Steve Waugh has backed Australia to enjoy a winning run in the final months of the year as they build up confidence ahead of the Ashes, where he is fearful of a returning Jofra Archer.

Three consecutive victories in ODIs against England have put Australia in a better spot heading into a series of Tests against the West Indies and South Africa either side of the new year.

The Ashes then follows in June, with the World Cup in India to close out the year, and former Australia captain Waugh is confident about his side's chances.

"We've got a good cricket side, there's no doubt about that. We got a really good bowling attack, so they're capable of winning matches," he told Stats Perform.

"I think we'll beat West Indies pretty convincingly. Then we've got three Tests against South Africa, an emerging test side with a really good bowling attack. But I think they're batting is not quite up to standard.

"I think Australia will win most Test matches. But then they've got some hard Test matches coming up overseas. It's a long difficult period. It's 12 months of non-stop cricket for Australia."

Waugh highlighted the importance in getting wins on the board now to build up momentum for the Ashes, where Australia are looking to retain the urn.

"The Ashes is a big tournament for Australian cricket that's coming up in about less than 12 months now. We're looking towards that," he added.

"But in the meantime, they've West Indies and South Africa. I think will win those series, then we've got India away, which is really hard, and then the Ashes.

"The Ashes is hard to win. It's a tough assignment, but the guys are capable of winning.

"It's a long way off, and it might come down to which sides have fewer injuries to key players. If England have Jofra Archer playing, they're going to have a chance of winning."

Waugh also sprung to the defence of captain Pat Cummins, who has been outspoken on climate change and has come under the spotlight for his stance.

"He's realising that captaincy can be a difficult assignment. One minute people love you, the next minute they don't like you and your opinions matter," he explained.

"He's bought into the climate change issues and sponsorship. And yes, there's a few issues that have been around the side. I guess he's realised that maybe he's got more power than he thought he has.

"Whatever he says carries a lot of weight. And sometimes you've gotta be pretty careful what you say. But I think he's done a very good job as a captain on the field.

"He's learning as he goes along, which is only natural. He's pretty young for a captain."

Steve Waugh is an ambassador for the Laureus Challenge 2022, presented by Sierra Space.

Cristiano Ronaldo's seismic interview that culminated in his Manchester United departure was "not in his nature," according to former team-mate Quinton Fortune.

United announced earlier this month they had reached a mutual agreement with Ronaldo to terminate his contract with immediate effect, following a controversial interview conducted with Piers Morgan prior to the World Cup.

The Portugal captain did not hold back with his array of criticisms, including ones directed towards manager Erik ten Hag, and it became apparent he was on borrowed time at Old Trafford.

Fortune played alongside Ronaldo during his first stint with the Red Devils between 2003 and 2006, and the ex-South Africa international expressed his sadness at the nature of his former team-mate's departure.

"I was fortunate enough to play with Ronaldo, and I was fortunate to play for Manchester United," Fortune told Stats Perform. "So, it's sad the way it ended. Things happen in this game, but nothing stays forever.

"I would have loved to seen it end in a beautiful way by Ronaldo staying in the club, winning the league, helping them get in the Champions League first, and that wasn't meant to be.

"He is an out-and-out winner, and he's always looking for excellence in everything he does. He's always going to push the boundaries of wanting to get better.

"I didn't expect [his interview]. It's not in his nature, and I was a little bit surprised, but these things happen in football.

"Most important is that the club is on the move, Ronaldo is on the move and both will succeed wherever, whatever they do."

Despite his second spell ending on a sour note, Fortune is confident that will not change his or the United supporters' perception of Ronaldo, who scored a combined 145 goals in 346 appearances for the club.

"It would be very strange for them not to love him," he added. "You know what Ronaldo has achieved at the club, and I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to be the witness at the beginning when he arrived.

"[He was] such a special player, but what made him better than all the players was his mentality, his self-belief, I've never seen anything like it."

On international duty with Portugal at the World Cup, the 37-year-old's future remains uncertain, but Fortune is adamant he is not finished yet.

"I'm sure he wants to continue playing Champions League football," the former midfielder said. "I'm sure he wants to win the Champions League again if it's possible because that's just him - he is a winner, and he's got that hunger.

"So, I hope he finds a club in Europe that fulfils his desires and helps him win some more trophies. He will not settle for anything; he will rattle the cage wherever he goes because he wants to win."

