Brazil will be the number one side in the world when the Qatar 2022 World Cup starts next month, after strengthening their lead in the FIFA rankings.

The Selecao head into this year's tournament looking to break a two-decade hold by European nations on the sport's top prize, having been the last country from outside the continent to triumph at the South Korea and Japan 2002 finals.

Tite's side have slightly stretched their points advantage above second-placed Belgium, whom they displaced atop the list in March.

Brazil and Belgium head up an unchanged top five, with Argentina remaining at number three, World Cup holders France at four and England – who have endured a dismal 2022 – in fifth place.

The Three Lions will top the strongest group at Qatar 2022, Group B, when taken on points, with fellow nations the United States, Wales and Iran all ranked inside the top 20.

Italy, who are the highest-ranked nation not qualified for the World Cup, have forced the only move inside the FIFA top 10 as they head to sixth from seventh in a straight swap with Spain.

The Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark round out the top 10, with Germany just beyond them at number 11, ahead of 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia.

The lowest-ranked side at this year's tournament will be Ghana, who sit at 61st on the FIFA list, while hosts Qatar are in 50th place.

Aurelien Tchouameni has dismissed talk of him being the new Paul Pogba and explained why he turned down Paris Saint-Germain to join Real Madrid.

Tchouameni has emerged as another big French talent, prompting Madrid to lure him to Santiago Bernabeu from Monaco for a fee of €80million that could rise to €100m in June.

PSG are among the top European clubs who were also eager to land the midfielder, but he had already agreed to sign for the European champions.

Tchouameni has been likened to France team-mate Pogba, but the 22-year-old does not want to hear those comparisons after making a name for himself.

He told Telefoot: "I am not the new Pogba, I am Aurelien Tchouameni, I try to write my own story. Pogba is a player I followed a lot when he was little and whom I follow a lot. We play in the same position, but there is only one Pogba."

Tchouameni revealed he had no intention of staying in his homeland with PSG after giving Madrid his word that he would move to the Spanish capital.

He added: "No, no, I didn't hesitate with PSG. It is also a very big European club, but I had already decided to play for Real Madrid."

Tchouameni has fierce competition for a place in the Madrid midfield and knows he must grasp his opportunities.

"No matter the price of the transfer, at this club there is always pressure," he said. "But I'm trying to live up to expectations, to do what I can do on the pitch and so far it's going quite well.

"It was not me who was in the office to give the numbers of my signing. So whether it's 80 [million Euros], 60, 40... in the end, when you arrive in Madrid and you're a starter, you always have to perform."

Pogba hopes he will be a starter when Les Bleus attempt to retain the World Cup in Qatar.

He said: "I try to contribute to the team, then if [N'Golo] Kante and Pogba return, the coach will be the one I choose and I will always do my best to be the starter.

"I think about the World Cup every day. I'll try to win points with Real Madrid and then we'll wait for the list."

France boss Didier Deschamps insisted his side are far from "a shipwreck" after losing 2-0 to Denmark in their final game before heading to Qatar 2022.

Les Bleus will head into their World Cup trophy defence in November on the back of a poor Nations League campaign that saw them limp home third in Group A1.

Three losses in competitive matches since March means France have already matched their worst-ever record in that regard for a calendar year.

Having been tipped as strong contenders to be world champions again, France's second loss to the Danes in 2022 – ahead of a Group D battle between the teams in Qatar – has set off alarm bells among supporters.

Deschamps, who guided the team to glory at Russia 2018, has pushed back against suggestions his side are in crisis, pointing to both his decision to field a younger side and comparing France's form to other major rivals struggling for results.

"I don't think it's a shipwreck," he told TF1. "We had a lot of chances. We were weak, we made errors when playing out from the back.

"It is a young French side, which in the most part doesn't have players with experience at the very highest level. It is not a question of systems.

"We mustn't worry. Having the players with international experience back will do us good. There's no worrying. It's difficult for everyone.

