Cristiano Ronaldo's farewell to the World Cup was followed by tributes from sporting superstars Pele, Kylian Mbappe and LeBron James.

The Portugal captain said his dream of winning the trophy was over, after his fifth World Cup ended with a quarter-final defeat to Morocco.

Now 37, Ronaldo has conceded the Qatar 2022 tournament was his last World Cup, although he has left the door open for now on playing on in the short term.

Ronaldo lost his place in the side and was a second-half substitute in the last-16 win over Switzerland and also the Morocco game.

He became the first player to score in five separate World Cups, having netted in each edition since 2006, and is also now the joint most-capped player and highest goalscorer in international football history.

However, he never scored in a game in the knockout stages of the World Cup, a blip on an otherwise remarkably successful career.

There was a rapid reaction to an emotional message from Ronaldo on Instagram, where he described the goal of World Cup glory as "the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career".

NBA great James said Ronaldo was a "LEGEND!!", with the Los Angeles Lakers star adding a salute, thank-you and crown emoji to his message.

Three-time World Cup winner Pele, paying close attention to the tournament from his hospital bed in Brazil, wrote: "Thanks for making us smile my friend."

Mbappe, who helped France beat England 2-1 on Saturday to reach the semi-finals, replied to Ronaldo with three emojis. Those were of a goat, referencing Ronaldo's 'greatest of all time' credentials, plus hands together to signal his thanks, and a crown.

Ronaldo's recent interviewer and cheerleader, British journalist Piers Morgan, sent a message containing six sets of clapping hands.

Former Brazil striker Pato wrote to Ronaldo: "You are an example! You inspire people and children around the world. The same ones that criticise you are the ones who want the same success as you. You are a giant! Congratulations."

Jesse Lingard, Ronaldo's former Manchester United team-mate, seemingly got his acronyms muddled, however, as he posted "GAOT".

Football goes through phases and cycles where certain trends dictate the sport, whether that's specific formations and systems, or particular player styles.

The World Cup quarter-final between France and England will highlight one such feature of the modern game: the evolution of the striker.

What makes this clash so intriguing in that respect is the presence of three forwards who each represent a different era, with Olivier Giroud, Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe likely to attract much of the pre-match focus.

And what's more, there's a strong possibility the game will be decided – or influenced at the very least – by this trio.

Giroud – The throwback

For years the narrative around Giroud has been the suggestion he's "underrated". That discussion has been exhausted to the extent we should all now agree he is simply "rated".

That shouldn't detract from how he's polarised opinion for much of his career, but for the most part this comes down to personal preferences about what a striker should offer or be.

Arsene Wenger, the man who signed Giroud for Arsenal, said it best in 2014 after the striker scored a powerful header in a 4-1 win over Newcastle United: "He is like an English [-style] centre-forward. His first goal he scored was a typical 1970s goal. You saw those headers in the seventies and eighties. You love it because you see it less now."

Fast-forward eight years and Giroud is now France's all-time leading scorer after usurping another former Arsenal star in Thierry Henry.

But as Wenger alluded to, he's almost part of a dying breed.

 

Since the start of Giroud's breakout season in 2011-12 when he led Montpellier to the Ligue 1 title, only five players have scored more headed goals than him (34) across the top five leagues – that accounts for 28.3 per cent of his non-penalty goals.

While 27 players (minimum 40 goals total) in that time have scored a greater proportion of their non-penalty goals with headers, only one of those – Anthony Modeste (61) – has also netted more than 50 non-headers. Giroud has 86.

This speaks to Giroud's quality as not only a seventies throwback who'll get his head on almost anything, but just generally a reliable penalty-box striker, with his exploits in Qatar a rather succinct summary.

All three of his goals have been scored in the area, and one of those – his second against Australia – was a towering header.

 

Let's not forget, he was maligned at Russia 2018 because some deemed him to not be a scoring threat. Granted, he ended the tournament with no goals, yet he was a regular throughout the champions' run because of the physical presence he brought working as a kind of attacking pivot.

Four years on, despite looking a likely exclusion this time around, he's thriving in the absence of Karim Benzema.