Cristiano Ronaldo's exit will not be an issue for any potential Manchester United buyers, believes football finance expert Kieran Maguire.

The Portugal forward has departed the Red Devils by mutual consent following an disappointing homecoming spell with the Old Trafford outfit.

Having been the face of the club since his return last year, Ronaldo's abrupt farewell - though likely in line with Erik ten Hag's vision for the club - sees United lose one of their prior assets, as the Glazer family mull a sale.

But speaking to Stats Perform, Maguire does not feel his exit will be a stumbling block to future investors mulling a takeover, particularly from a commercial standpoint.

"[The] club's bigger than the player," he said. "Cristiano Ronaldo thought he was bigger than the club. His management teams was more concerned about his brand tie-up than Manchester United products.

"Success hasn't existed at Manchester United for many years. If you've got Ronaldo on the back of your shirt, it simply means you've switched from having [Marcus] Rashford or [Bruno] Fernandes."

"You've still going to be one Manchester United shirt [even without Ronaldo], you're simply going to go and change a bit on the back of it."

News that the Glazer family - long opposed by a large section of supporters - are selling the club has been welcomed with open arms by the fanbase.

Maguire believes it has been a prosperous ownership period for them, if not the club, and that he understands the frustration felt by those who follow United.

"I think we're seeing an opportunity for some legacy owners to withdraw at a tidy profit," he added. "They can leave on a significant multiple of the original investment.

"[But] when they acquired the club, they did commit it to financial jeopardy. [Also[, when a club is no longer successful, you look for scapegoats.

"The Glazers are a lightning rod. They've got not connection historically to Manchester. Their relationship was purely financial.

Maguire concedes on-field success would paint a different picture however, adding: "If Manchester United had won the Premier League for four years out of the last five... I'm not saying that fans are fickle, but fans are fickle."

England will be the team to beat in limited-overs cricket over the next couple of years, according to former Australia captain Steve Waugh.

Australia's old enemy won the T20 World Cup in Melbourne on Sunday, beating Pakistan in the final, having also secured the 50-over World Cup in 2019.

The host nation did not make it out of the Super 12 stage after failing to recover from a heavy opening defeat to New Zealand.

Speaking to Stats Perform at the Laureus Challenge 2022, presented by Sierra Space, Waugh said Australia's performance in the tournament had been disappointing and tipped England to face motivated opposition now they are on top of both formats of limited-overs cricket.

"It was our home World Cup, I guess the fans expected Australia to do well but they didn't make the semi-finals, which was disappointing," Waugh conceded. "They weren't at their best and in T20, winning, it's a very fine line. If you're not 100 per cent in the game, you're gonna lose the match. And so Australia probably didn't deserve to be in the semi-finals.

"England, I think, were the best team overall so they deserved to win it, [and] Pakistan put up a good show.

"But [for] England it's pretty exciting to win both the 50-over World Cup and now the 20-over World Cup... They've set a benchmark for themselves, every other side is going to be trying to beat them in the next couple of years."

Waugh played in 168 Test matches for Australia between 1985 and 2004, scoring 10,927 runs at an average of 51.06, as well as making 325 ODI appearances, with an average of 32.90.

Asked why he thought Australia struggled at the T20 World Cup, Waugh said: "I just think they didn't really click. The first game against New Zealand was a really bad result, they lost by 90 runs, and that put pressure on their run rate and almost threw them off balance all the way through.

"The captain [Aaron Finch] was a bit out of form. So maybe that was a bit unsettling in the team. But overall, they just weren't on their game. Their fielding wasn't up to scratch and they looked a bit sluggish."

It was England who took the trophy, though, with Ben Stokes hitting his first ever T20I half-century as his team beat Pakistan by five wickets in the final.

"I think it was an entertaining final [and] it could have gone either way," Waugh said. "But England had that man called Ben Stokes, who seems to perform in those pressure situations and has almost got a bit of a Midas touch in the big games."

Despite the hosts' struggles, Waugh still feels the event was a success, with big crowds turning up to games.

"The crowds were huge," he said. "One hundred thousand people saw India play Pakistan at the MCG... The people loved it.

"T20 cricket is a real social event. Young people go and watch it, have a good time. And it's exciting, they get a quick result. And they can see another game the next day."

Neymar is primed to lead Brazil to World Cup glory in Qatar, according to former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Mohamed Sissoko.