"Yesterday, I was watching other games. There are other big teams losing as well. We shouldn't think of ourselves as better than them. We are going to have to fight."

Deschamps added: "I'm not going to darken the situation any further. This is a reminder of what will be waiting for us in two months."

Kylian Mbappe struggled in parts against Denmark, and looked to be nursing a minor knock at one point, but Deschamps was quick to assure that he is unconcerned about the Paris Saint-Germain forward's game.

"Kylian has done a lot of good things. He's also one of the few players to have played 90 minutes twice in three days," Deschamps said.

"He cannot do everything. He was more decisive three days ago, yes, but like the whole team, I am not worried about Kylian."

Denmark threw down a gauntlet for the Qatar 2022 World Cup with a 2-0 win over France, only to narrowly miss out on the Nations League Finals.

First-half goals for Kasper Dolberg and Andreas Skov Olsen put the Danes firmly in the frame to reach next year's final four, only for rivals Croatia to net twice in the second half to beat Austria and finish top of Group A1.

Nevertheless, an assured victory over World Cup holders France in Copenhagen offered a sharp reminder of Denmark's dark horse credentials for Qatar, after also reaching the Euro 2020 semi-finals.

Austria's defeat ensured Les Bleus dodged relegation to the second tier, but for Didier Deschamps, alarm bells may be ringing after a lacklustre campaign.

With the risk of the drop breathing down their necks, it was the visitors who started sharpest, with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann delivering early tests for Kasper Schmeichel.

Yet Denmark steadily gained ground, and when Dolberg lunged by the left post to meet Mikkel Damsgaard's cross and bobble a finish over Alphonse Areola in the 34th minute, their lead was not an unworthy one.

Olsen's rocket of a volley through a crowded box after a poorly fielded corner was a fine finish too, five minutes later, and it was France who went into the sheds on the back foot.

Attempts to fight back after the interval were frequent, if speculative, with Mbappe almost catching Schmeichel out twice, but Denmark's game management proved too shrewd to be broken, seeing them through for a famous win.

Bayern Munich defender Benjamin Pavard has opened up on how he experienced depression during the coronavirus lockdown.

The France international explained in an interview with newspaper Le Parisien that isolation became a heavy burden and he sorely missed normal social contact.

Pavard, now 26, was in his first season with Bayern when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, having joined from Bundesliga rivals Stuttgart.

When players went into isolation in late March of 2020, Pavard said it became a challenge to stay positive.

He said: "It was difficult for everyone, for me too. To be alone, in a country other than mine, I was really not well. In my head, something was wrong.

"At the beginning, you tell yourself that it's nothing, that it will pass, but when you see that it persists, that you go to training and that you don't have a smile on your face, you have to react."

The Bundesliga became the first major league in Europe to resume, as it started up again in mid-May 2020, albeit behind closed doors.

Pavard sought and found support to help him through the trying times.

He said: "I am human like everyone else, and even if I have a super nice house with a weight room, I needed contact with others.

"I got up, I had no appetite. I tried to keep busy, to cook, to watch series. But Netflix is ​​fine for two minutes… I don't like the word depressive, but that was the case."

The former Lille player explained that he turned a corner and now feels "much better".

“I came out of all this as a man, it changed me," he said. "I was on my own like many football players and I had to surround myself well to raise my head. I managed to bounce back from difficult times."

Didier Deschamps has called on Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier to let Kylian Mbappe "breathe a little bit" by resting the forward ahead of France's World Cup bid.

Mbappe has started all nine of PSG's Ligue 1 and Champions League matches this season, scoring 10 times.

The 23-year-old also played 90 minutes of France's 2-0 Nations League win over Austria on Thursday when opening the scoring before Olivier Giroud killed off the contest.

PSG have 11 matches to play before France head to Qatar, but Deschamps is hoping Mbappe is not used in all of those games.

"I know [Galtier] still wants to play Kylian. But from time to time, he needs to be able to breathe a little bit," Deschamps told Telefoot. 

