Tite says Brazil were dealt with neither the group of "death nor of life" after they were drawn to face Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in the 2022 World Cup.

The Selecao faced Switzerland and Serbia in the last World Cup in Russia four years ago, so there was a sense of deja vu when the draw was made in Doha on Friday.

As the top-ranked side in the world, Brazil will be expected to win Group G, which also includes Cameroon.

But Brazil boss Title says there will be no room for complacency.

He told reporters: "It is neither [the group] of death nor of life. Everything is the same [as Brazil’s group at Russia 2018] – all that was missing was Costa Rica!

"We're talking about Switzerland and Serbia, the teams who stopped Italy and Portugal, and also a Cameroon team that is very strong in Africa.

"We will have to raise our own game."

All three of Brazil's opponents qualified for the tournament as group winners, but Tite is focused on ensuring his side are in the best possible condition to take the tournament by storm.

"That is part of the chapter of a book. Now it's another reality, another moment," he said.

"We have to consolidate this work now. There are eight, nine more months until the end of the year. We have to confirm an evolution of the team, to affirm the quality of the team, that the athletes individually can be in their best condition.

"We have to do an invisible job of monitoring them, which for the fans maybe do not see, but it's the medical follow-up, the physical follow-up, the follow-up of the technical commission with the athlete himself.

"All this [while] respecting their clubs. We have to have all the follow-up and guidance so that they can be in the best conditions, apart from the preparatory games that we will have until the World Cup. This is the most important thing for me."

Brazil will face Serbia in their opening game of the tournament on November 24.

Tite says Brazil were dealt with neither the group of "death nor of life" after they were drawn to face Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in the 2022 World Cup.

The Selecao faced Switzerland and Serbia in the last World Cup in Russia four years ago, so there was a sense of deja vu when the draw was made in Doha on Friday.

As the top-ranked side in the world, Brazil will be expected to win Group G, which also includes Cameroon.

But Brazil boss Title says there will be no room for complacency.

He told reporters: "It is neither [the group] of death nor of life. Everything is the same [as Brazil’s group at Russia 2018] – all that was missing was Costa Rica!

"We're talking about Switzerland and Serbia, the teams who stopped Italy and Portugal, and also a Cameroon team that is very strong in Africa.

"We will have to raise our own game."

All three of Brazil's opponents qualified for the tournament as group winners, but Tite is focused on ensuring his side are in the best possible condition to take the tournament by storm.

"That is part of the chapter of a book. Now it's another reality, another moment," he said.

"We have to consolidate this work now. There are eight, nine more months until the end of the year. We have to confirm an evolution of the team, to affirm the quality of the team, that the athletes individually can be in their best condition.

"We have to do an invisible job of monitoring them, which for the fans maybe do not see, but it's the medical follow-up, the physical follow-up, the follow-up of the technical commission with the athlete himself.

"All this [while] respecting their clubs. We have to have all the follow-up and guidance so that they can be in the best conditions, apart from the preparatory games that we will have until the World Cup. This is the most important thing for me."

Brazil will face Serbia in their opening game of the tournament on November 24.

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.

Luke Shaw appeared to suggest he finds greater enjoyment in his football when playing for England than Manchester United. 

Shaw scored the Three Lions' equaliser in Saturday's 2-1 friendly win over Switzerland, which was secured by a second-half Harry Kane penalty. 

That was Shaw's sixth goal involvement in his past eight matches for England, with the left-back seemingly established as first choice for Gareth Southgate. 

He remains a reliable creative source at club level as well, with his five assists across all competitions in 2021-22 bettered by only Paul Pogba (nine) and Bruno Fernandes (13), while the latter (107) is also the only United player to create more chances than Shaw (47). 

But much like club and international colleague Harry Maguire, Shaw's United form has been criticised at times this term, especially with regard to his defensive positioning in an extremely porous backline – only four teams have faced more shots on target in the Premier League this season than the Red Devils (143). 

That would understandably be difficult to enjoy for a defender, but Shaw's frankness about the situation will likely raise eyebrows at Old Trafford. 