The 30-year-old Neymar has had a strong start to the campaign with PSG, recording 26 goal involvements (15 goals, 11 assists) in 20 games so far, and Sissoko believes he has shown the motivation to carry that form into the World Cup, which begins on Sunday.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Sissoko predicted the Selecao to win the tournament, citing Neymar as one of the chief reasons why.

"[I think] Brazil [will win], because they have a strong team and good spirit and I think they have a big chance of winning this World Cup," he said.

"I know [Neymar is] going to be on fire this year because when you're on holiday and you decide to come back one week before you start, it is because you have good motivation. It is because you have the World Cup, so he wants to show all the Brazilian people he's a big player and he wants to bring back the World Cup to Brazil."

Sissoko, who also played for Liverpool and Juventus among others before retiring in 2019, picked out three more players he thinks will thrive at the World Cup, including two more Brazilians.

"[Aurelien] Tchouameni [of France] is a very good player," Sissoko said. "Vinicius [Junior] is going to be on fire, also Raphinha from Barcelona. I think they have good motivation to do something very good at the World Cup."

 

Sissoko featured for Mali as an international player, and he pointed to Morocco as one of the African teams to look out for in Qatar.

Morocco will be in Group F with Belgium, Croatia and Canada, and they recently hired French-born Walid Regragui as head coach.

"They have a good team. Not one of the best," Sissoko said. "But I think this new manager, I know him very [well]. He knows French culture, and also Moroccan culture. So I think Morocco has a good team to go far."

Five African teams will take part in Qatar, with Morocco joined by Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana and Tunisia, and Sissoko hopes they can make an impression, even if lifting the trophy might be beyond them.

"I don't know [if an African team can win the World Cup] because of big talent and big teams like Brazil, Argentina, England, and France. It is not easy to compete with them at this moment, but I think they have the quality to go to the quarter-finals," he said.

"For me, Senegal is in progress... Senegal I think is the team with more progress because they bring a lot of foreign players. You know they have good players like [Kalidou] Koulibaly, like [Sadio] Mane, and now they're starting to bring in a young player like [Ismail] Jakobs from Monaco.

"This is very important to have a strong team, a strong group. So I think Senegal also have the power to go to the quarter-finals."

England's T20 World Cup success can be used as a springboard to cement their status as one of the all-time great white-ball sides, believes Ryan Sidebottom.

A five-wicket win over Pakistan in Melbourne means Jos Buttler's side are the first men's team to hold both major ICC titles, having won the 50-over World Cup in 2019 on home soil.

Victory in Australia means England become just the second team to win the T20 World Cup twice, with Sidebottom having been a member of the 2010 title-winning side.

A failure to capitalise on that initial success meant it was the best part of a decade before they triumphed again in limited-overs cricket, but the former Yorkshire bowler thinks they are primed to push on this time.

"When we won it in 2010, we had an opportunity to go on and build, get better as a nation and we kind of got left behind again," he told Stats Perform.

"But now we have a huge opportunity to become the best, [to be] number one in the world in all formats. We've got the players, we've got the facilities now.

"I think we've got everything. We can achieve great things. I really believe that if we keep moving forward and keep striving to get better and better."

No small part of England's success came from the performances of Sam Curran, with the Surrey all-rounder named player of the tournament for his performances with the ball.

Having been far from an assured first-choice pick before arriving in Australia, the 24-year-old has effectively cemented his place, with Sidebottom feeling he is an invaluable piece of the puzzle now.

"I think he's been amazing," he added. "He's improved so much as a cricket. You throw the ball to Sam Curran, and he makes things happen.

"That's quite a rare commodity for someone. You know he's either going to take a wicket or do something very special. [England] have so many left-armers, but he's been the pick of everyone."

Ben Stokes has earned the right to be called an England great after the "once-in-a-generation player" guided Jos Buttler's side to T20 World Cup glory.

That was the message from former England seamer Ryan Sidebottom, who was speaking to Stats Perform after Stokes' 52 not out saw sealed a five-wicket victory over Pakistan in Sunday's final.

The all-rounder came to the crease at the MCG with England 32-2 in their pursuit of 138, but produced a well-crafted innings to record his first T20I half-century on the biggest occasion.

Sidebottom labelled the Test captain as one of England's best players off all time after Stokes became just the third player to score 50-plus runs in both an ODI World Cup and T20 World Cup final.

Asked whether Stokes was now an England legend, Sidebottom said: "I would say so, most definitely. He's probably got to be.

"He could be called Sir Ben Stokes at some stage, but I think he's done it so many times now you can't argue with that.

