Zinedine Zidane has always been a man focused on Real Madrid and France and therefore would not take the Paris Saint-Germain role should it become available.

That is the message from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who briefly discussed the potential vacancy at PSG should reports prove to be true that Mauricio Pochettino will depart.

Pochettino lifted the Ligue 1 title with PSG in the 2021-22 season, his first trophy as a coach, but failed to deliver in the Champions League, falling to a last-16 exit against Madrid.

European glory remains the main goal for PSG's QSI ownership, with the understanding that Pochettino and the Ligue 1 giants have held discussions and agreed to part ways.

Zidane emerged as a frontrunner for the PSG job before Pochettino was appointed, but the preference of the 49-year-old remains to be seen.

Many believe Zidane is eyeing the France job should Didier Deschamps' Les Bleus role become available after the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Zidane managed Madrid for two spells between 2016 and 2021, winning 11 trophies with Los Blancos – the second most successful manager in the club's history.

The Les Bleus great has also lifted PSG's much-desired Champions League crown on three occasions as a coach, with three consecutive successes in Europe's premier club competition between 2016 and 2018.

But Perez, speaking to the El Chiringuito programme in Spain, finds it hard to envisage PSG securing the services of Zidane.

 

"Zidane at Paris Saint-Germain? I don't know, but he's always been a man for Real Madrid and the French national team," Perez said. 

"That's what I know about him. But maybe he's now in a different situation."

Christophe Galtier, Julen Lopetegui and Marcelo Gallardo are also said to be among the favourites if Pochettino expectedly departs.

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde will undergo surgery for a hamstring injury on Tuesday, having been withdrawn at half-time of France’s 1-0 Nations League defeat to Croatia. 

The 23-year-old is a rumoured transfer target for Premier League heavyweights Chelsea, who were unable to complete a move 12 months ago but have revived their interest ahead of this window – though the injury may put a dent in the Blues' plans.

Kounde’s injury was something the team were aware of prior to the game, France boss Didier Deschamps confirmed, though the extent of his problem was not detailed after the match. 

"I knew very well his physical condition today. Tomorrow [Tuesday] he will have a [surgical] intervention because he has a problem that has been going on for several months," Deschamps said.

Capped 11 times by France, Kounde has established himself among the highest-rated young defenders in world football and shot to prominence during Sevilla's Europa League success in 2019-20. 

Utilised mainly as a central defender by his club side, Kounde's versatility has seen him feature regularly down the right for France. 

Les Bleus' defeat to Croatia in the Nations League capped off a woeful sequence for the defending champions, who sit rock bottom of group A1 without a win in their opening four matches – putting them at significant risk of relegation.

Didier Deschamps has told his France players to "clear their heads" after Les Bleus' dreadful Nations League title defence was ended by Croatia.

Luka Modric's fifth-minute penalty at the Stade de France earned Zlatko Dalic's side a 1-0 win on Monday, with Croatia gaining a measure of revenge for their 2018 World Cup final defeat.

The loss means France can no longer finish top of Group A1, and as such prevents them from qualifying for the Nations League finals and retaining their crown.

France are not in action again now until September, when their objective will be avoiding a humiliating relegation from the Nations League's top tier.

They certainly have work to do on that front as they sit bottom of the group after four games, having only mustered two draws and a couple of defeats this month.

Deschamps seemed to blame fatigue for France's struggles but also accepted the players of most other teams will have been in a comparable condition physically.

Speaking to TF1 at full-time, Deschamps said: "This month of June was very difficult in terms of results.

"We didn't have enough energy and strength against teams that had more than us. We weren't successful either. It was above all the freshness that was not there.

"There are always lessons to be learned with these results. Each match is rich in lessons.

"The succession of matches was very hard, we lost players from one match to another. No doubt that others nations were affected [by fatigue].

"[The players] will have to clear their heads and go back to their club and start again for this new season."

The defeat represented the first match since November 2020 in which France failed to score (23 games).

Kylian Mbappe should be fit to feature in France's Nations League clash with Croatia on Monday, according to Didier Deschamps.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker was forced off during Les Bleus' 2-1 defeat to Denmark at the Stade de France earlier this month.

Mbappe appeared to sustain the injury innocuously, pulling up after playing a pass to Aurelien Tchouameni.

He sat out the follow-up draw away to Croatia before coming off the bench to score France's late equaliser against Austria.

