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Gnabry may head home early as injuries hit Bayern

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DOHA, Qatar — Bayern Munich has been hit with a string of injuries, including one which may force winger Serge Gnabry to head home early from the team’s training camp in Qatar, coach Hansi Flick said.

Besides Gnabry’s Achilles tendon problem, Bayern must also contend with a knee injury to winger Kingsley Coman and ongoing problems for defensive midfielder Javi Martinez and defenders Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Sule.

However, top-scorer Robert Lewandowski is expected to be back soon after undergoing groin surgery last month.

“The personnel situation is really poor,” Flick said at the camp in Qatar, according to a report from German news agency dpa on Wednesday.

Bayern’s first Bundesliga game after the break will be at Hertha Berlin on Jan. 19. Fullback Joshua Kimmich will miss the Hertha game with a suspension for collecting five yellow cards.

Bayern, which is in third place and chasing an eighth consecutive German title, will be back in European competition on Feb. 25 against Chelsea in the last 16 of the Champions League.

U.S. striker Boyd scores tremendous distance goal in German third tier

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American forward Terrence Boyd has had a rough couple of years, but Saturday saw him deliver a reminder of his immense talent.

Playing in Germany’s third division, Boyd needed one touch to settle a long ball and another to lash an audacious opening goals in Hallescher’s 1-0 defeat of table-leading MSV Duisburg on Sunday.

The 28-year-old Boyd has nine goals and five assists in 15 matches for Hallescher since arriving from Toronto FC, where he did not score in 13 appearances. That stint in MLS came after not scoring in 13 appearances for 2.Bundesliga side Darmstadt.

Second-place Hallescher closes to within three points of Duisburg with the win.

EURO 2020 draw: Group F a nightmare with Germany, France, Portugal

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Germany, France, and Portugal have been drawn into a nightmare Group F at EURO 2020, while England will meet World Cup runners-up Croatia in group play.

Groups A and B are known in full, with Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, and Wales in the former and Belgium, Russia, Denmark, and Finland in the latter.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Four spots remain in play between Groups C, D, E, and F, as 16 teams will contest the playoffs this Spring.

The winner of the playoff path C, contested by Norway, Serbia, Scotland, and Israel, will join Group F.

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Group A
Italy
Switzerland
Turkey
Wales

Group B
Belgium
Russia
Denmark
Finland

Group C
Ukraine
Netherlands
Austria
(Playoff winner path D/A – Romania, Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia, Kosovo)

Group D
England
Croatia
Czech Republic
(Playoff winners path C – Norway, Serbia, Scotland, Israel)

Group E
Spain
Poland
Sweden
(Playoff winners path B – Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Group F
Germany
France
Portugal
(Playoff winners path A/D – Bulgaria, Finland, Iceland, Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia, Kosovo)

Top teams in good shape as EURO 2020 qualifying reaches climax

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With the Netherlands missing out on Euro 2016 and Italy absent from the World Cup in 2018, some of Europe’s traditional soccer powers have surprisingly failed to advance to recent major international tournaments.

Don’t expect any big shocks when qualification for next year’s European Championship wraps up over the coming days.

Six teams – Belgium, Spain, Italy, Poland, Russia and Ukraine – have already booked their places in the tournament and the remaining 14 automatic qualifiers will be determined after the final group games.

World champion France, European champion Portugal, and heavyweights such as Germany, England and the Netherlands are in good shape to finish in the top two in their respective groups, ensuring spots in the Europe-wide finals taking place in June and July.

There are big opportunities for Europe’s so-called lesser soccer nations, too. Finland, for example, needs only to beat Liechtenstein to qualify for its first major tournament.

France, the World Cup winner last year, is tied on points with Turkey in Group H and will secure a top-two finish by beating Moldova on Thursday. In case of an upset in that game in Paris, the French have another shot at qualification at Albania on Sunday.

Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, is guaranteed to advance in the defense of its title with wins over Lithuania at home and Luxembourg away – the bottom two teams in Group B.

England needs one win from its final two games – at home to Montenegro on Thursday and away to Kosovo on Sunday – to top Group A.

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And in Group C, Germany and the Netherlands are tied on points and need a maximum of four points from their final two qualifiers. Both have to play Northern Ireland, which is three points behind in third place.

The last four qualifying spots for the 24-team Euros will be decided in the playoffs in March.

RONALDO’S CHALLENGE

Could Cristiano Ronaldo fail to qualify for a major tournament?

UEFA would hate to see the Portugal star miss out, but his team has lacked a spark in qualifying and is eight points off Group B leader Ukraine.

Portugal is favored to beat Lithuania on Thursday and Luxembourg on Sunday to secure second place.

Still, there’s little margin for error. Dropped points could allow Serbia to overtake, forcing Portugal into the playoffs.