"With what he's done in the key moments under pressure, he's the man to do it. You have a once-in-a-generation player and when the big occasion comes around, more often than not, he turns up.

"He turns it on, and it makes things happen. Look at the Ashes and the 2019 World Cup. It's almost crazy to say this, but it's almost like he's just playing a regular game in the park.

"He doesn't worry about the situation, or what type of game he's playing in. I think he's just saying, 'I'm out here. I'm just going to play my game. And I'll see us over the line'.

"Once you strip it all back and you keep it very simple, it certainly changes how you play as a player – he's been phenomenal."

Stokes suffered T20 World Cup final heartbreak in 2016 when Carlos Brathwaite smashed him for four successive sixes to win the competition for West Indies.

Sidebottom says the honesty and professionalism of Stokes to respond to that setback is what sets him apart from the rest.

"Having played a professional sport, there's always highs and lows," he added. "There's always negatives, there's always days when it doesn't go your way and maybe your opposition number gets the better of you or you just have a bad day out.

"You'll either learn from that, or you can sulk about it and let it affect you. What Ben Stokes has done after that World Cup final, since then, he has never ever looked back. 

"The things that we've sort of seen away from the cricket, we've all done stupid things. We've all done things that we regret or we didn't mean to do, you grow and mature and he's done that.

"He's done his time. He's been open and honest. With his mental health issues and everything like that. Then his cricket has improved immensely and he's turned himself into a mighty fine cricketer."

Stokes has become accustomed to playing the hero for England in recent years, most notably in the victorious 2019 Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand and in the Ashes at Headingley in the same year.

The calm manner in which Stokes goes about his business is another key facet Sidebottom pinpointed, with his demeanour helping England rally to four straight wins to seal their second T20 World Cup crown.

"Ben Stokes is that calming influence, he doesn't panic. He's very level-headed and I think with someone like him, it runs through the team," Sidebottom continued.

"When you've got a player like that with his stature, when he's so calm at the crease, it certainly goes through the team.

"And the team say, 'we don't need to panic, we can easily win this game.' It showed in the final and in the semi-final.

"It also showed in the Sri Lanka game where it was getting very close. Ben Stokes didn't panic. The whole team are just accustomed now to playing in big tournaments and used to being under pressure a lot more."

Brad Friedel believes the authorities are "doing as much as they possibly can" when it comes to treatment of concussions in football.

Questions were raised about the decision to keep Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez on the pitch after he took a blow to the head during the 4-0 defeat to Newcastle United last week.

Martinez was eventually replaced, but it led to the Professional Footballers' Association to call for temporary concussion substitutes to be introduced to the game.

Speaking to Stats Perform, former Villa shot stopper Friedel said the protocol is improving for dealing with such incidents.

"Concussions are tough to detect," he said. "We play without helmets and, of course... Petr Cech did in his career because he had a fractured skull - [but] you don't get into too many clashes [as a goalkeeper].

"If a striker wants to be a little bit naughty on the through balls, they can leave a foot in, but it doesn't happen that often.

"I'm not so sure what more they could do to protect the goalkeeper. I think the more science that comes out with regard to concussions and concussion protocol, the better. Each season they're trying to do as much as they possibly can."

The former United States international explained he had suffered a concussion during his time at Blackburn Rovers.

"I was playing for Blackburn at home against Birmingham. I got knocked out, I think out for about six minutes, and I answered all the questions," he said. 

"I don't remember answering them and I carried on playing it. [It was] no fault of the doctors. I passed the protocol at the time and then I went in at half-time, and then they saw that I wasn't on planet Earth, so I didn't play in the second half.

"As a player, your adrenaline takes over you, you just want to stay on the field, and it's a tough one because it's really hard to tell if somebody's concussed in 30 seconds or a minute or a minute and a half.

"I would hate to be in those meetings with the NFL. A concussion technically is when your brain hits one side [of the skull] and then the other. I mean, for every play in the NFL, that must happen to somebody. It's a tough thing to really clamp down on... And I know they're trying to do as much as they possibly can to make it efficient."

Friedel also expressed his disappointment that Steven Gerrard was recently sacked by Villa following a run of poor results.

Gerrard was replaced by Unai Emery after the Midlands club won just two of their first 11 Premier League games of the season (D3 L6), and while Friedel understands the timing, he also believes his former Liverpool team-mate could have turned things around at Villa Park.