Deschamps is unsure how long Mbappe can feature for on Monday, but he is seemingly expecting him to be in contention to play some part.

Asked if Mbappe is fit, Deschamps told reporters: "Yes, according to him, although he still has a feeling that is not ideal.

"He is much less uncomfortable than he was at the start of the week when he couldn't train.

"He was ready to do half an hour [against Austria], it was planned. He exercised his knee where he had this discomfort.

"We are doing everything so that he can be there tomorrow."

Another France forward who is having difficulties of a different variety is Antoine Griezmann.

The 31-year-old, who spent this season on loan at Atletico Madrid, has not scored for club or country since his first appearance of 2022, way back on January 6 in a Copa del Rey win over minnows Rayo Majadahonda.

His last goal for Les Bleus was two months earlier in the 8-0 win over Kazakhstan.

Despite his struggles, Deschamps insists he and the team retain belief in the man who played such a key role in their 2018 World Cup success.

"We have all experienced less beneficial periods, when confidence is less," Deschamps added.

"For Antoine, it is not a question of positioning. I have confidence in him, the group has too, he is not at his best but this can happen to anyone."

Defending champions France are bottom of Nations League Group A1 after three games, having only managed draws with Croatia and Austria after losing to Denmark on matchday one.

Didier Deschamps has backed Antoine Griezmann and N'Golo Kante to be at their best by the time the World Cup arrives, heading into Friday's Nations League clash with Austria.

After a disappointing spell at Barcelona, Griezmann's transfer back to Atletico Madrid did not translate into an immediate return to form, while experiencing fitness concerns for the first time.

In a career that has seen him mostly without injury, missing two games in 2019-20 with Barcelona, the 31-year-old missed 15 games with Atleti due to a combination of muscle injuries and Covid-19 enforced isolation.

With that in mind, though, Deschamps believes the talismanic attacker for Les Bleus will be back to his best.

"I know him well," Deschamps said. "He has often benefited more from playing for Les Bleus. It's not his best period.

"A part of it is physical, and a part of it mental. He suffered his first injury this season. I'm not saying he's worn out. I know his qualities and his mind too. He does not baulk.

"This is not his best period, but it does not mean that I question what he is capable of doing. I know very well what he can bring to the collective."

Along with Kylian Mbappe and Adrien Rabiot, also missing in Monday's draw to Croatia, Kante will miss Friday's game in Vienna due to lingering injury concerns.

The 31-year has sat extensive periods on the sidelines at club level over the past three seasons, with continual hamstring problems denying him from a consistent run of minutes at Chelsea.

After missing almost two months of football this past season, Deschamps concedes that Kante's fitness needs to be managed, but will hope to count on him.

"When he is at full capacity, any coach wants to see him in his team," the Les Bleus boss said. "In relation to the deadlines that are ours, let's make sure that he is in full possession of his means.

"Many players have accumulated seasons of 60 games. At some point, organisations suffer a little more. His coach at Chelsea [Thomas Tuchel] would like to have him a little more. You have to manage it. Him there, me here."

Fielding an inexperienced side, Didier Deschamps insisted he will continue his search for optimal balance following France's 1-1 draw away to Croatia on Monday.

Following their opening Nations League defeat at home to Denmark, Les Bleus could only manage a point at the Poljud, with Andrej Kramaric equalising from the penalty spot following Adrien Rabiot's opening goal.

Deschamps went back to 4-4-2 after the opting for a 3-5-2 against Denmark, with several starting players under 10 caps including Moussa Diaby, Matteo Guendouzi, Christopher Nkunku and William Saliba.

With that relative lack of experience in mind, Deschamps was buoyant following his side's performance against the other 2018 World Cup finalist.

"We had overall control with two chances for 2-0 but we conceded a few too many situations to this Croatian team at the end," he said post-game. "The lines were stretched, but it was consistent overall. We could also have avoided the loss of possession at times. I can't be completely satisfied even though there are a lot more positives.

"We must also take into account the merit of the opponent. We also gave them the opportunity to equalise with this penalty. There are also all the changes at the end of the match. There were less than 200 caps in the team selected against Croatia. This is no excuse, but there are fewer automatisms."

The Vatreni finished the stronger of the two sides in Split, with chances falling to Luka Sucic and Nikola Vlasic upon their introductions.

France ended the game with a cumulative xG of 0.69 from seven shots in comparison to Croatia's 1.55 from eight, speaking to their growing inability to turn possession into something substantial in front of goal.

