We bring you the best overnight developments as nations move into their final preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™.
READ: Shock setback for France
Didier Deschamps says Paul Pogba is “very likely” to start in this Saturday evening’s Group C opener against the Caltex Socceroos.
The Manchester United man has intermittently come under fire during Les Bleus’ tournament build-up, but Deschamps says Pogba is too valuable to leave out against Australia.
Pogba was jeered off the pitch late on in France’s 3-1 friendly win over Italy on June 1, but the France boss said the midfielder was “much better” in the side’s 1-1 draw with the USA yesterday.
“There are very high expectations for him. It’s normal, and when he does things well, he always has to do better,” Deschamps told TF1.
“But, with all that Paul is able to do, it's always about the team. That is what's important to me."
France have also been handed a boost ahead of Saturday’s match with Olivier Giroud expected to be fit to face the Caltex Socceroos.
The Chelsea man was subject to a nasty head clash with USA defender Matt Miazga in the second half and was treated for five minutes on the pitch but Deschamps said Giroud’s injury was not as serious as originally anticipated.
"Giroud has a beautiful cut of six centimetres but he should be ready," he said.
Catch the Caltex Socceroos in action against the 1998 Champions at 8pm AEST, Saturday 16 June – live on SBS and Optus Sport.
Neymar stole the show as Brazil fired a warning to the rest of the FIFA World Cup™ after defeating Austria 3-0 in their final warm up friendly.
The Paris Saint Germain forward clinched a sensational second half strike on his first start since a metatarsal injury sustained in February to go level with Romario on Brazil’s all-time leading goalscorers list.
The 26-year-old registered his 55th goal for the national side and now only needs seven goals to draw level with legendary Real Madrid and Barcelona forward Ronaldo, while Pele’s total of 77 remains within touching distance.
"I don't know Neymar's limits," said Brazil coach Tite following the match.
"His technical and creative capacity is impressive. When we get him in the last third of the field he is lethal."
Gabriel Jesus and Phillipe Coutinho added the other goals for the five-time champions, who being the campaign against Switzerland on June 17.
Javier Mascherano says Argentina must follow the inspirational lead of Lionel Messi when the 2018 World Cup™ kicks off in four days time.
With Messi entering Russia at 30 years of age, Mascherano knows this could be the last chance for the Barcelona icon to add the World Cup™ to his legacy.
"It's clear Leo conditions our collective performance; I hope as his team-mates we can meet his standards,” Mascherano told The Guardian.
"One wishes for this coming World Cup that Leo can be the best version of himself, because the aspirations of the whole squad depend on this version.”
The South Americans finished runners-up in the 2014 edition of the tournament, and according to Mascherano, Argentina’s chances of making the Final in Russia will depend on their ability to combine traditional attacking panache with collective organisation.
"For years the talk has been of Argentina's strong point being the offensive side, the attack and clearly we do have players with immense talent up front.
"But I think what has made these recent teams so competitive has been the ability to find a defensive equilibrium."
Argentina will entertain tournament debutants Iceland in their Group D opener on June 16.
Egypt doctor provides Salah update, Mitrovic nets treble for Serbia,
Egypt team doctor Mohamed Abou al-Ela says Mohamed Salah is unlikely to feature in Egypt’s Group A opener against Uruguay.
The Liverpool forward sat out Egypt’s training yesterday but did spend time greeting fans following the side’s arrival in Grozny.
"He still feels pain," said the Egypt team doctor.
"This type of injury needs a recovery period of three weeks before going back to the field."
However, Salah was more optimistic of facing the South Americans on June 19.
"I'm excited. God willing I'm well-prepared and things are going well and my morale is high," said the 25-year-old.
"I cannot say what we're going to reach, but the players' ambitions are high and I hope we get a good result."
Meanwhile, Serbia wrapped up their tournament preparations with a 5-1 hammering of Bolivia in yesterday's friendly in Austria.
Alexsandar Mitrovic clinched a hat trick for Mladen Krstajic's side with Adem Ljajic and Branislav Ivanovic rounding off a five star performance on the eve of the competition.
Morroco have also played their final pre-tournament friendly and emerged 3-1 victors over Estonia.
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