'Classic' number nines like Giroud aren't particularly fashionable these days. How many of the best developing forwards under the age of 25 come under this umbrella? Not many.

But Giroud proves this sub-genre of striker retains relevancy even if the production line is drying up.

Kane – The playmaker

Kane does share certain strengths with Giroud – after all, he is one of those five strikers to score more headers (35 to 34) in the top five leagues than Giroud over aforementioned period.

But it's fair to say he's a more rounded, refined striker, which of course tallies with the idea of he and Giroud being of different eras in essence.

Jose Mourinho may not have been hugely popular as Tottenham coach, but to his credit, he clearly played a part in Kane redefining himself somewhat.

 

In November 2020, Kane said: "I think [Mourinho] saw in my game that I like to drop deep so he made it clear to the others that if I do drop deep then they need to be the ones running in behind. I think that's been the real difference. It's allowed me to create space and get the ball but have an option going forward as well. But I think obviously I've still been playing as a nine as well, and I think that's the beauty of what's been working well."

Since Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino 12 months prior to those comments, Kane has averaged 0.24 assists per 90 minutes in the Premier League, double the frequency he had under the Argentinian.

His other creative metrics haven't improved quite as dramatically, with key passes only up from 1.2 to 1.4, for instance. However, his expected assists increase (0.08 per 90, to 0.13 p90) highlights how Kane's general creativity carries greater threat now. Sure, it would seem he's benefiting from good finishing by team-mates, but his playmaking influence has demonstrably grown.

Since the start of the 2019-20 season, only Mohamed Salah (747), Bruno Fernandes (641) and Jack Grealish (588) have been involved in more shot-ending sequences in the Premier League than Kane (585), with 289 of those not ending with him having the shot – no out-and-out striker has been more involved in build-up play than Kane.

 

He's translated that to the World Cup as well. Twelve Opta-defined "strikers" can better his 11 open-play shot-ending sequence involvements, but among them are the likes of Lionel Messi, Memphis Depay and Thomas Muller; players not always picked to lead the line.

No forwards have recorded more involvements in goal-ending sequences than Kane (four), however, with the Spurs star becoming the first England player since David Beckham in 2002 to have three assists at a single World Cup.

 

Another Golden Boot success might not be on the cards, but you could argue Kane is more integral to England than ever before.

Mbappe – The wide forward

While Kane and Giroud might almost be deemed old-fashioned in some regards, Mbappe represents the archetypal modern forward – and he's essentially the perfect embodiment.

While it's not just 'emerging' players who qualify here, there certainly appears to be a greater concentration of them among a particular age group. So many have similar key characteristics in that they're generally quick, good on the ball and often prefer to play off one of the flanks.

The 'wide forward' role is very much in vogue.

 

What makes this particularly interesting in relation to Mbappe is that his playing role was apparently a major contributing factor in his reported unhappiness at PSG earlier this season.

While he didn't explicitly confirm that, he outlined what was different between representing France and PSG, where Christophe Galtier has this season often used him as a central striker.

"I play differently for France. I am asked other things [with the national team] compared to my club," he said in September. "I have a lot more freedom here. The coach knows there is a number nine in the side like Olivier [Giroud] who can occupy defences while I walk around and go into space. In Paris, it's different – you don't have that. I am asked to play as a pivot, which is different."

 

That said, Mbappe's still been able to tally the seventh-most carries (259) across the top five leagues this term, and his total carry progress of 1,562.2 metres is bettered by only Gerard Deulofeu among wingers and forwards, highlighting the fact the France talisman continues to play a vital role in getting PSG up the pitch and on the front foot.

It's a similar story at the World Cup, with his 70 carries fourth behind Lionel Messi (104), Christian Pulisic and Jamal Musiala (both 75) among forwards and wingers.

Clearly, Mbappe's good enough to play either as wide forward or central striker and still thrive. But, as he said in September, it's the freedom offered by the former role that he appears to value, and it certainly doesn't seem to have diminished his effectiveness massively in the box given he's had a hand in seven goals – three more than anyone else – and leads the scoring charts with five.

