After the 2018 World Cup final, when highlights of France's thrilling 4-2 win were played back at Luzhniki Stadium, one man in particular was enraptured.

Antoine Griezmann stood on the pitch, ignoring the celebrations that surrounded him, his gaze fixed upwards at the big screen beneath the storm-laden sky.

His hands to his mouth, eyes watering, smile beaming, the face of the man bore an expression of boyish disbelief: I was just man of the match in the World Cup final. And we won.

It's unlikely anything in Griezmann's career will ever top that victory over Croatia in the Russian capital. Win or lose, Sunday's Nations League final against Spain almost certainly won't. Still, it will be another special occasion for the Atletico Madrid forward, who is set to win his 100th cap against the national team of his adoptive country.

It also offers a chance to reflect on Griezmann's international career, which began only seven years ago. In the Didier Deschamps era, there has been no more important player.

 

Didier's favourite

Reaching a century of international games is commendable for any player – only eight men have ever achieved it for France before. What makes Griezmann unique is that all of his caps have come under the same coach.

It was Deschamps who handed Griezmann his debut on March 5, 2014 against the Netherlands, starting the forward wide on the left of a front three. Griezmann has since been used across the forward line in changing systems, but his presence in Deschamps' set-up has been constant: he has only missed four France games since his first appearance and has played in 56 matches in a row for Les Bleus, the longest such streak in their history.

 

Under Deschamps, only Olivier Giroud (101) has played more often than Griezmann, while only goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris has started more games (96 compared with Griezmann's 84) or played more minutes (8,700 to Griezmann's 7,300).

When he scored his second in the 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Finland in September, Griezmann moved level with Michel Platini on 41 international goals. Only Giroud (46) and Thierry Henry (51) have managed more in the national team's history. Given his rate of just over five international goals per year, the outright record looks well within Griezmann's reach, even if he insists it is not an "obsession" to get it.

Another record beckons in 2022: should France reach the semi-finals in Qatar, Griezmann could surpass Henry and Fabien Barthez (both on 17) for the most appearances for Les Bleus at World Cup finals.

 

Griezi does it on the biggest stage

In the 2018 World Cup final, Griezmann won and took the free-kick from which Mario Mandzukic scored the opening own goal, and he converted the penalty that restored France's lead when Croatia were beginning to take control.

It was a decisive display in the biggest match of the Deschamps era, but the fact Griezmann stepped up for his country when it mattered should not have come as a shock.

In the knockouts in Russia, Griezmann scored in the 4-3 win over Argentina, got a goal and an assist in the quarter-final with Uruguay and crossed for Samuel Umtiti's headed winner against Belgium in the last four. He won the bronze ball as the third-best player at the tournament and the silver boot for finishing as second in the goal standings, two behind England's Harry Kane on six.

 

Two years earlier, he scored twice against the Republic of Ireland, got a goal and two assists against Iceland and two more strikes against Germany in the knockouts of Euro 2016 before France fell at the final hurdle on home soil against Portugal. In both 2016 and 2018, he came third in the Ballon d'Or standings.

Griezmann won the golden boot and was named player of the tournament at Euro 2016. Indeed, in the history of the European Championship finals, only Cristiano Ronaldo (20) and Michel Platini (10) have been directly involved in more goals than the 30-year-old (nine).

 

Antoine-derful

Griezmann scored 22 goals in 74 LaLiga games for Barcelona as he struggled to find his place in the system alongside Lionel Messi under three different coaches. It was a fairly poor return for €120million. Yet for France, regardless of tactics and personnel, he has delivered consistently when it matters.

Since his debut, Griezmann has nine goals and four assists in 16 World Cup qualifying games. No player has managed more, or made more appearances. He also leads the way for chances created (33, 14 more than anyone else), and shots (46, seven more than nearest rival Paul Pogba).

In Euros qualifying, only Giroud matches Griezmann for games (10) and beats him for goals (six), while the Atleti man is again top for assists (seven). In fact, he has created 42 goalscoring chances in those games, which is 28 more than anyone else for France during his international career.

