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From the editor

Marco Verratti reacts to Italy’s defeat to North Macedonia (Getty Images)

This time last year, when Italy and Algeria were in the process of setting world and African records for lengthy unbeaten runs (37 and 35 international games respectively), the idea that neither of them would be present at Qatar for the 2022 World Cup would have been unthinkable. Yet football has a funny way of surprising you.

The surreal situation of European champions Italy missing out on a second consecutive World Cup was summed up by journalist Richard Jolly, who pointed out that former England defender Matthew Upson – whose last cap came in the Three Lions’ 4-1 defeat to Germany in South Africa in 2010 – has scored a World Cup knockout goal more recently than the Azzurri, a fact that will remain true until 2026 at least. Our man in Rome, Paddy Agnew, reports on the fallout and reaction from the shock defeat to North Macedonia in this issue.

After such results, it is not uncommon to hear the words “disaster” or “tragedy”, yet the current situation in Ukraine offers a sharp sense of perspective. Still, football has played its part in the response to Russia’s invasion; Oleg Zadernovsky reports from inside Ukraine, while Dariusz Kurowski reveals the response from football clubs in neighbouring Poland.

Elsewhere we’ve got a full round-up of March’s World Cup qualifiers, reports from Mexico and Brazil, a closer look at the future of African club football, plus we also have an exclusive interview from Japan with Spain legend Andres Iniesta.

Jamie Evans, Assistant Editor




People in the news…on and off the pitch

4 In pictures
11 The month in numbers
12 World Cup draw
14 Keir Radnedge Infantino’s FIFA tenure
16 Jonathan Wilson Xavi’s Barcelona
18 Ins & Outs
19 Obituaries
21 On the radar


22 Mexico
24 Poland
25 Andriy Yarmolenko


26 Ukraine How football has responded to Russia’s invasion
30 Brazil How the State Leagues work
34 Italy World Cup failure fallout
38 Austria Red Bull Salzburg


44 Player Biography Dusan Vlahovic
42 Talent Scout Red Bull starlets
52 Special Feature Ben Brereton Diaz’s rise
56 Special Report The African Super League


60 Andres Iniesta
66 Arnar Vidarsson


68 2022 NWSL review


73 Zanzibar Giving up on FIFA membership
74 2022 World Cup qualifiers reviews from Africa, Asia, CONCACAF, Europe, Oceania and South America
86 Copa Libertadores Preview
88 African Champions League group stage preview
90 Asian Champions League preview


98 John Aldridge