"Disappointed that it happened because Stevie's a friend," he said. "Based on the results, [it was] probably the right time, right before World Cup, and then you're going to have [the January] transfer window.

"I would also like to have thought if they kept him that he would have built the club up and gotten them into a mid-table position.

"That's not how football works and it can be ruthless. Being a head coach can be tough sometimes, but I would just say the run of results was the final blow and perhaps that performance and result against Fulham [3-0 loss at Craven Cottage] when the fans started singing against Stevie, that was probably it."

Jurgen Klopp will be the Premier League manager who benefits the most from a mid-season World Cup, according to former Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

The Reds manager has been a firm opponent of the Qatar 2022 finals being slotted into mid-season, which has happened because the climate in Qatar made it unfeasible to stage the tournament in its usual June-July slot.

Klopp said earlier this season it was taking place "at the wrong moment for the wrong reasons", but his message has changed in recent times, with Klopp optimistic the break from Premier League duty could help Liverpool.

He said his team "will be different" once the domestic season resumes, with Liverpool having six weeks without a game between their November 12 clash with Southampton and the December 26 trip to Aston Villa.

The likes of Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota will have time to recover from injuries, and Klopp's squad is not loaded with players who are likely to be first choice for their countries at the World Cup. For the likes of Mohamed Salah, who did not qualify with Egypt, there will be a break from the treadmill of game after game.

To an extent, it will be like a bonus pre-season spell for Klopp and his players, a time to recharge and refocus, with last year's quadruple push having sapped many at Anfield, particularly the late-season anguish of missing out on the Premier League and Champions League titles.

"I think fighting for four trophies and all the games that they had really took its toll," Friedel told Stats Perform.

"They've also had some injuries, they have players that are going to be leaving for the World Cup. And I think for all the clubs in the Premier League, this World Cup break – not really a break – but the World Cup is going to help them the most.

"I think after the World Cup, you're going to see a completely different Liverpool team. But I think just the injury, suspensions and mental fatigue have been the main things."

Former United States shot-stopper Friedel had a three-year spell at Liverpool from 1997 to 2000, and also played in the Premier League for Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham.

It was Liverpool who gave him his big break in England, and he has been taken aback to see Klopp's team struggle as badly as they have done this season, despite their 2021-22 exertions.

They face Spurs on Sunday, when Friedel is bound to have split loyalties. After 12 rounds of Premier League games, Liverpool have won four, drawn four and lost four, to sit ninth in the table, after consecutive defeats to Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.

"[I've been] really surprised. But they've got one of the world's best managers, got one of the best squads. They had a lot of games last year, a lot of tired minds, a lot of tired legs, and they've had injuries and suspensions this year," Friedel said.

"I'm not worried about Liverpool at all. They should keep rolling with who they have and how they play. They'll come out of it and they'll be consistent again, and I couldn't say enough nice things about Jurgen Klopp and what he's done for the club."

He holds the belief Liverpool can still finish in the top four, to earn Champions League football next season.

"I think they're going to be there," Friedel said. "There's always a team from the bottom that comes up."

He says the sale of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich and arrival in his place of Darwin Nunez always meant there would be a transition period.

"When big players come and go, that happens all the time at clubs," Friedel said. "I would say [it is having] more of an impact as it's taking a little bit longer for Nunez to have consistent form.

"Losing a player happens. Once Nunez finds his feet, and I know Liverpool also have the ways and means to go out in the transfer market again, they'll get that position right."

Lionel Messi's potential move to Inter Miami in MLS would be even more significant for US soccer than Pele playing for the New York Cosmos, former United States international Brad Friedel told Stats Perform.

MLS has long been considered a likely end-of-career destination for Messi, but the intensity of such links has ramped up considerably in recent days, with media reports suggesting David Beckham-backed Inter are increasingly confident of luring the Paris Saint-Germain forward to MLS as early as next year.

Beckham was of course seen as something of a pioneer when he made the switch to LA Galaxy in 2007, and stars such as Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba all followed over the next decade.

But before MLS, the North American Soccer League (NASL) had served a similar purpose for ageing superstars in the 1970s and 80s, with Brazil legend Pele proving the trendsetter back then when he joined the Cosmos – Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Muller, Eusebio, Bobby Moore and George Best all went on to feature in the NASL before it collapsed after the 1984 season.

For all the history US soccer has with the biggest names in the sport, Friedel thinks nothing that has gone before could compare with the impact Messi's arrival would have.