With one point out of a possible six, Deschamps insisted that while Les Bleus are not out of Nations League calculations, November's World Cup in Qatar requires experimentation in preparation for their title defence.

"We are in contention," he said after the match. "But with one point out of six, we are not in the best of moods. They are also preparation matches in anticipation of what awaits us at the end of the year. You have to see different things, different players and different systems.

"There were a lot of forced changes with worries and injuries. Compared to my starting lineup, I still have the same concern to put each player in the best conditions.

"We can always improve in defensive animation, but we can have problems with three, four or five [in defence]. I'm not frozen for the next game. But that doesn't mean I'm going to give up. I want to have more answers."

Didier Deschamps has left France's training camp following the death of his father, French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet has announced.

Training sessions on Tuesday were run by assistant boss Guy Stephan, while a tweet was posted of the team gathering for a moment's silence.

Les Bleus are preparing for four Nations League fixtures this month, the first of which is against Denmark on Friday before a Croatia double-header sandwiches a clash with Austria.

Le Graet said: "It is with great sadness that I have heard of the passing of Didier's father. Didier went to join his relatives and I assure him of my friendship and my support in this ordeal."

Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic has also left his team's base after his father also died.

Dalic had led training on Tuesday before being informed of the news.

"We received this news with great sadness about Zlatko's father's death," Croatian Football Federation president Marijan Kustic said.

"We express our deepest condolences to Zlatko and his family and tell him that the entire Croatian football family is standing by him in this difficult time."

Croatia face Austria on Friday, with their France fixtures coming either side of a trip to Denmark.

Thierry Henry declared the race for the Ballon d'Or over after Karim Benzema lifted the Champions League with Real Madrid on Saturday.

Benzema became just the second French captain to lift the trophy, after Didier Deschamps with Marseille in 1993, following a 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Stade de France.

Carlo Ancelotti's side were largely indebted to the heroics of Thibaut Courtois after the goalkeeper produced nine saves – a Champions League final record since Opta began recording data in 2003-04.

Vinicius Junior may have scored the winner in Paris but a 14th European Cup for Madrid, which is double the tally of second-best Milan (seven), came down to Benzema's efforts throughout the knockout stages.

The 34-year-old netted a hat-trick against Paris Saint-Germain, four goals across two legs with Chelsea and three in the tie with Manchester City, including an extra-time penalty to win the semi-final.

Benzema has been involved in 59 goals this season (45 goals, 15 assists) in all competitions, with only France team-mate Kylian Mbappe (60) bettering that total across Europe's top five leagues.

And Arsenal great Henry believes Benzema ended the debate for who should win the Ballon d'Or this year with his success in Paris.

"I just wanted to say something for France Football or whoever is voting. Close the votes, Benzema won it. Bye," Henry said to CBS Sports after the final.

France coach Didier Deschamps will hope Benzema can lead Les Bleus to more World Cup glory in November, and he echoed Henry's sentiments by suggesting the Madrid talisman should win the award.

"The answer is simple: yes. This new title and the sporting season achieved with his team, and what he was able to do, he was so decisive," Deschamps told Telefoot.

"Obviously, he was already one of the favourites and he deserves this reward."

The Ballon d'Or has been won by Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in 13 of the past 14 seasons, barring when Benzema's team-mate Luka Modric was named the winner in 2018.

While Benzema may believe his achievements on a personal and team level are enough to stave off Liverpool's Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, the Madrid forward insisted he will be satisfied either way.

"Obviously, I finished my season, now I will join up with the national team," Benzema told Canal Plus.

"I think at club level I can't do better. We'll see what happens but in any case I'm proud of what I've achieved."

France coach Didier Deschamps has backed Paul Pogba to find a new club and arrest his slump in domestic form, as he hailed the upcoming Aurelien Tchouameni.

Pogba endured another frustrating season with Manchester United, who finished sixth in the Premier League and will hope Erik ten Hag can transform their fortunes next campaign.

World Cup-winning midfielder Pogba is widely expected to depart Old Trafford when his contract expires in June, with Juventus seemingly in the running to bring the 29-year-old back to Turin, while Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.

Pogba has come under scrutiny for failing to replicate his international performances for France, who he will not feature for in upcoming Nations League games due to injury.

Deschamps heaped praise on Pogba's efforts for his country and expects the France star to move on from United after another underwhelming campaign.