 

Understandably, he'll be the one to watch on Saturday. But as Giroud and Kane have already shown at this tournament, you don't have to be explosive to be decisive.

Neymar said he was rooting for himself when asked if he would be supporting club-mates Kylian Mbappe or Lionel Messi in the wake of Brazil's World Cup exit.

Brazil looked set to make the semi-finals in Qatar when Neymar put them ahead against Croatia at Education City Stadium midway through extra time.

But Croatia prevailed 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out following Bruno Petkovic's leveller to leave the pre-tournament favourites' hopes in tatters.

While Brazil are out, Neymar's Paris Saint-Germain team-mates Mbappe of France and Messi of Argentina both still had a chance of winning the tournament when the Selecao squad spoke to reporters after their defeat.

Neymar, though, was not best pleased when asked if he had paid any mind to their fortunes.

"That's hard to talk [about] now," said the 30-year-old, who had been in tears at full-time. "I was rooting for myself."

Neymar's goal, which capped a sublime move started by the PSG star, took him level with the great Pele on 77 international goals for the Selecao.

Gareth Southgate believes it will take a collective effort from England to stop Kylian Mbappe in Saturday's mouthwatering World Cup quarter-final against France.

Mbappe is the tournament's top scorer with five goals in four matches, including a double in the reigning champions' 3-1 victory over Poland in the round of 16.

Kyle Walker is the player many believe will be chosen to deal with the power and pace of Mbappe, with the possibility that Southgate will opt to play with a back five.

The Three Lions boss does not think it will all be on Walker to stop the Paris Saint-Germain star, stating that every player will have to chip in.

"He’s [Walker] been a very important player for us over the last six years," Southgate said.

"Kyle is ready. We, of course, are talking about one of the opposition, but we play France who are a fantastic team.

"We're aware of the quality of the whole squad. He's [Didier Deschamps] created a team that is stronger than the individuals. That's great credit to him, we know we've got to be at our very best to win the game."

Asked how England will prepare for Mbappe, Southgate said: "Same as every position on the field, you have 10 one-v-one battles, but then everybody else round those battles has to support their team-mate.

"You've got to work collectively to stop any player like that. You’ve got to work the areas of the pitch zonally to make sure there's good coverage and support for every player on the pitch, simple as that."

France are unbeaten in the 13 games in which Mbappe has started in the World Cup and European Championship combined (W10 D3), winning all nine in which he has played from the beginning at the World Cup.

The 23-year-old has been directly involved in 12 goals in those 13 starts, scoring nine and making three assists.

England captain Harry Kane, though, believes Walker is in the form of his life and is more than capable of dealing with Mbappe.

"Kyle is a fantastic defender," Kane said. "He's been probably the most consistent right back there's been for the last 10 years or so.

"He's playing at the highest level I think he's ever played at. I know everyone's talking about Kyle and Kylian, but Kyle will be focused on doing his job for the team as he always does. He's one of the best defenders."

France are not overly dependent on Kylian Mbappe, according to head coach Didier Deschamps.

Mbappe has been in sparkling form at the Qatar World Cup and is the top scorer in the competition with five goals from four appearances.

The 23-year-old's double in the last-16 win over Poland has taken his tally of World Cup goals to nine, as many as Lionel Messi and more than Cristiano Ronaldo.

World champions France are unbeaten in the 13 games Mbappe has started in major competitions – outside of penalty shoot-outs – and will be hoping that record continues against England at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday, with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs.

Deschamps dismissed the idea France rely too heavily on the Paris Saint-Germain forward, who has now scored 250 goals for club and country.

"I'm sure England will have prepared to face Kylian as our previous opponents did, but he's in a position to make the difference," Deschamps said in a press conference.

"Even in the last match, he didn't show his top form, but he was still decisive.

"We have other players that can be dangerous as well, so that helps us not be over-dependent on Kylian.

"But Kylian is Kylian, and he has that capacity to make the difference in any moment."

A major talking point in the build-up to the game has been the match-up between Mbappe and England right-back Kyle Walker, who could play either in a back four or a back five in order to combat the France forward's threat.