"So, we had David Beckham over here, which was one of the best signings that MLS ever made for notoriety around the world," he told Stats Perform.

"And in today's day and age with social media, everyone's sort of a journalist with their phones these days, and how quickly media gets around the world.

"[Messi to MLS] would be unlike anything anyone's ever seen in this country, including when Pele was over here, just because of the way the media is.

"It would be incredible if Lionel Messi was playing in this league. The fans that he attracts, the global respect, how good he has been.

"If they can pull that off… I'm not generally [in favour of] the older player coming in [to MLS], but like [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Gareth] Bale were [signed] for a reason and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic was for a reason, then work out that if you can get Messi, get him over here."

Although Messi's PSG contract expires next year, Inter should not expect a free run at the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.

PSG are still reportedly confident of securing a contract extension, while officials from Messi's former club Barcelona have spoken openly about their desire to bring him back to Camp Nou.

Former Napoli defender Massimo Tarantino does not believe he is a hero, despite stepping in to halt the man responsible for multiple stabbings at a supermarket near Milan.

One person died and Monza's on-loan Arsenal defender Pablo Mari was among five who were injured during a terrifying incident on Thursday.

A suspect was arrested after he was disarmed by Tarantino, who has explained what prompted him to step in.

He told Stats Perform: "I was with my wife and daughter, we were at the till. We were putting the stuff on the checkout belt, and we realised [that something was going on], because there were very loud screams. We all kind of stopped at the tills, trying to figure out what was going on.

"But then there were more screams, one after the other in the space of a few seconds. At that point, the whole supermarket was kind of frozen, trying to figure out what was going on.

"After a few seconds, from one of the aisles right next to our till, someone came out who was probably one of those who had been stabbed; he was shouting for help and had blood all over his shirt. At that point there was a bit of panic, because people were clearly running away as they couldn't understand what had happened.

"After a few more seconds, another man came out. It was the person with the knife who was unfortunately aiming at the tills where I was with my wife and child. There wasn't much distance from that lane to the tills, about fifteen metres. So the instinctive reaction was to push my wife and daughter away and run.

"He was already almost there [close to me]. But in front of me there was this other employee who was between me and him, and he got stabbed. In the stabbing, they probably both lost their balance and fell into the checkout shelves where all the sweets are. Then I had the instinct not to run away.

"I had taken a step back, but I didn't run away and took advantage of the fact he was on the ground. I kicked him in the hand where he held the knife, and at that point he lost it, but it wasn't too far away, so I quickly ducked down and threw it far away and immobilised him. At that point he had no reaction.

"All of this happening in an atmosphere of terror, with blood on the ground. A bit of a strange atmosphere."

In spite of his actions, Tarantino – who played for Napoli between 1989 and 1996 and coincidentally also had a loan spell with Monza during his career – refused to be labelled a hero.

"No, I don't feel it belongs to me [this role] and I'm also a bit uncomfortable [with it]," he said. "I think heroes are other people. There are definitely people who do things that are impossible to do. They deserve, perhaps, that recognition.

"I, again, just found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and maybe instinctively decided to make the right choice, but nothing more than that."

The 51-year-old said his instinct was to "protect my family" and insisted it was not something he thought a great deal about at the time, adding: "I think these are irrational moments. I didn't think, I didn't reason. I just saw this person heading towards us.

"I think the first instinct is to protect my family, so I just had the instinct to move them away, to get them away, to run away. Immediately after he stabbed the employee, so a metre and a half away from me, my first reaction was to move one step back; but afterwards my instinct probably didn't make me run away, but told me that maybe that was the ideal moment to help.

"So I didn't go back, and I kicked this person in the hand holding the knife. But again, these things are irrational. When I think about it, it wasn't a calculated, intentional thing, it was just an instinctive reaction."

Tarantino confirmed he and his family are fine after the ordeal, though reiterated sympathy for those who were harmed.

"Yes, luckily for us it went well, unlike others; but we all came back home uninjured," he said. "On the one hand we're happy; on the other, I repeat, we're still sorry for everyone who unfortunately got caught up in this.

"The only message I have is that I want to wish the best of luck to all the people who suffered this physical assault and who have to deal with this problem right now.

"Then I think that all the other people, probably like me, like my wife and daughter, have had a bad night, a huge scare, and I hope that they, all of us, will get over it as quickly as possible.