At World Cup finals, no France player has played more matches (12), scored more goals (four) or provided more assists (two) than Griezmann in the Deschamps era. His 17 chances created are, again, the most in that time.

And, at the European Championships... well, you can guess where we're going here. His seven goals and two assists in 11 games is a better return than any other France player since his debut. If you add in four goals and an assist in 11 Nations League matches – again, nobody for France has played as many – then Griezmann stands on 43 direct goal involvements in competitive internationals, which is 15 more than any other player since he made his bow on the senior stage.

 

In Spain, Griezmann went from underrated Real Sociedad talent to Atletico Madrid superstar to Barcelona let-down. For France, he has been Monsieur Dependable for more than seven years.

If he marks his 100th cap with a decisive turn in a Nations League final victory, nobody – among the French, at least – would be surprised.

UEFA's chief of football Zvonimir Boban said those in the game must fight FIFA's proposal to stage the World Cup every two years because if it succeeds it would "hurt everybody." 

FIFA held an online summit last month to discuss moving World Cups from occurring every four years to every two, which has already been met by strong opposition within UEFA.

Former Milan and Croatia star Boban said the idea was "even worse than the Super League," which was foiled earlier this year by wide-ranging public backlash from fans and European clubs.

"Every normal person who understand and respect football, cannot accept the biennial World Cup idea," Boban said via Gazzetta dello Sport. "You would cancel 100 years of history of the World Cup, the best competition in the world.

"Football cannot be revolutionised unilaterally without a good consultation with all the parts involved and ordering other institutions to do other things: UEFA must organise Euro every two years, domestic league must cut the number of teams, this and that.

"The most absurd thing, even if probably clubs don’t realise it yet, is the two windows for international breaks. Three games in a row and a player is dead. Two games you can recover, three not. Travels don’t hurt footballers, too many games in a row do."

While several UEFA officials have spoken out against the plan, Boban's opposition is notable given his ties to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. 

Boban worked as FIFA's Deputy Secretary-General from 2016 to 2019. 

"It is such an absurdity that I could never imagine that could come from a president I still love after working with him for three years or from a football person like [Arsene] Wenger," he said. "This is idea is so crazy that we really have to fight against it because it would hurt everybody."

Boban said UEFA would never propose holding the Euros every two years, "even if it meant more money". 

"It would be bad for players, leagues, clubs as well as for the appeal of competitions," he added. "It does not respect anybody. It would destroy football's institutions together with the footballing pyramid that was built thanks to decades of work."

LaLiga president Javier Tebas pleaded for a more sustainable level of spending across football as he refused to take the blame for Lionel Messi's departure from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi left his only senior side Barca to join PSG on a free transfer after the Catalan club were unable to offer him a contract due to LaLiga's spending restrictions.

Barca's salary cap was cut to €97million this season due to a combination of their lavish prior outlay and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Messi instead headed for big-spending PSG in France, but Tebas believes Ligue 1, along with Serie A, should follow LaLiga in keeping a closer eye on finances.

He suggested LaLiga needed its fellow 'top five' leagues to stay afloat in order to ensure the European Super League, proposed last season before a swift collapse, does not return.

Faced with financial difficulties, Barca, Real Madrid and Juventus remained committed to the Super League project, even as their domestic rivals and the Premier League's 'big six' backtracked.

"Is the transfer of Messi to PSG my fault? Obviously not," Tebas said, speaking at the Festival dello Sport. "We need sustainability in football. It is a special sector, football is passion and belonging, but in recent years it has become a business.

"Serie A has been at a loss for 20 years, what matters is the total balance. This also happens in France, not in Germany and not from us.

"What did we have to do to be sustainable? The competition must be regulated by some rules; otherwise, teams like PSG will arrive and invest €400m in a single summer. They have very high salaries; this leads to inflation.

"It is not our fault that Messi has not renewed his contract; we have a salary cap in LaLiga, a rule approved by all the teams, and this is what makes LaLiga sustainable. If there were such controls also in Italy and France, there would be no more losses.

"The economic solidity of the other leagues is also fundamental for Spain: if there are no strong leagues, the risk of the Super League is always high.