"Pogba has had a lot of injuries, with his club's results not up to par," Deschamps told a news conference on Saturday.

"He too will have to change scenery this summer."

Deschamps additionally spoke of players who may have struggled on club duty, saying: "There has to be credit for what they have been able to do with the France team."

Tchouameni has enjoyed another productive season in Ligue 1 with Monaco, leading to reports he could join Liverpool, Chelsea or Real Madrid in the next transfer window.

The midfielder appeared 35 times in Ligue 1 this campaign, with only Wissam Ben Yedder (37) and goalkeeper Alexander Nubel (38) featuring more for Philippe Clement's side.

The 22-year-old represents a threat at both ends of the pitch, leading Monaco's charts for successful opposition-half passes (932), while making the most tackles (86) and winning the most duels (260).

Tchouameni will compete with the likes of N'Golo Kante, Adrien Rabiot and Matteo Guendouzi for a spot in midfield, and Deschamps is delighted to see the Monaco man coming into contention.

"He doesn't have the experience of Pogba and Kante, but he has potential... I took him on quite early, and in his head, he has the necessary maturity," Deschamps said.

"It's good to have these young people who make sure the older players do not rest on their laurels! The young players continue to grow, and even the others who are not selected are also growing.

"It's the new generation. Today a 19-year-old, it can seem a bit presumptuous, they go to the big clubs, but they have no worries, they do everything to succeed."

Kylian Mbappe staying at Paris Saint-Germain can only be a positive outcome for French football, according to Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps.

World Cup winner Mbappe appeared set to move to Real Madrid when his contract expired in June, but opted to sign a three-year extension with PSG.

That denied Madrid talisman Karim Benzema the chance to link-up at club level with international team-mate Mbappe, who insisted he stayed at PSG "because the project had changed" and for sentimental reasons.

Deschamps will have the attacking duo to call upon for the Nations League campaign, starting against Denmark next Friday, and the France coach was delighted to see Mbappe stay in Paris.

"It's his choice. It's obvious that he stays in Ligue 1, it's a very good thing for French football," he told reporters on Saturday.

"He is attached to the club, he said what he had to say but in being French, that can only be a good thing.

"We can grow by staying. Today the objective of PSG is the same as in all the big clubs, and to win the Champions League. It may be necessary one day to go abroad, but that is not an obligation.

"We are not going to speak in other periods when there was a lag compared to France. But today, the choice of players is not the same.

"It is perhaps less of an obligation to go abroad to accomplish beautiful things."

 

There were reports of tension between Benzema and Mbappe after the former uploaded a photo of late rapper Tupac Shakur that was deemed to be a veiled reference to betrayal.

Benzema has since denied those suggestions, insisting he does not feel betrayed by Mbappe, and Deschamps does not envisage problems between the pair when they arrive for international duty.

"From my position as coach, where I have the players live where I know from A to Z what is going on, the main thing is the group," he added.

"It can lead to misunderstandings. From a situation where we can all draw negative conclusions when they are not necessarily negative... It can turn into a misunderstanding, which does not reflect reality.

"Today with the connected world it can go very very quickly, the slightest photo goes quickly. Even if I'm not on there!"

Christopher Nkunku, Moussa Dembele and Wissam Ben Yedder will also join Mbappe and Benzema in France's attacking ranks, with Olivier Giroud missing out from selection.

Deschamps says he did not call up Giroud as he wanted to offer the likes of Nkunku, Dembele and Ben Yedder a chance to show their worth.

"I said that in relation to the attacking players, who will be supposed to have a little more playing time," Deschamps continued.

"Olivier Giroud is not with us, it's to give playing time to Moussa, Christopher and Wissam, who are with us regularly, who have had playing time and will have the opportunity to have a little more.

"If possible we will make sure to involve everyone, some will play more than others. Through the four meetings, we will make sure that they are active, so that they get stronger, to have more experience. It will give additional information on the final list for the World Cup."

France coach Didier Deschamps has named his squad for Les Bleus' Nations League games in June, with Boubacar Kamara called up for the first time.

The Nations League holders face Denmark, Austria and Croatia next month, playing their 2018 World Cup final opponents both home and away.

Marseille midfielder Kamara has enjoyed a fine season, and the 22-year-old – who is set to leave the Ligue 1 club as a free agent, with Aston Villa, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Barcelona linked – has been rewarded with a maiden senior international call.

Kamara is part of a 24-man squad and may well have benefited from Paul Pogba's injury absence.