France captain Hugo Lloris played with Walker at Tottenham and said Mbappe is putting the talk to one side.

"I think Kylian is preparing very well. Trying to ignore a lot of the talk about him, it's really not something he needs," he said.

"He's very focused on his objectives, individually and collectively. He seems very happy, playing with a smile on his face and seems very focused on the match ahead of us.

"That's how he's looked from the beginning of this tournament."

While the focus will be on Mbappe at one end of the pitch, England captain Harry Kane – who won the Golden Boot at Russia 2018 – could be decisive at the other, having scored his first goal of the tournament in the Three Lions' 3-0 defeat of Senegal in the round of 16.

"I only have positive things to say about Harry, he's very important for the team, club and for England as well," Lloris said of his Spurs team-mate.

"A real leader, an example for his team-mates, and he's a top player. 

"Harry's someone who is known all over the world – not sure I can add too much to what is known. Our focus will be on representing our countries."

France are not overly dependent on Kylian Mbappe, according to head coach Didier Deschamps.

Mbappe has been in sparkling form at the Qatar World Cup and is the top scorer in the competition with five goals from four appearances.

The 23-year-old's double in the last-16 win over Poland has taken his tally of World Cup goals to nine, as many as Lionel Messi and more than Cristiano Ronaldo.

World champions France are unbeaten in the 13 games Mbappe has started in major competitions – outside of penalty shoot-outs – and will be hoping that record continues against England at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday, with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs.

Deschamps dismissed the idea France rely too heavily on the Paris Saint-Germain forward, who has now scored 250 goals for club and country.

"I'm sure England will have prepared to face Kylian as our previous opponents did, but he's in a position to make the difference," Deschamps said in a press conference.

"Even in the last match, he didn't show his top form, but he was still decisive.

"We have other players that can be dangerous as well, so that helps us not be over-dependent on Kylian.

"But Kylian is Kylian, and he has that capacity to make the difference in any moment."

A major talking point in the build-up to the game has been the match-up between Mbappe and England right-back Kyle Walker, who could play either in a back four or a back five in order to combat the France forward's threat.

France captain Hugo Lloris played with Walker at Tottenham and said Mbappe is putting the talk to one side.

"I think Kylian is preparing very well. Trying to ignore a lot of the talk about him, it's really not something he needs," he said.

"He's very focused on his objectives, individually and collectively. He seems very happy, playing with a smile on his face and seems very focused on the match ahead of us.

"That's how he's looked from the beginning of this tournament."

While the focus will be on Mbappe at one end of the pitch, England captain Harry Kane – who won the Golden Boot at Russia 2018 – could be decisive at the other, having scored his first goal of the tournament in the Three Lions' 3-0 defeat of Senegal in the round of 16.

"I only have positive things to say about Harry, he's very important for the team, club and for England as well," Lloris said of his Spurs team-mate.

"A real leader, an example for his team-mates, and he's a top player. 

"Harry's someone who is known all over the world – not sure I can add too much to what is known. Our focus will be on representing our countries."

Qatar 2022 is a World Cup like no other, and the host nation performed like no other.

Theirs was the worst group-stage record of any home side at a World Cup, becoming the first to lose all three matches and conceding a landmark seven goals. Only South Africa, in 2010, had previously failed to make it out of the first round.

Controversially awarded the tournament months after Spain's Barcelona-inspired success at South Africa 2010, Qatar had plenty of time to prepare and soon put its faith in Catalan coach Felix Sanchez.

He worked first with the nation's youth teams before taking the top job five years out from the World Cup.

Although Sanchez led Qatar to Asian Cup success in 2019, he never considered a World Cup run a serious possibility – or so he said after a third straight defeat last month.

"Our country has 6,000 federation football licences, so this was a likely outcome," he explained. "We never set a goal to reach the round of 16 or quarter-finals."

While Sanchez believed this to be a "very realistic" approach, Qatar undoubtedly underwhelmed.

However, fortunately for those with a vested interest in the country boosting its reputation at the finals, its presence on the pitch extends beyond Sanchez's national team.