"I have said it many times to [Juventus chief] Andrea Agnelli: 'Do you want to go to the Super League where Real Madrid and Barcelona will earn more and more than you?'"

As well as the Super League, Tebas is opposed to the idea of a biennial World Cup put forward by Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager and FIFA's chief of global football development.

The LaLiga boss was frustrated FIFA had not first involved the leagues.

"Football has a problem with governance," he said. "FIFA wants to change the international calendar with a unilateral decision. This has an impact on the leagues.

"If you want to take a decision with an impact on domestic leagues, the FIFA Council cannot just take the decision with the Solomon Islands voting, too. With UEFA, we have reached an agreement with the leagues.

"The biennial World Cup will have an impact on the revenues of clubs like Torino and other Italian clubs, no doubt about that.

"Leagues cannot just be consulted in the decision-making, they need to be part of the decision."

Hansi Flick insists Germany deserved maximum points after coming from behind to beat Romania in World Cup qualifying Group J on Friday.

Thomas Muller's late strike earned a 2-1 victory for Flick's side in Hamburg, after Serge Gnabry cancelled out Ianis Hagi's first-half effort.

As a result, Die Mannschaft moved six points clear at the top of Group J with three matches remaining, and could seal their qualification by beating North Macedonia on Monday.

They also made it four wins from four under Flick, whose perfect start since replacing Joachim Low after Euro 2020 continues.

The former Bayern Munich boss was disappointed by the manner in which Germany conceded the opening goal – the first of his tenure – having seen the initial awarding of a penalty overturned by referee Cuneyt Cakir just 52 seconds earlier.

Nevertheless, he was pleased with the response of his players, while also paying tribute to the home support at the Volksparkstadion.

"Conceding goals always annoys me," Flick told RTL.

"We were about to have a penalty, and then we conceded. It wasn't easy for us to put up with that. 

"We were man to man at the back. A number six simply has to stay there to cover, but we also have to say it was a very good goal

"But the team gave everything and the fans pushed us. In the end, we deserved to win against a team that defended very deep."

Match-winner Muller added: "I thought we played a very committed game and tried a lot. Going into the break 1-0 behind was not a good feeling. 

"We have to compliment the fans. When we scored the second, they literally exploded. We could feel the connection on the pitch.

"Even when we fell behind, we knew that not everything we did before was bad. It's nice when you still get a result afterwards."

Thomas Muller scored the winner as Germany came from behind to defeat Romania 2-1 in Hamburg and move six points clear at the top of World Cup qualifying Group J.

The hosts fell behind to Ianis Hagi's wonderful individual effort after just nine minutes at the Volksparkstadion.

But Serge Gnabry's fifth goal of the qualifying campaign levelled matters, with Germany leaving it late to complete the turnaround.

Hansi Flick's side did so nine minutes from time, substitute Muller marking his 107th international cap by turning home a corner at the far post.

France's World Cup-winning captain Hugo Lloris and Germany team director Oliver Bierhoff both rubbished FIFA's idea of a biennial showpiece tournament.

FIFA held an online summit last month to discuss moving World Cups from occurring every four years to every two, which has already been met by strong opposition within UEFA.

Lloris – who won football's coveted trophy with France at Russia 2018 – argued the four-year cycle made World Cups more "precious" but also spoke about the impact on players with a growing football schedule.

"I think the World Cup should be something quite rare, so the fact that you play it only every four years helps protect this precious element to it," Lloris said during a news conference ahead of France's Nations League semi-final against Belgium.

"As a group we are waiting for competition every four years and as a player, I think it's always something that is on your mind.  

"Things need to evolve and I think a decision should be made thinking about the players, the clubs and the countries. But it's something I'm not part of, it's something to be decided by the big institutions."

Bierhoff was part of the Germany side which were World Cup runners-up to Brazil in 2002 and has remained heavily involved in football off-field since his playing retirement in 2003.

The former Milan forward said he had not met any player or coach who felt a biennial World Cup was a good idea, also citing the impact of the participants.

"Regarding the exhaustion of the players, I think we always have to keep their health in mind, and to play a World Cup .... I haven't yet found a player or coach who has said that they believed it is a good idea," Bierhoff said.