Pogba – who is also out of contract at Manchester United – sustained an injury in a heavy defeat against Liverpool at Anfield in April, with club manager Ralf Rangnick confirming the midfielder's season was over.

N'Golo Kante has been named after he returned from injury to feature for Chelsea against Liverpool in last weekend's FA Cup final, with Kamara's club-mates Matteo Guendouzi and William Saliba, who is on loan from Arsenal, also called up.

Theo Hernandez has been crucial to Milan's title challenge in Serie A and is named in the defence alongside his brother Lucas.

Up front, Kylian Mbappe – whose future is set to be revealed before France's fixtures take place – joins Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman, Moussa Diaby. Wissam Ben Yedder and Christopher Nkunku, who has directly contributed to a remarkable 50 goals this season for RB Leipzig (34 goals, 16 assists).

France squad in full:

Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (Milan); Jonathan Clauss (Lens), Lucas Digne (Aston Villa), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Jules Kounde (Sevilla), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Marseille), Raphael Varane (Manchester United); Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Boubacar Kamara (Marseille), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco); Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig).

Didier Deschamps and France have agreed not to discuss a new contract until after the World Cup but that does not mean Zinedine Zidane is guaranteed to take charge of Les Blues, says French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet.

Deschamps became France boss in 2012 and has since signed two contract extensions, the latter of which came after World Cup glory at Russia 2018.

The 53-year-old's current deal expires after Les Blues aim to defend their title at Qatar 2022, leading to speculation that former Real Madrid boss Zidane will be appointed after the tournament.

Le Graet suggested the appointment of Zidane has not already been pre-agreed as he placed his support behind Deschamps.

"We both agreed not to renew him until after the World Cup," Le Graet said of Deschamps to L'Equipe. "He's not mad at me. He adores me. I think he will never say anything bad about me. 

"He lost a game in the European Championship and for much of France, he should have been fired [after the last-16 exit to Switzerland at Euro 2020].

"We'll see at the end of the World Cup if he wants to renew. We will spend time in Guingamp to discuss."

When pressed for an answer as to Zidane taking charge as Deschamps' successor, Le Graet responded: "First of all, you have to be careful with what you say. Zidane showed in Madrid that he had qualities that were barely imagined. 

"In the minds of the French, he could be a successor. But that is not my goal. We'll see. If Didier and I split up, he will definitely be one of the options.

"I'm not going to say to myself: 'I hope Didier says he doesn't want to renew and I go see Zidane'. Do you see me saying today: 'It is Zidane who is going to replace Deschamps'? We'll see.

"Maybe Zidane will take charge of Paris Saint-Germain. To train the national team you have to be free. But today we will do everything possible to put Didier in the best conditions to win this World Cup."

Indeed, Zidane emerged as a favourite when reports circulated in France that Mauricio Pochettino's PSG job was under threat after Champions League elimination at the last-16 stage to Real Madrid.

Even if Zidane is available, Le Graet insists he has learnt from the mistakes of his predecessor and will not seek a new manager while Deschamps is still at the helm.

"I will never do what my predecessor [Jean-Pierre Escalettes] did, who had already signed Laurent Blanc before going to South Africa for the [2010] World Cup," he added.

"[Raymond] Domenech was already on alert. How do you expect the players to respect you when a successor has already been named? 

"It doesn't work and never will. In no case will I see another coach before having lunch with Didier after the World Cup."

Didier Deschamps highlighted Denmark's quality as he warned of the difficulties of France's 2022 World Cup draw.

World champions France were entered into Group D on Friday, alongside Denmark, Tunisia and one of Peru, the United Arab Emirates or Australia.

Les Bleus also faced Denmark, Peru and Australia in the first round en route to the title in Russia four years ago and are now expected to comfortably get out of their group.

However, Deschamps was anything but complacent following the draw, well aware of the threat Denmark in particular pose.

Semi-finalists at Euro 2020, Denmark are ranked 11th in the world, with only Mexico and the Netherlands above them from pot two. Germany, widely considered the toughest opponents, are 12th.

And Kasper Hjulmand's side will get a good look at France in the Nations League at the end of this season, too.

Were France to fall into second place in their group, they would face the winners of Argentina's pool. Les Bleus beat Lionel Messi and Co. in Russia but would undoubtedly rather avoid one of the sport's great names in what seems set to be his last World Cup.

Deschamps, speaking to beIN SPORTS, said: "I do not know if this draw is perfect.