"He needs to play a few minutes less. It won't hurt him – quite the contrary."

Mbappe led the way for shots (seven), shots on target (three) and touches in the opposition box (10) against Austria, while no player created more chances (three).

After registering his 28th international goal in 58 caps, Mbappe admitted he felt "a lot more freedom" playing alongside fellow scorer Giroud than he does for club side PSG.

While Mbappe's World Cup spot is all but guaranteed, Giroud faces uncertainty over his position in the squad once Karim Benzema is back from injury.

Asked if he plans on naming Giroud in his travelling party for the World Cup, Deschamps said: "If I knew that... All I know is he is doing everything he can to be there."

France boss Didier Deschamps could be without Ousmane Dembele for Sunday's Nations League clash with Denmark after the Barcelona winger reported a calf problem.

The game in Copenhagen will see Deschamps make a number of changes, with the trip coming just two months before the teams meet again in the World Cup group stage.

France are eager to get the win, as that would guarantee they avoid relegation from the top tier of the Nations League, but Deschamps will not push anyone into playing.

"Ousmane felt discomfort in a calf and will train separately," said Deschamps on Saturday evening.

"We will review after the session. I will make changes, but I won't decide tonight. I will wait for the medical return and the feelings of the players. There will be changes, but I won't tell you how many."

France and Denmark will be joined in Group D at Qatar 2022 by Australia and Tunisia, and they are due to go head-to-head on November 26 in the second round of games.

Denmark got the better of Deschamps' side at the Stade de France in June in their first Nations League encounter, with Andreas Cornelius hitting a double after Karim Benzema had put the hosts ahead.

According to Deschamps, there will be little to be gained on Sunday with a view to the World Cup game, though.

"The only advantage is for players who are there and who will have the possibility of starting or coming on," he said. "I'm not going to get any particular benefit from it otherwise.

"In Qatar, it will be another game, but the teams will know each other well, that's true."

With Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan coming off injured in the 2-0 win against Austria on Thursday, West Ham's Alphonse Areola has got the nod to start against the Danes.

Areola came into the fray for the second half against Austria, with first choice Huge Lloris out through injury.

The 29-year-old former Paris Saint-Germain stopper has made five appearances for West Ham this season, albeit with four of those coming in the Europa Conference League and just one in the Premier League.

"He will start," Deschamps said. "I see goalkeepers starting in the national team and not in the club. Alphonse has been more or less a starter. Every time he plays, he performs well. Alphonse is there because he has quality."

Roger Federer "made the whole world dream" through his tennis, French football great Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday.

The Swiss superstar contested his final match on Friday night in London, as he bowed out at the age of 41, accepting knee trouble in recent years would not allow him to carry on.

Zidane's last match as a player famously ended in a headbutt, a red card and crushing disappointment in the 2006 World Cup final, as France lost out to Italy on penalties in Berlin.

That was a far cry from the celebratory scenes at the O2 where 20-time grand slam winner Federer exited in a hail of adulation and high emotion, as the man from Basle broke down in a flood of tears on court.

The poignancy came after Federer lost alongside Rafael Nadal in a Laver Cup doubles clash with Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe, a low-stakes occasion compared to Zidane's swan song.

Both Zidane and Federer played their sport with maverick and artistic tendencies that set them apart from many of their peers, while also winning a stack of trophies.

Zidane had two spells as Real Madrid boss after hanging up his boots following a playing spell at the Santiago Bernabeu, and he hopes there are great opportunities awaiting Federer too.

"Today you are stepping into another world. I wish you a second part of life as rich as the first," Zidane wrote on Instagram.

"Thank you Roger, you made the whole world dream! And you remained profoundly the same. Thank you Roger, the great class."

Barcelona have confirmed Ronald Araujo suffered a thigh injury while on international duty with Uruguay, adding to the Blaugrana's defensive problems after Jules Kounde sustained a hamstring injury.