"Also, regarding the standard of the tournament, playing a World Cup every four years is seen as the right thing by everyone involved.

"I think that everyone in football should not just focus on maximising revenue but also on assuring the quality of football."

After 15 years without success on the international stage, Italy could win a second title in three months this week as the 2021 Nations League concludes.

That may come as a surprise to some – after all, given how recent Euro 2020 was and the fact the Nations League Finals are taking place amid a busy World Cup qualification period, it wouldn't be unsurprising if most people had completely forgotten about UEFA's secondary competition.

But here we are, it's Finals week and hosts Italy have themselves a wonderful opportunity to clinch another trophy, with Portugal winning the inaugural competition – also in front of home crowds – two years ago.

France and Belgium will contest the second semi-final, with Italy going up against Spain first on Wednesday in a repeat of their Euro 2020 last-four clash, which Roberto Mancini's men won on penalties.

Italy head into the tournament amid a world-record 37-match unbeaten run, last month's draw with Switzerland and the subsequent 5-0 win over Lithuania taking them clear of Brazil and La Roja.

Of course, the Spain team that had previously equalled Brazil's world record back in 2009 were in the throes of their most successful period ever, and Italy will hope that's a sign of things to come for them.

 

Spain's semi-final hurdle

That legendary Spain side saw their 35-match unbeaten streak – a run that included Euro 2008 success – ended in 2009 by the United States.

While the Confederations Cup was never really seen as a hugely important title, hence FIFA pulling the plug on it in 2019, the USA's 2-0 win in the semi-finals 12 years ago was a fairly big deal.

Jozy Altidore's opener was the first goal Spain had conceded in 451 minutes of play and only their third concession in 17 matches, and it was added to by Clint Dempsey.

On the 10th anniversary, Spanish publication AS referred to it as "one of the biggest upsets in football history". A little hyperbolic? Sure, but it certainly was a shock.

For starters, it remains Spain's sole defeat in five meetings with the USA, while it's still their only loss to a CONCACAF nation in 23 matches.

But perhaps the key fact from Spain's perspective was coach Vicente del Bosque's assertion of it only being a "little step backward" stood the test of time – a little over a year later, Spain were World champions for the first time and then they followed that up with Euro 2012 success.

 

That made them the first team since the foundation of the World Cup in 1930 to win three successive major international titles.

It was an iconic side that was routinely filled with players who'll always be remembered as all-time greats for La Roja.

The foundation of their ascension to greatness lay in that unbeaten run, and Italy will a similar status awaits them, regardless of how long they stay undefeated for.

Star quality

Many took for granted just how many remarkable players that Spain squad contained – it's unlikely they'll ever produce the same collective greatness in such a small period.

Xavi was the metronome and, as such, a key component. He played in all but two of the 35 matches in that unbeaten run, with Sergio Ramos (31), David Villa and Iker Casillas (both 29) next on the list.

But when it came to goalscoring, one man above all was the crucial cog: Villa.

A lethal striker for Valencia, Barcelona and – to a slightly lesser extent – Atletico Madrid at the peak of his powers, Villa scored 23 goals during La Roja's famous run, almost three times as many as anyone else. Fernando Torres was next with eight.

 

Luis Enrique's current team could do with a player of Villa's skillset, given the dearth of quality available to him in that position. After all, his squad for this week has no recognised centre-forward in it, with Ferran Torres arguably the closest to fitting the bill.

Cesc Fabregas was the man supplying the best service for Spain's goals in that period, with his 12 assists the most impressive return, while Xavi and Andres Iniesta had seven apiece.

Spain's incredible run compromised of 32 wins and just three draws, while they scored 73 times and conceded only 11.

A team, no superstars

Of course, Italy's world-record effort has already proven successful, with the 37-match run including their Euro 2020 triumph.

And in certain ways, it has actually been more fruitful than Spain's, with the Azzurri scoring 93 goals and letting in just 12, though nine of those matches were drawn.

While Spain spent 174 minutes trailing, Italy have had even less time behind in matches, just 109 minutes, and 65 of those were in one match – the Euro 2020 final against England.