"The Danes will also have the advantage of getting to know us better after the two Nations League games this summer. And then it's not the same competition, so it's something else.

"You have to have a lot of respect for this team and especially not think that it's a given. We are talking about the 11th world nation that reached a semi-final at the last Euro. They rank higher than Germany.

"I saw that we will cross with the group of Argentina, but the most important thing is to know the schedules of the matches. We could go from 1pm to 10pm and it's not the same thing at all.

"We already know the dates, but we will wait to know the schedules."

Qatar 2022 is fast approaching and the anticipation will surely be at its most intense so far when Friday's draw for the group stage is completed.

The Doha Exhibition and Convention Center plays host to the milestone event, which will see eight groups drawn from pots as the eventual storylines of the World Cup begin to unfurl.

Among the narratives that will start being mapped out on Friday is France's title defence, with Les Bleus hoping to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to successfully defend their World Cup crown.

Ahead of the draw, Stats Perform provides a lowdown of all the key information…

 

How will the draw work?

Most of us have seen a draw and understand the general premise, but there's a lot of detail to consider before we end up with our completed group stage.

For starters, the draw (19:00 local time) will only include 29 qualified teams, with the other three spots to consist of a couple of intercontinental play-off slot placeholders and one UEFA play-off slot placeholder, with those nations to be determined later in the year.

The qualified teams will be sorted into four pots of eight, with their FIFA world ranking determining which they enter – joining Qatar in pot one will be the top seven teams, while the nations ranked eight-15 will be in pot 2, and so on. The three play-off slot placeholders will be drawn from pot four.

There will also be eight pots representing the groups, A to H. Each group pot contains four balls with position numbers, ranging from one to four, which correspond to the teams' respective starting position in the tables and subsequently impact their fixture schedule.

Team pot one will be the first to empty, with Qatar automatically drawn into slot A1. The other sides from pot one will go straight into position one of the remaining groups.

From then on, a ball is drawn from a team pot and followed by one from a group pot, determining that team's position – for example, the second nation drawn into Group A could be placed in slot A4. The process continues until each team pot is emptied, with pot four the last to be drawn.

Where possible, no group will contain more than one team from the same qualification zone, with the exception of Europe – so anyone hoping for an encounter like Brazil v Uruguay will have to wait for the knockout stage.

Thursday's release of the latest world rankings confirmed the make-up of the respective pots, so, without any further ado, let's take a look through them…

The Pots

Pot One:

Qatar (hosts)
Brazil
Belgium
France
Argentina
England
Spain
Portugal

 

Pot Two:

Denmark
Netherlands
Germany
Mexico 
USA
Switzerland
Croatia
Uruguay

Pot Three:

Senegal
Iran
Japan
Morocco
Serbia
Poland
South Korea
Tunisia

 

Pot Four:

Cameroon
Canada
Ecuador
Saudi Arabia
Ghana
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 1 
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 2
UEFA play-off placeholder

Luck of the draw!

It goes without saying that, theoretically, being in pot one means you would be favourites to win your group. But that's the beauty of football; practically anything can happen once you're on the pitch.

If we look back to the last World Cup four years ago, defending champions Germany were top of the FIFA rankings and in pot one, but then failed to get through the group stage for the first time ever.

 

But just as being in a higher pot is no guarantee of going deep into the tournament, who's to say how eventual 2018 champions France would have fared had they been in pot two?

Les Bleus were ranked seventh at the time so squeezed into pot one ahead of Spain. While that arguably gave them a trickier route to the final in the knockout phase, perhaps the tests posed by Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium were what kept them sharp all the way to the end?

This time around, Spain do appear in pot one. Portugal do as well, with Fernando Santos' men benefiting in that regard from European champions Italy's shock absence.

Nevertheless, there are some powerful teams in pot two. The Netherlands and Germany are undoubtedly the pick of the bunch there, both of whom will provide a stern test for any of the teams in pot one. Brazil v Die Mannschaft in the group stage, anyone?

There's a chance we could even see a repeat of the 2018 final in the group stage, with Croatia (pot two) able to come up against France in the opening round, while an England v United States showdown would surely capture the imagination of fans on both sides of 'the pond'.

We can expect to see plenty of quality in pot three as well, especially with Serbia, Robert Lewandowski's Poland and African champions Senegal present.