"The environment here that Gareth creates, you always enjoy it," Shaw told reporters at Wembley. 

"When I come here it's about enjoyment and playing games with a smile on my face. We all love playing for our country and when we're here we're all focused on what's happening here." 

Shaw was then asked if he had to be happy in order to find his best form, to which he replied: "I think everyone does. 

"It's always important to feel like you're wanted and especially here I always feel that. I'm not saying I don't at United, but especially here, the way things are, I feel wanted and I enjoy my football. 

"A big part of football is the enjoyment and, of course, it's hard to enjoy when we're losing and not playing well at club level. We have to face that. 

"This season hasn't been good enough at all and it's hard to enjoy. We've got a lot to improve but right now we're here at England. My focus is on that." 

Gareth Southgate is not worried about the prospect of Harry Kane struggling with pressure as he closes on Wayne Rooney's England goals record.

Kane scored the winner as the Three Lions beat Switzerland 2-1 in Saturday's friendly at Wembley, converting a penalty 12 minutes from time.

It took him level with Bobby Charlton on 49 goals for England, meaning only Rooney on 53 is now ahead of the Tottenham star.

Rooney, who coincidentally broke Charlton's initial record with a penalty against Switzerland in 2015, was considered by many to have passed his peak when he reached 50 goals, as he only went on to score another three.

There was also a degree of obsession around the achievement in the lead up, with the idea that Rooney struggled somewhat with the pressure a common theory.

Whether that truly was the case, only Rooney knows, but Southgate is convinced Kane will not be impacted in such a way.

Asked if he wanted Kane to break the record before the World Cup so it does not become a distraction, Southgate jovially replied: "I'd like him to break it in the World Cup final!

"I think he's quite calm about it, confident he can get there because his goals per game record is phenomenally good.

"I don't know where that would compare to Jimmy Greaves, but I imagine he's the only other player who'd be close [to Greaves], so I think he knows there's always going to be speculation.

"If he doesn't break it before [the World Cup] then [the country] will be saying he's out of form and should he be in the team.

"One way or another, the focus will be on him – he's used to dealing with it and I'm sure he'll be very calm about it whichever way."

But in the eyes of Southgate, there is much more to Kane than just his goals, with the England manager delighted to have such a talent who also acts as an example with his attitude.

"I think the names he's amongst now are incredible, aren't they? He'll appreciate that history and it'll mean a lot to him to be in with those people," Southgate said of Kane pulling level with Charlton.

"You'd have to say he looks favourite to go and do that [break Rooney's record], I don't want to put any sort of curse on that and say any more, but he wants the team to do well.

"He has this dual drive. What's great is that means that whenever he turns up, because he also has the individual ambition, there's never a camp where he doesn't look like he wants to play, or doesn't want to be involved or at the forefront of things.

"That's the mentality that then spreads through the rest of the group, so I'm very pleased for him and I think in the second half especially we were just about value for the win."

England are in action again on Tuesday when they host Ivory Coast. Three days later they will find out their opponents at Qatar 2022 when the World Cup draw is made.

Harry Kane appreciated being alongside "amazing company" after joining Bobby Charlton on 49 goals for England with his penalty in a 2-1 win over Switzerland. 

England fell behind to Breel Embolo's opener at Wembley on Saturday but Luke Shaw equalised on the stroke of half-time and Kane converted a winner from the spot after Steven Zuber was adjudged to have handled the ball following a VAR review. 

The Tottenham striker now sits joint-second on the all-time goalscoring list for the Three Lions, with only Wayne Rooney (53) ahead of him. 

Kane's penalty was his 14th in international football – five more than any other England player – and the 100th the country have scored in all competitions.

"It is amazing company to be with," Kane told Sky Sports of moving level with Charlton. 

"[I'm] super proud to be doing that but we look forward to the next one. A big year ahead to get more caps and more goals. I will be ready for Tuesday [against Ivory Coast] but it is down to the manager." 

He added: "You have to be ready for any chance at any moment. Penalties are a great way of getting on the scoresheet, I practice and work on them a lot." 