Italy have been much less reliant on a single goalscoring outlet as well, which is perhaps explained by the theory they are less a collection of superstars but instead a tremendous team unit.

Ciro Immobile is their top scorer over the past 37 matches, his haul of eight insignificant compared to Villa's 23, whereas Lorenzo Insigne has been their most reliable source of creativity with seven assists.

But 10 players have scored at least four times for Italy, compared to only five in that Spain team.

Roberto Mancini's comfort with rotating and being able to adapt to different groups of players has really shone through.

 

While the Spain side of Luis Aragones and then Del Bosque had 11 players feature 24 or more times, only five Italians have played that often in Mancini's run, while the most he has used any single starting XI is twice – Spain's most-used line-up was put out four times.

But the important thing most people remember when looking back at that Spain squad is not any specific unbeaten run in itself, but the wider context and history that streak was a part of.

Similarly with Italy, the vast majority of people in 10 or 15 years arguably won't give much thought to their world-record unbeaten run because winning Euro 2020 is a bigger deal.

But Mancini and Italy will surely be hoping that was just the start of a period of domination, one that Spain's unbeaten streak seemingly foretold.

 

While Nations League success isn't going to elevate them to iconic status, it does provide another opportunity to continue building on a winning mentality ahead of next year's World Cup, and the fact they are unbeaten in 61 competitive matches on home soil since 1999 is a good omen.

Succeed in Qatar and then we can start to talk about Italy's legacy.

UEFA vice-president Zbigniew Boniek has blasted FIFA's proposal to hold a World Cup every two years, describing the idea as being from "the mentally ill".

The plans to have a major international tournament every year have been met with strong opposition from UEFA, with former Poland international the latest to speak up in criticism of the concept.

Boniek feels that holding tournaments so frequently would congest the football calendar in an unmanageable way.

"Where does this [biennial World Cup proposal] come from? From a home of the mentally ill: it does not exist," Boniek said.

"If you do it, there is no room for other competitions and then you can no longer do the qualifiers, so the national teams must dissolve."

Boniek was also asked about the controversial European Super League concept, which threatened the future of the Champions League.

He added: "Super League? Today it is the Champions League: if they want to make the Super League it is because they do not manage money.

"They want money to manage among themselves and not divide it. 

"Today the money that the Champions League collects is equal to or higher than that of the Super League, the only difference is that it must be divided among the whole world of football. 

"If you make a competition without sporting merit [like the Super League], I don't look at it anymore."

France head coach Didier Deschamps believes FIFA's proposed biennial World Cup plan will trivialise the tournament.

FIFA, led by chief of global football development Arsene Wenger, want to shift the World Cup format to see an edition take place every two years.

The former Arsenal manager's proposal would cause further scheduling issues for international footballers with an already heavy workload for club and country.

However, after both UEFA and CONMEBOL pushed back against the idea, Deschamps warned of devaluing football's showpiece event, though he appreciates any change will likely not come during his tenure with Les Bleus.

"To be honest, my first feeling in my playing career, being able to move on to a World Cup every two years, it makes me feel like I'm trivialising it," Deschamps told reporters on Thursday.

"That's the best word I can think of. I do not have all the ins and outs. I will not be the expert but until now, every four years, it was very good like that. We are used to it.

"Afterwards, it is according to the interests of each other. If the majority is there, it can pass. I think at that time, I wouldn't be concerned anymore. So I would watch."

Spain head coach Luis Enrique is also concerned about the problems it may force on footballers' workloads, though he accepts it would improve the overall experience for spectators.

"To unify a calendar and to have attractive possibilities for the viewer it is necessary in order for football to keep being attractive to young generations and to the world in general," he said.

"But it is obvious that the calendar needs to be reduced. I am not the right or capable person to advise from where it would need to be reduced.

"A World Cup every two years, as a national coach I would be delighted, of course. But a reduction is needed. And I don't know from where this reduction must come."

Central and South American players who were barred from travelling to World Cup qualifiers by their Premier League teams will be available this weekend after their countries backed down from a request to ban them under FIFA rules. 