Araujo was substituted just five minutes into Uruguay's 1-0 friendly loss to Iran in Austria on Friday, having pulled up less than a minute into the match. 

Earlier on Friday, the French Football Federation announced Jules Kounde was to leave Didier Deschamps' squad after being replaced during their Nations League win over Austria on Thursday.

Barcelona have now revealed the nature of the duo's injuries, with Araujo suffering an avulsion fracture in his right thigh and Kounde having a biceps femoris injury in his left hamstring.

A statement from the Blaugrana did not specify a timeframe for the return of either defender, but reports in Spain have suggested both could be out of action for around a month.

Losing both Araujo and Kounde for any significant period of time would be a major blow for Xavi, who has made the pair defensive mainstays in his new-look team.

Araujo has started all six of Barca's fixtures in LaLiga this season, while Kounde – who has filled in at right-back since his move from Sevilla – has recorded two assists in three league outings for the Catalan giants.

Kylian Mbappe has "a lot more freedom" playing for France alongside a traditional striker compared to at Paris Saint-Germain, where he is flanked by Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The 23-year-old opened the scoring in Thursday's 2-0 win over Austria as France picked up their first Nations League win of the campaign at the fifth attempt.

Mbappe, who had an early strike ruled out for offside, was played in by a perfect Olivier Giroud pass and blasted in his 28th international goal in 58 appearances.

He led the way for shots (seven), shots on target (three) and touches in the opposition box (10), while no player created more chances than the PSG forward's three.

After producing an all-action display alongside Giroud, who became France's oldest goalscorer with his second-half header, Mbappe said he is enjoying playing in the system.

"I play differently for France. I am asked other things here compared to my club," he told reporters. "I have a lot more freedom here.

"The coach knows there is a number nine in the side like Olivier who can occupy defences while I walk around and go into space.

"In Paris it's different – you don't have that. I am asked to play as a pivot, which is different."

Asked if he enjoys playing in this France side more than alongside the likes of Neymar and Messi at PSG, Mbappe smiled and said: "I take pleasure everywhere I play."

France had been at serious threat of relegation to the second tier, but they are now one point better off than bottom side Austria ahead of Sunday's trip to Denmark.

Les Bleus have been hit by further injury withdrawals ahead of that match, with Jules Kounde and Mike Maignan the latest to pull out of the squad on Friday.

Deschamps still has plenty of options to call upon in each position for the contest in Copenhagen, where Mbappe is ready to start once again.

"I hope I will play on Sunday," he said. "I am always ready to play, whether for club or country. The coach says there will be rotation, so we'll see how it goes."

Jules Kounde and Mike Maignan have withdrawn from France's squad for their trip to Denmark after sustaining injuries, leading Didier Deschamps to call up Rennes' Steve Mandanda.

Goals from Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud ensured France picked up the first win of their Nations League campaign against Austria on Thursday, but their injury crisis worsened at the Stade de France.

Deschamps' team were already without Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and others for their final Nations League fixtures, and Juventus midfielder Pogba is a doubt for the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery.

They were further depleted when Barcelona new boy Kounde was withdrawn after 23 minutes against Austria, and it has now been revealed Maignan was in pain before his own half-time exit.

A statement issued by the French Football Federation on Friday read: "Mike Maignan had to give up his place to Alphonse Areola at half-time in France-Austria on Thursday evening at the Stade de France, due to pain felt in the left calf.

"The Milan goalkeeper will not be able to play against Denmark on Sunday in Copenhagen. To replace him, Didier Deschamps called on Steve Mandanda. 

"Maignan will leave the group during the day, as will Jules Kounde, who is suffering from a left hamstring injury. Both players will take exams in the morning before being released to their club.

"Kounde will not be replaced in the group that will arrive in Copenhagen on Saturday."

Mandanda has won 34 senior caps since making his France debut in 2008, and was part of the squad which won the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

France could still be relegated from the top tier of the Nations League and cannot progress to the competition's finals, with Croatia and Denmark locked in a battle for top spot in Group A1.