Gareth Southgate handed debuts to Marc Guehi, Kyle Walker-Peters and Tyrick Mitchell and Kane was pleased to get the win with a number of less experienced players in the squad. 

"Tough game. A big year ahead and a chance for us to try different systems and formations to see how we get on. I felt it was a good performance but room for improvement but a good win to start the year," he said. 

"We rotated the squad, new faces getting debuts and these are the games you have to try stuff. There is not a lot of time between now and the World Cup. 

"The new boys did great, really well. Marc Guehi got the penalty and good to see the young players coming on. You want to start your England career with a win and thankfully we did that." 

England began their World Cup year with a 2-1 friendly victory over Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday thanks to Harry Kane's late winner.

The Three Lions were by no means spectacular, but Gareth Southgate will in all likelihood be content as they got the job done despite fielding a somewhat unfamiliar starting XI.

Nevertheless, Southgate may have expected more from a first half that Switzerland had by far the better of, with Breel Embolo's headed opener one of nine shots to England's two.

But a fierce Luke Shaw hit right before the break had the hosts level at the interval.

The hosts enjoyed greater control in the second half and eventually dealt the decisive blow via Kane's penalty, his 49th international strike, leaving him behind only Wayne Rooney (53) for the most England goals.

Victory looked unlikely for a while, however. The Three Lions found themselves trailing after 22 minutes as Embolo nodded in from Xherdan Shaqiri's right-wing cross.

It would have been 2-0 a few moments later were it not for Jordan Pickford, whose sharp reflexes ensured Fabian Frei's goal-bound effort was pushed onto the crossbar.

Ricardo Rodriguez's long-range strike forced Pickford into action again late in the half, before Embolo scuffed the rebound wide.

England capitalised on those let-offs on the stroke of half-time when Shaw ran on to Conor Gallagher's cut-back and smashed home from 20 yards.

Shortly after the restart, Kane's attempted lob from a tight angle came back off goalkeeper Jonas Omlin's face and debutant Marc Guehi's glancing header at the resulting corner flew agonisingly wide.

England's belief grew as the half progressed and Kane made no mistake from the spot late on after Steven Zuber handled Guehi's header inside the box.

England will play the second half of Saturday's international friendly against Switzerland without names on their shirts to raise awareness of dementia.

The Three Lions played the first half at Wembley with names on their jerseys as usual, but they shall disappear from the shirts after the interval in a symbolic gesture that is hoped will highlight how people with dementia lose "vital memories".

England signed a two-year partnership with the Alzheimer's Society charity last August to help raise funds and increase awareness of the issues faced by those affected by the condition.

"As the squad walk out in these thought-provoking shirts, we hope it will get fans up and down the country to sit up and take note of the reality of living with dementia," Alzheimer's Society CEO Kate Lee stated.

"Football should be unforgettable – I hope it makes a massive impact that ripples from the Royal Box to the stands and into homes across the nation, inspiring people to support our work to raise awareness and reduce stigma and help us make sure no-one faces dementia alone."

The shirts worn in the second half will subsequently be auctioned to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society's work.

Kyle Walker-Peters and Tyrick Mitchell have been called up to the England squad for the first time after Gareth Southgate was forced to make four changes to his squad.

A hamstring injury to Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and fitness concerns over Chelsea's Reece James left the Three Lions with Luke Shaw as their sole fit full-back in the 25-man squad that was named on Thursday.

Newcastle United's Kieran Trippier and Chelsea's Ben Chilwell are injured, while Kyle Walker of Manchester City was left out as Southgate considered his options. Manchester United man Shaw, while called up, has not played since the end of February after contracting coronavirus.

Southgate has reacted to the latest setbacks by calling in Southampton full-back Walker-Peters and Crystal Palace's Mitchell, who could make their senior debuts across friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

Walker-Peters won the Under-20 World Cup in 2017, but Mitchell has not featured for any of England's youth sides.

Meanwhile, West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone replaces Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale, who missed Saturday's 1-0 win at Aston Villa with a muscle injury.

The final change saw Tammy Abraham, who scored twice in Roma's 3-0 derby win over Lazio on Sunday, drop out as Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins comes in.