"But the biggest wish goes out to all the people who suffered this physical attack; and I feel a huge sorrow for the family of the person who didn't make it."

Mari stated that he and his family are "fine" after the Spanish defender underwent back surgery following the attack.

Former Liverpool and England striker Emile Heskey has questioned whether football is ever going to "move forward" in dealing with racism.

After scoring for Brazil in a 5-1 win over Tunisia at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Tuesday, Tottenham forward Richarlison had a banana thrown on the pitch in front of him from the stands.

The player expressed outrage after the game and called for stiff punishments to be imposed, though appeared to doubt strong action would be taken.

Spurs team-mate Harry Kane and former England captain Rio Ferdinand offered their support, while Richarlison's club boss Antonio Conte said on Thursday there must be heavy sanctions, saying: "For sure I hope these people are banned from football for the rest of their lives."

In an interview with Stats Perform, Heskey was also not sure any punishment handed out would be enough, and raised wider concerns about how racism is dealt with by the football authorities.

"It's a tough one for me to really discuss because we still haven't moved forward," he said. "And are we going to move forward? That's the question I keep asking, are we going to move forward?

"We keep asking for certain things. We keep saying that we're getting better, and we've moved on. We're not going anywhere to be honest with you.

"They might get fined £5,000. Then I'll go and do something with betting and I'll get fined £100,000.

"The thing is priorities... It's not [treated as] a priority."

Heskey – who is the seventh top scorer in Premier League history with 516 goals – did concede that some progress is being made as racism is at least discussed more openly now compared to previous years, but does not feel enough is actively being done to deal with it.

"It's sad because I've got kids playing... they could still be going through what their grandparents went through and that's 50 years apart," he added.

"Are we getting anywhere? We are because we are discussing it. When my grandparents were going through it, we weren't discussing it. Now we're discussing it, which is great.

"But we've got no action. No call to action. Nothing."

Emile Heskey believes Gareth Southgate should be given the chance to turn England's fortunes around after relegation from League A in the Nations League.

The Three Lions' manager has come in for criticism after his team finished bottom of Group 3, failing to win any of their six outings against Italy, Hungary and Germany (D3 L3).

With the World Cup in Qatar kicking off in less than two months, the pressure is on Southgate to deliver, though he did guide England to the semi-finals in Russia in 2018 before reaching the final of the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament last year.

Heskey – who made 62 appearances for England – thinks Southgate and his players can turn it around and can take positives from their 3-3 draw with Germany at Wembley on Monday.

Speaking to Stats Perform, the former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker said: "I think the draw against Germany did redeem [England] in some cases.

"I thought the fight they showed was fantastic to get it back to 3-2 because they could easily have given up at 2-0 [down]. But they fought back to make it 3-2 and then 3-3, obviously.

"Football has always fascinated me [because] we put no pressure on them, and [then] they get to a semi-final and a final, then we suddenly heap a load of pressure on them and you can see what's happening."

Prior to the six-goal thriller with Germany, England had failed to score with any of their previous 62 non-penalty shots, a run of seven hours and 30 minutes without a non-penalty goal.

Southgate's men are also winless in their last six games in all competitions, their longest run since April to June 1993 (also six). It is their longest ever winless run going into a major tournament.

"When you're not doing well, they're going to justify criticism, and you've got to accept that criticism. It's how you bounce back from that," Heskey added.

"None of these have turned into bad players overnight, and the manager isn't a bad manager overnight. I think you've got to give him the opportunity to turn it around and turn the fortune of the players around as well."

One of the concerns widely discussed has been whether Southgate knows his best team before they take on Iran, the United States and Wales in Group B at the World Cup, but Heskey pointed out selection headaches mean the manager has a number of credible options available to him.

"You could put it either way," he said. "It could be alarming, or it could be a good thing that we don't know the best 11 because players are coming in.

"You've even got Ivan Toney coming into the [last] squad... [Mason] Mount's played a lot of games and then come back in and scored.

"So it's always good to keep the manager on his toes. But you really should know who your starting 11 is coming up to a major tournament."

Mohamed Salah and Liverpool are ready to throw off the shackles and show their best form after a slow start to the season, according to former Reds winger Albert Riera.

 

Salah shared the Golden Boot with Tottenham's Son Heung-min in England last season, and fell just shy of capturing the Premier League title with Jurgen Klopp's side.

But, like Liverpool collectively, the Egyptian forward has found the going tough so far this term.