Among those in pot four are Canada. They may only be competing in their second World Cup and first since 1986, but John Herdman's team have won plenty of admirers en route to winning the CONCACAF qualifying section ahead of Mexico and reaching a record high of 33rd in the rankings.

 

Excitement, expectations and exoduses as Ronaldo and Messi look likely to bow out

Whether watching football on TV or from the stands, it can often be easy to forget that our heroes are just ordinary people as well. They are individuals who in all likelihood had the same hopes and dreams as many of us as children.

The glitz and glamour surrounding professional football can lead us to put footballers on a pedestal, but behind the sport's shiny facade, our teams are made up of – and coached by – people who are just as obsessed with the idea of the World Cup as anyone else.

England manager Gareth Southgate encapsulated the excitement earlier this week, as he said: "[The World Cup evokes] a different sort of feeling, but it's still a tournament we all watched as kids, we all filled our wallcharts out, we all hoped and followed when England were there that we would do well. And it's a unique chance to make history, so that of course is massively exciting."

Of course, that innocent excitement harbours expectation and hope for many, for others there will be a feeling of responsibility to amend the wrongs of the past.

This time around, that's arguably truest when looking at Germany, with Manuel Neuer fully appreciating he may not get another opportunity to put things right.

"I know that I will probably not get to play many more World Cups, so after crashing out in 2018 in Russia and our exit against England [at Euro 2020], it's important that we show a new version of ourselves and visualise success," the experienced goalkeeper said.

That finality Neuer alluded to is another key aspect of the World Cup. Given the four-year cycle of the tournament, every time we bid a fond farewell to a few greats of the game who opt to take advantage of the cyclical nature and end their international careers.

 

This time it looks as though Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who for so long battled out their own personal 'Greatest of All-Time' rivalry – may be among those appearing on the World Cup stage for the last time.

"Goal achieved, we're at the Qatar World Cup. We're in our rightful place!" Ronaldo's Instagram post after Portugal's play-off success focused on the positive, but at 37, Qatar 2022 will surely be his final appearance at the tournament.

As for Messi, he said last week: "I don't know, the truth is I don't know. Let's hope [Argentina's preparations] go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change."

Exoduses after major international tournaments are common as teams reset or rebuild, but given what Messi and Ronaldo have represented on the pitch and the fact they've appeared at each of the previous four World Cups, their appearances at Qatar 2022 need to be savoured.

It all begins with Friday's draw, when narratives and talking points that'll live longer than any of us will start to take shape with the unscrewing of a few shiny plastic balls.

It's nearly four years since Didier Deschamps became only the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach, as he guided France to their second success on football's grandest stage.

The target now for Les Bleus is to become the first nation since Brazil in 1962 to retain their crown, and that journey begins on Friday with the draw for the group stage of Qatar 2022.

Four years is a long time to wait for anything, but the draw for the World Cup is always a milestone event that sees the anticipation taken up a notch.

The eyes of the football world will be on the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, where the eight groups will be drawn and potential routes to December's finale can start being plotted.

But there is a little more to the draw than that…

 

How will the draw work?

Most of us have seen a draw and understand the general premise, but there's a lot of detail to consider before we end up with our completed group stage.

For starters, Friday's draw (19:00 local time) will only include 29 qualified teams, with the other three spots to consist of a couple of intercontinental play-off slot placeholders and one UEFA play-off slot placeholder, with those nations to be determined later in the year.

The qualified teams will be sorted into four pots of eight, with their FIFA world ranking determining which they enter – joining Qatar in pot one will be the top seven teams, while the nations ranked eight-15 will be in pot 2, and so on. The three play-off slot placeholders will be drawn from pot four.

There will also be eight pots representing the groups, A to H. Each group pot contains four balls with position numbers, ranging from one to four, which correspond to the teams' respective starting position in the tables and subsequently impact their fixture schedule.

Team pot one will be the first to empty, with Qatar automatically drawn into slot A1. The other sides from pot one will go straight into position one of the remaining groups.

From then on, a ball is drawn from a team pot and followed by one from a group pot, determining that team's position – for example, the second nation drawn into Group A could be placed in slot A4. The process continues until each team pot is emptied, with pot four the last to be drawn.

Where possible, no group will contain more than one team from the same qualification zone, with the exception of Europe – so anyone hoping for an encounter like Brazil v Uruguay will have to wait for the knockout stage.