England boss Gareth Southgate said Marcus Rashford is "clearly not at his best" after dropping the out-of-form Manchester United forward.

The 24-year-old has registered just six goal involvements in 19 Premier League appearances in a frustrating campaign for the Red Devils, and will not feature in England's upcoming home friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

Rashford has earned 46 caps for his country and scored 12 international goals, his last strike coming against Romania in a pre-Euro 2020 friendly last June.

But the forward has made just 10 league starts for United this season, leading to suggestions he could seek to leave Old Trafford in the summer, ahead of the World Cup at the end of the year.

"He is in the same position as everyone else, whether they are in the squad or not," Southgate said. "They've all got to play well towards the end of this season and, in particular, at the beginning of next season.

"It is a difficult time for him, he's clearly not at his best, but there is plenty of time. We know what Marcus can bring, and hopefully, he can rediscover the form he's capable of."

 Rashford was not the only United attacker to be left out of Southgate's squad, with Jadon Sancho remaining absent despite registering five goal involvements in his last six Premier League appearances, having recorded just one in his first 18.

Southgate acknowledged Sancho's club form has improved after the winger made a slow start to his United career, stating his absence was due to the competition provided by England's other attackers.

"You just have to look at the other attacking players in the squad: Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Phil Foden," the England boss said. "Jadon's performances have improved at Manchester United, but it is an area where we have big competition for places."

Southgate also left Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker out of his latest group but was keen to emphasise the upcoming games represent an opportunity to look at other right-back options.

"I had a chat with Kyle; we felt this was an opportunity to have a look at the two younger full-backs," Southgate said.

"We know all there is to know about Kyle; he's a very important player, and he'll be back with us in June [for Nations League matches].

"We are very happy with what he's done. He's been a huge part of the progress we've made with this team, and you can see in the biggest matches with Manchester City this year, he's still been a key player for them.

"These young full-backs [Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James] are exciting."

The England boss also hit back at suggestions Manchester United defender Harry Maguire could have missed out on the squad, highlighting his importance to England despite there having been recent criticism of his displays at club level.

"There wasn't a chance we weren't going to call him up," Southgate said. "He's one of our best centre-backs."

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has been dropped from Gareth Southgate's England squad, while Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi has been handed his first senior call-up.

Fellow Red Devils attacker Jadon Sancho has also been omitted from the 25-man squad, having also been left out of Southgate's last party in November 2021.

Rashford has endured an underwhelming season at Old Trafford, registering a paltry four goals and two assists in 19 Premier League appearances as his team fights for a top-four finish.

The 24-year-old's frustrating campaign has led to suggestions he could leave Old Trafford, and he described himself as "upset" and "disappointed" after being heckled by his own fans following Tuesday's Champions League defeat to Atletico Madrid.

Meanwhile, 21-year-old defender Guehi could make his Three Lions debut in the Wembley friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast, having impressed for Patrick Viera's Eagles this season.

Guehi has made 28 Premier League appearances since leaving Chelsea for Selhurst Park in July, with the Eagles keeping eight league clean sheets this term, a tally betted by just seven Premier League sides.

Along with Rashford and Sancho, Manchester City defender Kyle Walker is another big-name absence, with Southgate favouring Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James in his right-back position.

Alexander-Arnold and James have been two of the Premier League's three most creative defenders this season, having recorded 11 and six assists so far this term, respectively (Liverpool's Andrew Robertson has registered 10).

England host Switzerland on March 26 and Ivory Coast three days later, as the Euro 2020 runners-up ramp up their preparations for this year's World Cup in Qatar.

Swiss Ice Hockey, along with other members of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), has called for sanctions on Russia and Belarus due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

After weeks of rising political tensions, Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday, with the conflict having escalated further over the weekend.

Russia's actions have been widely condemned and sporting, as well as political and financial, punishments have been handed out as a consequence.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) called on all international sporting federations to relocate or cancel any events set to take place in Russia or Belarus.

St Petersburg was stripped of the right to host the 2021-22 Champions League final by UEFA, while Formula One removed the Russian Grand Prix from its calendar this year.