Lionel Messi and Neymar, like Sanchez, were poached by Qatar from Barcelona, and they are having a far greater impact.

Of course, neither are counted among the naturalised Qatari citizens who turned out in the colours of the gulf nation, but the South American superstars, along with Kylian Mbappe, represent Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain every time they step out on the field.

If disappointed by Qatar's woeful displays before his eyes, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir, could at least therefore be heartened by the influence of his club side.

PSG's takeover by Qatar Sports Investments followed hot on the heels of FIFA's vote for the 2022 hosting rights, yet it scarcely could have dreamed of the status its players would enjoy when the tournament finally came around.

Admittedly, things could have been very different had this World Cup taken place in the Northern Hemisphere's summer, as is the norm.

At the end of the 2021-22 season, Messi was coming off the worst club campaign of his career, Neymar had again spent long stretches out injured, and Mbappe appeared set to leave PSG for Real Madrid.

Six months on, all three were in form, all three were fit, and all three were still at PSG.

In Europe's top five leagues, Erling Haaland (21) alone has more goal involvements in 2022-23 than Neymar (20). Mbappe (10) leads the same metric in the Champions League. Both in Europe's top five leagues and in the Champions League, Messi sets the benchmark for assists (10 and four).

For Messi and Mbappe, that level of performance has continued in Qatar. They have carried Argentina and France respectively into the quarter-finals, with Messi scoring three and assisting one of La Albiceleste's seven goals while Mbappe has netted five and created two of the world champions' nine.

Meanwhile, Neymar was forced to watch as his club colleagues seized control of this competition, injured after a brutal Brazil opener in which he was fouled nine times by Serbia players and hobbled off with a severely swollen ankle.

But now he has come to the party – and it is always a party where Brazil are concerned.

Neymar scored one goal and assisted another in a dazzling first half against South Korea that set up a 4-1 last-16 victory. He is the first Brazil player since at least 1966 to both score and assist at three different World Cups.

The first of those Neymar World Cup goals came back in 2014 against next opponents Croatia, who have not looked capable of stopping a Selecao side in full flow, scraping past Japan only after a penalty shoot-out.

As in Sao Paulo at Brazil's home World Cup, the stands at Education City Stadium will be decked in yellow for Friday's quarter-final, although many of those present will be supporting Neymar himself as much as his team.

Travelling fans from outside the Middle East are in relatively short supply in Qatar, but there are no shortage of Neymar, Messi or Mbappe shirts at Brazil, Argentina or France matches.

It speaks to the success of the PSG project that this foothold in the world game has been established not by Qatar's investment in its national team or by its hosting of the greatest tournament of all.

While there is focus in Europe on QSI's failure to deliver Champions League glory, its thirst for star-power has been rewarded with a genuine interest in the last eight of a World Cup, Qatar's own World Cup.

And unlike in club competitions, where cohesion is key and PSG cannot blow the best teams away, superstars can single-handedly decide the day at this level.

Brazil – and QSI – have one of those; there could yet be cause for celebration for Sheikh Tamim and Qatar if Neymar again performs like the world's most expensive player over the next 10 days.

A move to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to Paris Saint-Germain would be "impossible", according to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

Ronaldo and Manchester United parted ways after an explosive interview in which the Portugal star said he felt "betrayed" by senior figures at the club, while claiming to have "no respect" for manager Erik ten Hag.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's exit has led to much discussion over his next club, with Ligue 1 giants PSG one of the teams rumoured to be interested in making a move for the 37-year-old.

But PSG president Al-Khelaifi ruled out any potential deal, although he did speak highly of the former Real Madrid man.

"He's a legend, he's a star," Al-Khelaifi told Sky Sports News. "The footballer, I admire and love him as a player and professional. A fantastic player.

"He's 37 now – he's doing amazing. But every single club wants to sign him too. The problem today for us is we have the position [filled] – his position – so it's not easy to replace the position that we have with him.

"It would be impossible, honestly, for us."

One of those players PSG have in Ronaldo's position is Kylian Mbappe, who is currently leading the goalscoring charts at the World Cup in Qatar with France.