ENGLAND LANDMARK

England will be playing its 1,000th men’s international in the match against Montenegro and the occasion will be marked in a number of ways, including recognizing the notable contributions of former players and managers. Players will wear individual “legacy numbers” on their jerseys.

England manager Gareth Southgate is hoping a line can be drawn following scenes last month when his players were racially abused by some Bulgaria fans during England’s 6-0 win in Sofia. The game was stopped on two occasions by the referee. England’s match away to Montenegro in March was also marred by racist chanting toward England’s black players, notably Raheem Sterling.

“The players will want to move on, really,” Southgate said. “I think, for all of them, they dealt with it brilliantly and it would be wrong not to discuss it at all but I know that they want to get on with the football.”

Kosovo, which was accepted as a member of UEFA and FIFA only in 2016, is third in the group and could secure automatic qualification with a win at the Czech Republic on Thursday and a draw against England.

FINALLY FINLAND?

Finland is the only Nordic team never to have qualified for a World Cup or a European Championship. That could all change this week.

The Finns are second in Group J, five points clear of both Armenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and will join Italy in advancing to the finals with a win at home against last-placed Liechtenstein on Friday or if Bosnia fails to beat the Italians. Finland’s second chance, if needed, comes against Greece on Monday.

Finland is coached by a primary school teacher, Markku Kanerva, who led the country to a first ever European Under-21 Championship in 2009 and is impressing with the senior team a decade on.

Teemu Pukki has seven goals in qualifying as the team looks to go further than it ever did with past greats such as Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen.

CROATIA AT RISK

Croatia is finding European qualifying harder than last year’s World Cup.

The Croatians lead the evenly matched Group E but if they lose to Slovakia on Saturday the World Cup finalists could end up relying on other results to go their way.

Another team in a fight to qualify is Switzerland, which is third in Group D behind Ireland and Denmark, but is a big favorite against Gibraltar.

PLAYOFF SHOOTOUT

The playoffs offer a last chance for unsuccessful teams, but it’s a complex process.

Sixteen teams who didn’t qualify automatically will be ranked according to their divisions from the 2018 Nations League and put into four single-elimination brackets.

At the bottom end, there’s the League D playoff, which is guaranteed to hand one team its debut at a major championship. Georgia and Belarus have secured a place in that playoff mini-tournament and will likely be joined by Kosovo and North Macedonia.

The highest division almost certainly won’t have enough unqualified teams to make a four-team bracket, so will recruit extras from lower tiers. That could hand League A’s Iceland a fortunate draw with League C teams such as Bulgaria and Israel.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

AP Sports Writer James Ellingworth in Dusseldorf, Germany, contributed to this story

Despite Germany injury woes, Boateng and Hummels still frozen out

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Germany may be facing an injury crisis at the back, but that still has not forced Joachim Low’s hand.

After 2018 World Cup disappointment, Low vowed he would never call up Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels again, freezing the two veterans out as part of an overhaul of the national team squad he hoped would turn the country’s fortunes. Now, with a number of injuries to the back line, some wondered if Low would take back his promise and look to the veterans for cover.

With Niklas Sule suffering a torn ACL, Antonio Ruediger struggling with a nagging groin problem, and Thilo Kehrer sidelined with a long-term foot injury, Low stayed the course and kept both Boateng and Hummels out of the team, announcing the squad for upcoming Euro qualifiers against Belarus and Northern Ireland on Friday morning.

Instead, the boss called upon Borussia Monchengladbach captain Mattias Ginter who will partner with a host of young and inexperienced defenders. The squad includes SC Freiburg defender Robin Koch and Hertha center-back Niklas Stark, who between the two share a single international cap – Koch made his Germany debut last month, while Stark has yet to appear in an international match. Also in the squad is 23-year-old Bayer Leverkusen center-back Jonathan Tah, owner of eight international caps for Germany including starts in three of the last five Euro qualifiers.

Finally, a surprise inclusion was Emre Can, despite having been sent off last time out for Germany and is therefore suspended for the Belarus game. Can is capable at center-back, where he was playing at the time of his red card, although his more natural position is defensive midfield.

Keeping Boateng out of the squad is a justifiable decision by Low, especially after the Bayern defender was sent off just 10 minutes into their last match against Eintracht Frankfurt, leading to a heavy 5-1 defeat that left the club three points off the top of the table. Boateng has looked off the pace all season and has been left on the bench by recently fired Bayern boss Nico Kovac six times across all competitions this season.

The Hummels decision is more questionable as Borussia Dortmund is unbeaten in league play since the start of September and has kept three consecutive Bundesliga clean sheets, including one against current leaders Gladbach. Hummels also captained the side in the wild 3-2 comeback win over Inter this week that saw Dortmund completely dominate the second half after falling 2-0 down.