Players from Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Paraguay are cleared to play as their national federations agreed late Friday to waive a measure that would have compelled the players to sit out after their clubs refused to release them for international duty. 

Premier League teams last month decided to prevent players from nations on the United Kingdom's COVID-19 "red list" to participate in Qatar 2022 qualifiers, citing the UK's requirement that people who have travelled to those countries quarantine for 10 days upon their return. 

There had been some indications earlier Friday that the players might be available, but official word did not come down until shortly before midnight London time. 

Brazilians now available to their clubs Saturday include Ederson and Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City, Chelsea's Thiago Silva and Manchester United's Fred. 

Among players from other nations involved, Wolves can use Mexico's Raul Jimenez on Saturday, while Newcastle will have Paraguay's Miguel Almiron available, and Watford can play Chile's Francisco Sierralta 

Liverpool will be most relieved, with Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino cleared to face Raphina and Leeds on Sunday. 

Earlier Friday, Jurgen Klopp said at a news conference that he hoped a solution could be reached for the benefit of all parties involved. 

"It is a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs, and the players especially," Klopp said. "We should not forget at this moment that the players wanted to play these games, the clubs wanted to let the players go but it was not possible."

Fabio Capello claimed former side England have a "monkey on their back and then fail" when it comes to finals.

Gareth Southgate's men reached their first major final in 55 years at Euro 2020, but lost on penalties as Italy claimed their first European Championship since 1968.

England have enjoyed relative success in September's World Cup qualifiers, crushing Hungary and Andorra 4-0 before conceding a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with Poland.

In the latter game, Southgate opted to not make any substitutions – the first time the Three Lions have done so since the Euro 1996 semi-final against Germany.

And Capello believes there is a reason for the England manager's lack of substitutes in Warsaw after heartbreak in the Euro 2020 final two months ago.

"If [Southgate] doesn't make subs it means he wants this group to be convinced to be strong, as the results proved," Capello, who managed England for five years until 2012, told reporters.

"Bear in mind, they have just botched half a match versus Italy in the final, when they were overwhelmed by fear and stopped playing.

"I know England and their problems. They have that monkey on their back to get to the final and then they fail."

England are unbeaten in their last 16 international matches (W13 D3) – their longest streak without defeat since a 16-game run between September 1995 and November 1996.

While international teams pursue qualification for Qatar 2022, FIFA's chief of global football development, Arsene Wenger, is pushing a biennial plan for future World Cups.

The former Arsenal manager's proposition, which was put to FIFA in May, would see global football's most important tournament switch to a two-year cycle.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin greeted the suggestions with disdain, but Capello revealed he would support the proposed changes as a player.

"As a player, I would like the World Cup to be played every two years," the 75-year-old Italian continued.

"Four years is a long time and sometimes you are at the top of your game but when the World Cup comes you are not and you have no chance to shine.

"At the same time, waiting four years makes that trophy more coveted and important, it is bigger.

"Every two years, this value would decrease but again, as a player, I played the World Cup just once, and the second time I missed it for the width of a hair, so I would [play every two years]."

Guus Hiddink, the former Real Madrid, Chelsea and Netherlands head coach, announced his retirement at the age of 74.

Hiddink declared in a television interview that he had decided to quit as boss of Curacao and would not return to football.

The Dutch great told SBS 6: "Lately, with COVID, I haven't worked much. Coincidentally I was talking with the president of the Curacao federation and we came to the conclusion it was better that I stop for a while, because they are going in a new direction.

"But I'm going to stop totally. Am I going to do a Advocaat. No, no."

That was a reference to his fellow veteran coach Dick Advocaat, who was expected to retire after leaving Eredivisie giants Feyenoord last season but instead took on the job of coaching Asian nation Iraq.

Hiddink began his career at PSV and had two spells with the Eindhoven club, from 1987 to 1990 and 2002 to 2006, winning three Eredivisie titles in each successful stint.

His PSV side won the old European Cup in 1988, beating Benfica on penalties in Stuttgart following a goalless draw, clinching a treble after already landing the domestic league and cup titles.

He twice led teams to World Cup semi-finals – the Netherlands in 1998 and South Korea in 2002 – and helped Australia reach the second round of the 2006 tournament.