Just two goals and two assists – a modest return by Salah's standards – have come amid a slow start for both player and club, with Liverpool perched in eighth place.

Defending champions Manchester City are vying with Arsenal and Tottenham for top spot.

Riera, who spent two years with Liverpool from 2008 to 2010 following a brief spell with City, believes Salah can still turn the corner and rediscover his best form.

"For sure, 100 per cent," Riera told Stats Perform. "He is focused on scoring goals, he wants to score goals, he wants to play well, and he wants to do his best.

"But we also have to understand this level of player, the rest want to stop them. This is extra motivation for a defender to play against Mo, that he is not scoring goals.

"It is not easy to play against defenders because they are so motivated, and they want to stop them. But I'm sure he will score goals as he did before."

With the season almost two months old, Liverpool already face a fight to close the gap on City, with an eight-point gap between the two sides heading into this weekend.

Liverpool have a game in hand, and former Spain international Riera remains positive the Reds can catch up, but he remains in awe of their rivals' success under Pep Guardiola.

"Man City have been at this level already for many years," Riera said. "But they are a machine at creating chances. Even if you put the bus at the back, you will concede chances.

"Playing against Man City, I don't know how I would prepare this game. They're a team that have clear ideas and [are] difficult to beat. But I [think] Liverpool can fight them.

"I'm sure now that they are on their way back, and I'm sure they will fight at the end with Man City for the title."

Cristiano Ronaldo can be much more than a super-sub for Manchester United this season and still has plenty to offer, according to a former Old Trafford favourite.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has started just once in the Premier League this season, also making five appearances off the bench, and he has yet to score or have an assist.

A derby at Manchester City awaits United on Sunday, and it remains to be seen whether manager Erik ten Hag considers 37-year-old Ronaldo for a starting role at the Etihad Stadium.

Last season's 24-goal top scorer for United missed the club's pre-season tour in July for personal reasons, and he has looked to be lacking in sharpness in the early weeks of competitive action.

Raimond van der Gouw, who spent six seasons at United during the Alex Ferguson era, suspects Ronaldo will come good again, suggesting it is just a question of getting the timing right in terms of elevating his involvement.

Asked if Ronaldo might be a perfect impact substitute for United this season, Van der Gouw told Stats Perform: "I will not say that. No, no, no, no.

"I mean, okay, he's not 30 any more. He's 30-plus, but he's so fit. But he missed a part of the pre-season."

Former goalkeeper Van der Gouw said those weeks before the season gets under way are hugely important, and anyone not up to speed when the competitive action gets going can struggle. He sees Ronaldo offering far more than cameos from the bench in future.

"You look for your form, you're still a little bit behind in the condition. So it's a matter of when is the right time to fit in," Van der Gouw said. "But in the meantime, you have seen the team is performing, so then you don't change so quickly a team. I think it's a matter of time of when do you put Ronaldo in, and can he deliver what he can deliver?

"And I think with his age, he's still good enough.

"You can be fit and doing your work in a gym, but you need your match fitness, and you only get that by playing games. And that's what he didn't do it in the beginning. So he's a little bit behind."

Ronaldo has played 207 minutes in the Premier League this term, taking 12 shots in that time, with just two of those going on target.

He scored his first goal of the season in the Europa League, with a penalty against Sheriff, before going away on international duty.

Even with Portugal, where he played full games against the Czech Republic and Spain, Ronaldo has not been immune to flak.

After a 1-0 defeat to Spain this week, Ronaldo's performance was heavily criticised, to the dismay of his sister, Katia Aveiro.

She said the critics were "sick, petty, soulless, stupid and forever ungrateful".

Ronaldo was also defended by Bruno Fernandes, his Portugal and United team-mate, who said: "This is a phase. When the goals start to appear, he will have more capacity and tranquillity to continue scoring many goals for our national team. We cannot forget that he is the best scorer ever."

The Ronaldo of years gone by might have hit back at detractors by producing a match-winning performance in his next game, but the bench may beckon again this weekend.

Van der Gouw has no doubt City will provide tough opposition for United.

"Well, at the moment, it's obvious City's much further [ahead] than Man United. It's quite clear," said Van der Gouw, who was for many years Peter Schmeichel's deputy.

"So in a certain way, you're hoping that it will be an interesting game. It's always a different game compared [to others]. It's not just a normal game if you play against City.

"Everybody has to be really sharp. And then we will see who's going to be the winner. That's a massive game. Massive."

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