Numerous high-profile sportspeople have expressed their opposition to the conflict, with Russia's Andrey Rublev writing "no war please" on a camera lens at the Dubai Tennis Championship and compatriot Daniil Medvedev calling for peace.

Vladimir Putin's status as honorary president and ambassador of the International Judo Federation (IJF) has also been suspended, and now The Swiss Ice Hockey Federation has demanded further action within their sport.

"The attack is in complete contradiction to the values of the Olympic movement, which is committed to peace, understanding and solidarity between countries and peoples," a statement from Swiss Ice Hockey read. 

"With its actions, Russia is breaking the Olympic truce, which was adopted as a resolution by the UN General Assembly on December 2, 2021 by 173 member countries.

"Swiss Ice Hockey strongly condemns Russia's actions. Swiss Ice Hockey's thoughts are with the Ukrainian ice hockey family and everyone in Ukraine in this difficult situation. 

"Together with other member associations, Swiss Ice Hockey has submitted an application to the IIHF, in which immediate and far-reaching consequences and sanctions against Russia and Belarus – which supports the Russian government in their actions – are required. 

"The application to the IIHF Council calls for, among other things, the immediate exclusion of the Russian and Belarusian ice hockey federations as members of the IIHF and the withdrawal of the U20 World Championship in December 2022 in Novosibirsk and the A World Championship in May 2023 in St. Petersburg.

"Swiss Ice Hockey has also decided that the senior men's national team will not travel to Russia and play a friendly against Russia as part of the World Cup preparations next spring – contrary to the original plan."

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) took silver in the men's ice hockey tournament at this year's Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Italy were drawn to face England and Germany in a tough 2022-23 Nations League group on Thursday.

The Azzurri beat England in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley in July and the two sides will do battle again in Group A3 of the Nations League.

They will also face Germany and Hungary home and away in matches that will take place next June and September 2022.

Holders France are in Group A1 along with Croatia, Denmark and Austria.

World champions France were crowned champions when they came from behind to beat Spain 2-1 at San Siro in October.

Spain were drawn in Group A2 and will come up against Portugal, Czech Republic and Switzerland in the third edition of the UEFA competition.

Belgium, who squandered a two-goal lead to lose against France at the semi-final stage of the Nations League two months ago, will take on Netherlands, Poland and Wales.

Scotland, Republic of Ireland, Ukraine and Armenia are in League B Group 1.

Russia, Iceland, Israel and Albania will do battle in Group B2, with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland and Romania in Group B3.

Group B4 will see Serbia, Sweden, Norway and Slovenia lock horns as they strive to secure promotion.

Four of the six matchdays will be in June due to the scheduling of the World Cup in Qatar later in 2022.

The four group winners in League A will advance to the Nations League Finals in June 2023. The group winners in the other three leagues will all be promoted for the 2024-25 edition.

Switzerland kept their word and thanked Northern Ireland for helping them to reach the World Cup – by sending the team chocolate.

In one of the sweeter football stories of the week, Switzerland posted a video to social media on Wednesday showing head coach Murat Yakin boxing up some confectionery treats to send to Belfast.

It was their way of showing their gratitude for Northern Ireland's goalless draw with Italy in the final round of European World Cup qualifying group games, a result that, combined with Switzerland's 4-0 win over Bulgaria, saw Yakin's men seal their place at Qatar 2022.

Ian Baraclough's side are to receive 9.3 kilograms of Swiss chocolate in recognition of preventing the European champions from scoring for 93 minutes.

Switzerland had previously promised a gift after initially paying tribute in their post-match celebrations at the team hotel in Lucerne, where they sung Sweet Caroline, the 1969 Neil Diamond hit that has become a staple song at Northern Ireland matches.

The Euro 2020 quarter-finalists drew 1-1 with Italy in their penultimate qualifier, in which Jorginho missed a 90th-minute penalty for the Azzurri. That result ensured they were able to finish two points clear at the top of Group C after the final round of games.

Italy, meanwhile, must now contend the play-offs alongside teams including Portugal, Sweden, Wales and Russia. The draw for the semi-finals takes place on Friday.

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