His Russia team reached the Euro 2008 semi-finals, where they lost 3-0 to Spain, and he had his first short spell as Chelsea interim manager while still in that national team job, helping the Blues win the 2009 FA Cup.

Hiddink was not a success at Madrid, failing to complete the 1998-99 season before he was sacked. He managed one trophy while at the Santiago Bernabeu, helping Madrid beat Vasco da Gama in the Intercontinental Cup.

A long career as a head coach also took in jobs at Valencia, Real Betis, Turkey, Fenerbahce and Anzhi Makhachkala.

Hiddink had a brief and unsuccessful second stint as Netherlands boss, then succeeded Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in December 2015 and helped the team recover from a shocking start to their title defence season, but that was just a half-season tenure.

A year as China Under-21 coach followed, and then the curtailed spell as Curacao boss, his final act, barring a change of heart.

Rhyan Grant scored his first international goal as Australia sealed a 10th consecutive World Cup qualifying win with a 1-0 victory over Vietnam.

The defender nodded home in the 43rd minute after Ajdin Hrustic's searching cross picked him out at the back post.

It maintained the Socceroos' perfect qualifying record on the road to Qatar 2022.

Grant was an unlikely match-winner, opening his account on the occasion of his 14th cap with what proved to be the visitors' only shot on target at an empty My Dinh Stadium.

Despite appearing a little shot-shy on this outing, Graham Arnold's men have scored 32 goals in their winning streak, while Tuesday's clean sheet means they have conceded only twice.

Arnold's men resume their qualifying campaign with games against Oman and Japan next month.

Wissam Ben Yedder has been called up to the France squad as Kingsley Coman struggles with a calf injury. 

Coman played just over an hour of France's 1-1 draw with Ukraine on Saturday – their fifth straight match without a victory. 

With the Bayern Munich winger a doubt to face Finland in Les Bleus' next World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, head coach Didier Deschamps decided to call up a reinforcement. 

Ben Yedder was added to the squad on Monday for France's third game in seven days. 

Deschamps confirmed Jules Kounde would miss the Finland match through suspension following his red card in last week's 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Aurelien Tchouameni and Thomas Lemar were struggling for fitness. 

The France boss called on his team to be more proactive against Finland and bring an end to their winless streak. 

"In those two matches [against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine], we were more reactive than proactive, with chances not in our favour," said Deschamps. 

"We are aware of it and tomorrow we must reverse this trend. Defence is important, too, but this is a less happy time because of the results. We know what we have to do to stay in control of our destiny. 

"The players are not happy. They cannot be satisfied with these results. We will do everything to reverse the trend.  

"I will redouble my efforts. The players are in the same state of mind, to add a little more and get what we want." 

Brazil head coach Tite has argued that European clubs preventing South American players from being released for international duty is creating inequality ahead of next year's World Cup.

Tite will be without numerous key players for Sunday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying match against Argentina after several English and Spanish clubs refused to release players travelling to red list countries.

Countries on that list for travel to and from the UK require arrivals to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon their return, regardless of vaccination status.

LaLiga followed suit on the Premier League clubs, refusing to release 25 players from 13 different clubs for matches to be played in South America.

Among the Brazilian contingent were captain Thiago Silva, goalkeeper Alisson, Fred, Renan Lodi, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison and Roberto Firmino.

“I feel that there must be equality for all teams and I trust the good sense of the associations," Tite said at Saturday's pre-game news conference.

"That hurts the preparation of Brazil and all the South American football teams that will be left without the same preparation for the World Cup, giving an advantage to the European teams."

Premier League pair Aston Villa and Tottenham permitted Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristiano Romero to link up with Argentina under the belief they would return after the Brazil game.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni claimed that he knew nothing about any agreement with Villa or Tottenham and intended to retain the trio for their third match against Bolivia.

Tite also hinted that Marseille midfielder Gerson would likely get a starting chance against Argentina along with Flamengo midfielder Everton Ribeiro.

Brazil remain top in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with a perfect record with seven wins from seven games, while Argentina are unbeaten in second with 15 points.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.