Thursday's release of the latest world rankings confirmed the make-up of the respective pots, so, without any further ado, let's take a look through them…

The Pots

Pot One:

Qatar (hosts)
Brazil
Belgium
France
Argentina
England
Spain
Portugal

 

Pot Two:

Denmark
Netherlands
Germany
Mexico 
USA
Switzerland
Croatia
Uruguay

Pot Three:

Senegal
Iran
Japan
Morocco
Serbia
Poland
South Korea
Tunisia

 

Pot Four:

Cameroon
Canada
Ecuador
Saudi Arabia
Ghana
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 1 
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 2
UEFA play-off placeholder

Luck of the draw!

It goes without saying that, theoretically, being in pot one means you would be favourites to win your group. But that's the beauty of football; practically anything can happen once you're on the pitch.

If we look back to the last World Cup four years ago, defending champions Germany were top of the FIFA rankings and in pot one, but then failed to get through the group stage for the first time ever.

 

But just as being in a higher pot is no guarantee of going deep into the tournament, who's to say how eventual 2018 champions France would have fared had they been in pot two?

Les Bleus were ranked seventh at the time so squeezed into pot one ahead of Spain. While that arguably gave them a trickier route to the final in the knockout phase, perhaps the tests posed by Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium were what kept them sharp all the way to the end?

This time around, Spain do appear in pot one. Portugal do as well, with Fernando Santos' men benefiting in that regard from European champions Italy's shock absence.

Nevertheless, there are some powerful teams in pot two. The Netherlands and Germany are undoubtedly the pick of the bunch there, both of whom will provide a stern test for any of the teams in pot one. Brazil v Die Mannschaft in the group stage, anyone?

There's a chance we could even see a repeat of the 2018 final in the group stage, with Croatia (pot two) able to come up against France in the opening round, while an England v United States showdown would surely capture the imagination of fans on both sides of 'the pond'.

We can expect to see plenty of quality in pot three as well, especially with Serbia, Robert Lewandowski's Poland and African champions Senegal present.

Among those in pot four are Canada. They may only be competing in their second World Cup and first since 1986, but John Herdman's team have won plenty of admirers en route to winning the CONCACAF qualifying section and reaching a record high of 33rd in the rankings.

 

Excitement, expectations and exoduses as Ronaldo and Messi look likely to bow out

Whether watching football on TV or from the stands, it can often be easy to forget that our heroes are just ordinary people as well. They are individuals who in all likelihood had the same hopes and dreams as many of us as children.

The glitz and glamour surrounding professional football can lead us to put footballers on a pedestal, but behind the sport's shiny facade, our teams are made up of – and coached by – people who are just as obsessed with the idea of the World Cup as anyone else.

England manager Gareth Southgate encapsulated the excitement earlier this week, as he said: "[The World Cup evokes] a different sort of feeling, but it's still a tournament we all watched as kids, we all filled our wallcharts out, we all hoped and followed when England were there that we would do well. And it's a unique chance to make history, so that of course is massively exciting."

Of course, that innocent excitement harbours expectation and hope for many, for others there will be a feeling of responsibility to amend the wrongs of the past.

This time around, that's arguably truest when looking at Germany, with Manuel Neuer fully appreciating he may not get another opportunity to put things right.

"I know that I will probably not get to play many more World Cups, so after crashing out in 2018 in Russia and our exit against England [at Euro 2020], it's important that we show a new version of ourselves and visualise success," the experienced goalkeeper said.

That finality Neuer alluded to is another key aspect of the World Cup. Given the four-year cycle of the tournament, every time we bid a fond farewell to a few greats of the game who opt to take advantage of the cyclical nature and end their international careers.

 

This time it looks as though Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who for so long battled out their own personal 'Greatest of All-Time' rivalry – may be among those appearing on the World Cup stage for the last time.

"Goal achieved, we're at the Qatar World Cup. We're in our rightful place!" Ronaldo's Instagram post after Portugal's play-off success focused on the positive, but at 37, Qatar 2022 will surely be his final appearance at the tournament.

As for Messi, he said last week: "I don't know, the truth is I don't know. Let's hope [Argentina's preparations] go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change."

Exoduses after major international tournaments are common as teams reset or rebuild, but given what Messi and Ronaldo have represented on the pitch and the fact they've appeared at each of the previous four World Cups, their appearances at Qatar 2022 need to be savoured.

It all begins with Friday's draw, when narratives and talking points that'll live longer than any of us will start to take shape with the unscrewing of a few shiny plastic balls.

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