Mbappe was heavily linked with a move from PSG to Real Madrid earlier this year, but the 23-year-old instead signed a bumper new contract to stay in the French capital.

Al-Khelaifi believes it was vital to keep Mbappe at PSG, saying: "For me he's a very top, top player and a top human being, professional.

"For me it was really key he stayed and he didn't leave for free. That's another important point.

"As I always said, I always trusted him, trusted his family because we created something of a special relation with the player and them and that's why… he's Parisian, he's French and he's proud always to be in France."

France are struggling to see how Kyle Walker will stop Kylian Mbappe running rampant in Saturday's World Cup showdown with England.

The tussle down the French left has been characterised as the key battleground ahead of the quarter-final at Al Bayt Stadium.

Mbappe's electric pace, sublime dribbling skills and eye for goal have made him the standout player at the finals so far, and the leading scorer with five goals.

Manchester City right-back Walker is the oldest player in the England squad, but the 32-year-old is also said to be the quickest. As such, it falls kindly for manager Gareth Southgate that Walker should naturally be the man to keep an eye on Mbappe.

Walker said on Wednesday that stopping Mbappe will be "easier said than done", but he added: "I'm not going to roll out a red carpet for him and tell him to score."

France defender Youssouf Fofana will reluctantly applaud Walker if he keeps Mbappe quiet.

He pointed to French Ligue 1 clubs having previously all set out with game plans to handle the Paris Saint-Germain frontman, only to have those blown out of the water by the 23-year-old's sheer brilliance.

"It's all to his credit if he knows how to stop Kylian, but 19 other teams in Ligue 1 are still waiting for the solution," Fofana said at a France press conference on Thursday.

"The truth is out there, we'll see what happens. We have confidence in Kylian."

Fofana described England and France as being "quite close in terms of culture" and said Southgate's side possessed "incredible" individuals.

"We've seen it since the Euros, they're constantly progressing. It will be a great match," said the 23-year-old Monaco player.

As a teenager, with his career in limbo after leaving the French national football academy at Clairefontaine, Fofana delivered pizzas for a living while trying to forage for a way forward in his preferred career.

He needed to earn a crust, but doors soon began to open as Strasbourg gave him an opportunity, before Monaco came calling almost three years ago.

"When you leave Clairefontaine, there are doubts," Fofana said of that time in his life. "When there are doubts you have to move forward. You need money, I had to make some. It was the best way to do that while trying to follow my dreams."

Declan Rice is fit to play for England against France in their World Cup quarter-final, Three Lions team-mate Kalvin Phillips confirmed.

Rice missed England's training session on Wednesday because of illness, sparking fears over his ability to play against the reigning world champions on Saturday.

But Phillips, who formed a vital partnership with Rice in England's route to the Euro 2020 final, allayed any worries over the West Ham midfielder's availability.

"I believe Dec [Rice] is fit," Phillips told reporters at his pre-match news conference. "He's back in training and he's fine."

After playing such a vital role at the European Champions last year, Phillips has played just 40 minutes off the bench in Qatar, in part due to only recently returning from shoulder surgery.

However, Phillips insists he is ready to fill in if Rice does experience any problems against France, saying: "If something goes wrong then I'll be there and I'll do my best to be fit for 90 minutes.

"I want to play as many minutes as possible. Regardless of whether Dec is playing or I am, we'll do our best."

Another reason for Phillips' limited time on the pitch has been the emergence of 19-year-old Jude Bellingham, who has been widely praised for his excellent tournament displays at such a young age.

Asked whether he is enjoying the tournament less because of his reduced minutes, the Manchester City man insisted he was still happy, and also praised those preferred to him.

"I am still enjoying it. I am still having loads of fun," Phillips explained. "I'm not playing as much, which can be frustrating, but if you look at the players playing ahead of me and how well they are doing, I can't really argue.

"I just need to keep working hard and getting fitter and fitter and then make an impact when I come on and be solid when I come on."

Much of the talk in the build-up to England's quarter-final clash has centred on how manager Gareth Southgate will combat the threat of tournament top goalscorer Kylian Mbappe.