Kylian Mbappe claimed he was acting with the support of his France team-mates after prevailing in an image rights dispute with the French Football Federation (FFF).

Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe had been involved in a disagreement with the FFF since March, when he refused to show up to a photo shoot organised for the French men's team.

Mbappe desired greater control of his image rights to avoid being associated with certain brands, and pledged to continue his refusal to engage in sponsorship activities after meeting up with Les Bleus for their Nations League fixtures this month.

After a meeting of FFF officials, the governing body said it would "work on the outlines of a new agreement" concerning players' image rights on Tuesday.  

Speaking after opening the scoring in a 2-0 win over Austria on Thursday, Mbappe insisted he was not alone in the dispute.

"The squad has always been behind me, maybe you didn't know it," he said. 

"From the start, it was a team initiative, it's just that I have no issue with going into the spotlight to fight for my team-mates. 

"It doesn't matter if I get criticised, it won't change the way I play or live my life. If it can allow the squad to get what it wants, that's the main thing."

France will conclude their Nations League group campaign with a trip to Denmark on Sunday, having overtaken Austria in the Group A1 standings following the win over Austria.

Didier Deschamps hailed France for responding with a 2-0 victory despite having "little time to prepare" to face Austria in the Nations League.

Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante and Hugo Lloris were among the notable absentees for injury-hit France, while recent Barcelona recruit Jules Kounde limped off in Thursday's Nations League clash.

But Kylian Mbappe powered home in the second half to set Deschamps' side on their way to a win before Olivier Giroud – aged 35 years and 357 days – became France's oldest scorer.

The second-half double act from Mbappe and Giroud helped France to stave off Nations League relegation, picking up their first win to move a point clear of Austria with a game to play.

After Deschamps had to contend with a plethora of injury issues, the France head coach reflected on a job well done.

"I'm very satisfied with the way we played," he told M6. "The win is important, and we did everything we had to do, created a lot of chances and controlled the game with players who aren't used to playing with each other.

"We've had very little time to prepare, everyone has made an effort. There's a lot of positives."

Aurelien Tcouhameni benefited from the absence of Pogba, Kante and Adrien Rabiot, starting in midfield as France dominated Ralf Rangnick's side, and the Real Madrid midfielder felt his team showed their quality.

"We were determined to show a different face. We all wanted to show our true worth," Tchouameni said. 

"The conditions weren't optimal, but once you're on the pitch, there's nothing else that's important. Things went very well [with Youssouf Fofana]. You could see the understanding we have, I'm happy for him."

France will head into their final Nations League fixture with their fate in their own hands, facing Denmark on Sunday in Les Bleus' last outing before the World Cup starts in Qatar in November.

Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud were on target as France picked up their first Nations League victory of the campaign with a 2-0 victory over Austria on Thursday.

Les Bleus faced serious injury difficulties heading into the international break, with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante among the absentees, and often lacked fluidity at the Stade de France.

But Mbappe stepped up after 56 minutes to drive past numerous defenders and finish past Patrick Pentz before Giroud headed in to help Didier Deschamps' side to victory.

The winners of the last edition, France will now have their Nations League relegation fate in their hands, but cannot progress through Group A1 after leaders Croatia downed Denmark.

Mbappe thought he had curled France into a second-minute lead, only for the offside flag to deny him, before Jonathan Clauss forced Pentz to push over from range.

Jules Kounde was withdrawn as Les Bleus' injury woes continued before Benoit Badiashile's acrobatic effort was tipped onto the crossbar by Pentz, who denied Antoine Griezmann's close-range follow-up.

A smart passing move between Mbappe and Griezmann resulted in Clauss curling narrowly over after the interval, but France were soon ahead.

Mbappe received the ball from a driving Giroud run before powering forward into the area and firing a right-footed effort past the reach of Pentz.

Griezmann provided the second goal as his cross from the right wing found Giroud, who flicked a header into the top-left corner to secure the victory for France.

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."

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