to hug either touchline might appeal to Deschamps, offering him tactical flexibility when several other options appear compromised. 

Griezmann's lack of game-time at Atletico Madrid has been subject to much debate in recent weeks, while Kingsley Coman is out of France's latest squad through injury. Benzema's own injury scare, meanwhile, will no doubt have sharpened Deschamps' mind on the need for a plan B.

With France failing to win any of their first four Nations League games this time around, Dembele's Barcelona revival may have come at the perfect time.

Should Dembele carry his club form onto the international stage, potentially contributing to the first successful World Cup defence since Brazil's 1962 win, his 2022 will surely go down as one of football's most emphatic comebacks. 

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski will wear the colours of Ukraine at the World Cup in Qatar, after receiving a special armband from Andriy Shevchenko.

The Barcelona forward met Shevchenko at Warsaw's national stadium to collect the yellow and blue armband, which he will wear at the World Cup to represent Ukraine, who did not qualify.

Ukraine has been ravaged by Russia following February's invasion, with millions of citizens forced to flee the country and many have travelled to Poland, which has also hosted the Champions League matches of Shakhtar Donetsk this season.

While Ukraine will not play in Qatar, Lewandowski has pledged to display their colours when he takes to the field in a show of solidarity with those who are suffering, having met Shevchenko with Laureus Sport For Good.

"I will carry the colours of Ukraine to the World Cup. As a player and a man, I support peace and I believe such symbolic gestures matter," he said.

"I believe that as athletes we should use the power of sport for good. I'm going to take Andriy’s armband with me to the World Cup in November as a reminder that Ukrainian people are not alone and are not forgotten.

"It means a lot to me to stand here with Andriy, a footballer and a man who has used his voice and platform to influence positive change."

Shevchenko thanked Lewandowski for his pledge, saying: "For me, the captain’s armband is a symbol of leadership, strength and passion for your country. I want to pass this armband to Robert to thank him for his support, voice and platform in supporting my country and calling for peace."

Poland begin their World Cup campaign on November 18 against Mexico, then tackling Argentina and Saudi Arabia in Group C.

Ivan Toney is ready to seize his England chance ahead of the World Cup, stating he has "been working for this moment" following his maiden call-up.

The Brentford forward was included in Gareth Southgate's final pre-World Cup squad for the upcoming Nations League clashes with Italy and Germany.

It represents the last chance for outsiders to press for inclusion – and as the only uncapped member of the squad, Toney looks as if he could be the proverbial bolter.

Struggles with either injury or form for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins and Patrick Bamford may have paved the striker's way, and speaking on Tuesday, he says he does not intend to let the moment pass.

"This is my opportunity now," he stated. "I've got to take it with both hands. I'm excited, I'm confident, I'm very hungry.

"I've been working for this moment and here it is now, so I'm not going to let it go by me, by any means."

It is not the first time Toney has flirted with international football, having previously been approached to represent Jamaica, though he explained priorities elsewhere ultimately shut down any switch in allegiance.

"I turned them down because at the time I was focusing on the play-offs," he added. "That was the main thing, and then it kind of fizzled out.

"I felt like my chances were getting bigger and bigger to play for the England squad."

Joshua Kimmich admits he feels "really angry" with Bayern Munich's start to the new season, as he hopes to turn the page on Germany duty this week.

Julian Nagelsmann's Bundesliga champions started the new league campaign with three emphatic victories on the bounce, but have since gone winless in their last four.

With just three points from a possible dozen and defeat to Augsburg shortly before the international break, the Bavarian giants lie fifth, casting serious doubts over Nagelsmann's future.

Speaking ahead of Germany's upcoming games against Hungary and England in the UEFA Nations League, Kimmich says he and his team-mates have found themselves frustrated by their inability to get over the line.

"You get really angry", he stated. "Mainly because I don't think the defeat and the draws are necessary. We had a few chances.

"[But] there is no point having a few chances if you then lose again. You look forward to the next game, that you can do better, even if it is not with the club."

Former Germany international Oliver Bierhoff, who now serves as the national team's director, believes the change of scenery has done Bayern's international contingent good, however.

"I don't see our Bayern Munich players with hanging heads," he added. "I don't think we have to build them up. We still hope that the time with the national team will be a break from everyday life for some.

"To gain confidence and get back in, I don't see the situation there as dramatic. They have different requirements. I didn't get the impression that there was a team that was falling apart."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola confirmed Kalvin Phillips is set to undergo shoulder surgery but remains hopeful the midfielder could return to action ahead of England's World Cup campaign.

Phillips, a key member of Gareth Southgate's side that reached the Euro 2020 final on home turf last year, made a £42million move to City from Leeds United during the close season.

Fitness issues have restricted the 26-year-old to only three cameos off the bench for the reigning Premier League champions, with Phillips entirely absent for Saturday's 3-0 win over Wolves.

Now the defensive midfielder, named by England for this month's final pre-World Cup games in the Nations League against Italy and Germany, looks likely to require an operation to deal with a persistent shoulder issue.

"It's a problem with his shoulder again," Guardiola said when asked about Phillips' absence for the Wolves match. "Maybe he will need surgery in the next days.

"It will be not long, but a little bit longer. The doctors say that when you are out three or four times with the shoulder, the only solution is to have surgery."

It marks a major blow for both Phillips and Southgate, with the former's chances of making the plane to Qatar now in the balance, and the manager left with a selection headache for his starting XI.

Despite limited minutes, Phillips would likely have resumed the double-pivot pairing with West Ham's Declan Rice in front of an England defensive line.

His potential absence could force Southgate into a change in formation, with Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson among the options pushing for a starting berth.

England kick off their World Cup campaign against Iran in a little over nine weeks' time, with the upcoming games against Italy and Germany providing Southgate with a final chance to see his side in action before the tournament begins.

Guardiola said there was "no way" Phillips could feature in either contest.

Asked if he could provide a timeline for the former Leeds player's return, Guardiola said: "I don't know, I am not a doctor.

"But in a good way he could arrive at the World Cup. I think so, but I am not a doctor. The doctor says the only solution right now is to do what we have to do."

Page 1 of 29
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.