Phillips' City team-mate Kyle Walker is the man many feel will be chosen to deal with Mbappe, though the defender only recently returned from injury.

While Phillips lauded Mbappe's abilities, he is confident Walker will be up to the task of defending against him, adding: "We know he [Mbappe] is an amazing player and he has been one of the top players for the last few years.

"But if there was anyone I would like to put up against Mbappe, it would be Kyle Walker because he is an unbelievable defender and probably the only one that is quicker than him as well."

Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe would be "completely compatible" as a strike partnership and Mauricio Pochettino would love to see it happen, he revealed ahead of England's World Cup clash with France.

Pochettino has coached both players, as boss of Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain, and would love to work with Kane again one day, should the England captain seek to leave Spurs.

Argentinian Pochettino will be a neutral when England and France go head-to-head at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday, but his experience of coaching the two chief goal threats on each side means he has a vested interest.

He says both Kane and Mbappe "genuinely love the game", unlike some players he has come across.

"They love to talk about football, they love to talk about tactics, they have brains that really understand football. And this is why I think it would be so good to see them playing together. They would be completely compatible," Pochettino said.

He predicted an "amazing" connection, but stressed: "Maybe it will never happen; when I was at PSG, I knew Tottenham would never want to sell Harry."

Pochettino is not working as a coach in this instant, but he is regularly linked with top jobs when vacancies arise, and he said that "maybe one day in the future, if I am at a different club, and if Harry has decided to leave Tottenham, maybe I would try to bring Harry with me".

He credits Kane as having "saved my career" with a free-kick winner for Tottenham at Aston Villa in November 2014, and recalled nurturing the talent of "an old-fashioned number nine" to become the multi-faceted striker the England skipper is now.

Pochettino told The Athletic he and his coaching staff helped Kane "to run, helped him to press, and to move into different areas, using different spaces on the pitch.

"So he was a player who could play in the box or outside it, because his capacity to understand the game is amazing. He senses what the team needs, and when it’s under pressure he can drop into midfield, to help the team to progress the ball up the pitch or to provide assists.

"And if Harry drops into those positions in the World Cup quarter-final on Saturday, it will be difficult for France to stop."

 

Pochettino says that "constantly" dipping into midfield duties can also be a problem for Kane, given it blunts his frontline threat, and urged him to prioritise his work inside the penalty area.

Mbappe is the World Cup's leading scorer with five goals at Qatar 2022, and the 23-year-old has been in revelatory form, bringing his peak PSG game to the international stage.

Although Mbappe might rub some up the wrong way with his showmanship and imperious personality, Pochettino says it is "impossible not to" have a big ego when a footballer is given such acclaim, and he stressed the former Monaco player is "arrogant in the right, in the best way"

Offering high praise, Pochettino likened Mbappe to the great Brazilian Ronaldo, top scorer at the 2002 World Cup for the triumphant Selecao.

"It's in that capacity to accelerate, the technique, to dribble past opponents and score," Pochettino said.

 

Kylian Mbappe is France's "main weapon" but Adrien Rabiot insists Les Bleus are not dependent on the forward in their quest to defend their World Cup crown.

The Paris Saint-Germain star leads the goalscoring charts at Qatar 2022 with five to date, and bagged a brace as Didier Deschamps' side progressed to the quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over Poland.

That has set up France's toughest test of the tournament on paper in the shape of Euro 2020 finalists England, where the attacker will be looking to make a difference once again.

Despite having needed Mbappe to fire them forward on several occasions so far, Rabiot says he is not the only member of their squad who can help win games.

"There is no dependency," Rabiot stated. "He is our main weapon, but we also have other players who can make a difference in other ways.

"We count on him as on all the players in the group. Everyone needs to be good health to face England.

Ibrahima Konate is relishing the chance to see Kylian Mbappe and Kyle Walker's battle up close and personal when France face England in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Les Bleus are into the last eight after victory over Poland, with Didier Deschamps' side now set to take on Gareth Southgate's Three Lions, one of the few unbeaten sides left at Qatar 2022.

Forward Mbappe, who sits atop the Golden Boot standings with five goals to his name, has been the form player at the tournament so far.

But he will face arguably his toughest test yet in England right-back Walker, with Konate looking forward to seeing the pair square off.

"Walker and Mbappe are two very great players," he said. "Walker is one of the best right-backs in the world, I cannot wait to see this battle.

"[But] it's complicated [to defend against Mbappe]. Kylian is impressive. Each year, he evolves and becomes even better.

"I don't know where he will stop. We are lucky to have him in our team and not against us."

Mbappe missed team training on Tuesday, instead completing routines inside away from the rest of the squad, sparking fears of a potential injury knock.

But Konate shut down such talk, suggesting instead it was a preordained decision as part of his post-match recovery process.

"It was a little recovery session, the day before we had a day off," he added. "I think he decided to stay indoors with the coach.

"There is nothing to worry about. We are counting on him as on all the players in the group. Everyone must be in good health to face England."

Kyle Walker will not "roll out a red carpet" for Kylian Mbappe as England prepare to face France in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

Mbappe is the tournament's top scorer so far with five goals in four matches, including a double in the reigning champions' 3-1 victory over Poland in the round of 16.

That win set up a clash in the final eight with England, giving Three Lions' manager Gareth Southgate a headache on how to best counter the threat of Mbappe.

Walker is the player many believe will be chosen to deal with the power and pace of Mbappe, with the possibility that Southgate will opt to play with a back five.

While Walker lauded Mbappe's talents, the Manchester City defender feels he is well-equipped to cope with the Paris Saint-Germain star.

"Of course I understand the focus and I understand what I need to do to stop him," Walker told reporters. "It's easier said than done but I don't underestimate myself.

"I've come up against some of the best players in the world but I have to treat it just as another game. You have to give him respect but not too much.

"I'm not going to roll out a red carpet for him and tell him to score. It's a World Cup, it's do or die.

"I'm not going home so I'm not going to let him ruin that for my family."

Other France forwards have impressed alongside Mbappe, such as Ousmane Dembele and Olivier Giroud, the latter of whom became Les Bleus' all-time record goalscorer with his strike against Poland, with Walker stressing the focus is not just on the PSG forward.

Walker says it is important England pay due attention to all of France's attackers, and not just Mbappe, adding: "It will be a tough game but a team cannot just be about one person.

"When we've [City] played Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, we're not just thinking of Mbappe and it's the same on Saturday. 

"He's a tool in their armoury - and a very good one - but you can't underestimate their other players.

"We know he's a great player and that's why he's the focus of all questions. But let's not forget Olivier Giroud who has scored lots of goals, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann.

"For me all the questions shouldn't be about him [Mbappe]. I appreciate he's a great footballer, but there are others too."

At 32-years-old, Walker is one of the older members of England's squad, with young stars such as Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham playing a starring role in England's campaign so far.

Walker commended the Three Lions' new generation, reserving particular praise for Bellingham, who has lit up the tournament with his sparkling midfield displays at just 19-years-old.

"It is great for the English game," Walker declared. "As you mentioned, Jude [Bellingham] being one who has the courage to play for England that others didn't have when they were younger.

"They have no fear and they go in and express themselves. I feel the standard of players has gone up another level in this tournament."

Kylian Mbappe was absent from France's training session four days before the holders face England in a World Cup quarter-final.

The leading scorer in the tournament, with five goals from four appearances, was in the recovery room on Tuesday when his team-mates trained at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.

Mbappe had been troubled by an ankle injury before the tournament started in Qatar.

The Paris-Saint Germain man has shown no signs of being hampered, lighting up the tournament and putting himself in pole position to claim the Golden Boot.

He scored two superb goals in a 3-1 round-of-16 win over Poland on Sunday, having also helped himself to a decisive double in a victory over Denmark and found the back of the net in an opening win over Australia.

Mbappe has also provided two assists for the defending champions.

Al Bayt Stadium will be the venue for a huge last-eight showdown between Les Bleus and Gareth Southgate's side, who beat Senegal 3-0 to move into the quarter-finals.

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