Messi given guard of honour on return to PSG training

By Sports Desk January 04, 2023

Lionel Messi was welcomed back to Paris Saint-Germain training with a guard of honour after inspiring Argentina to World Cup glory last month.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was given an extended break by his club after scoring seven times and assisting three more in Qatar.

Messi, who announced ahead of the tournament it would be his last World Cup participation, landed a second Golden Ball for his starring role in Argentina's third global triumph.

He has played no part in PSG's two matches since Qatar 2022, missing the win over Strasbourg and defeat to Lens in Ligue 1, but he was back in Paris on Wednesday.

PSG's players and coaching staff formed a tunnel for Messi as he walked out of their training base, before he was handed a small trophy by sporting director Luis Campos.

Neymar was among those to greet Messi upon his arrival, but Kylian Mbappe – a beaten finalist at Messi's expense – was absent after being given a breather by Christophe Galtier.

Messi may now be in contention to play a part in Friday's round-of-64 Coupe de France tie with third-tier side Chateauroux.

Prior to heading off to the World Cup, the 35-year-old scored 12 goals and assisted 14 more in 19 appearances this season.

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    Harry Kane called for some perspective following England's 1-1 Euro 2024 draw against Denmark but accepts his side were not good enough.

    England failed to build on a 1-0 win over Serbia in their Group C opener as they saw Kane's opener cancelled out by Morten Hjulmand in Thursday's match in Frankfurt.

    Gareth Southgate's side once again failed to push on after taking the lead in a game and supporters made their frustrations known.

    The draw means England have still yet to ever win their first two matches at a European Championship, with their place in the last 16 not yet certain.

    And Kane - the third man to score at four different major tournaments for England along with Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney - admits an improvement is needed.

    "We're struggling with and without the ball," he told BBC Sport. "The pressing in both games hasn't been quite right, and with the ball we haven't been good enough – that's from top to bottom, from me to Picks (Jordan Pickford). 

    "It was tough out there with the heat and the pitch. It wasn't our greatest game but we got away with a draw.

    "There's no easy games at major tournaments and I think that's being shown. There are levels we can reach, with and without the ball, but it’s a sign of a good team that you can get results when you’re not playing well."

    England sit top of Group C with four points from two matches and will guarantee a place in the knockouts with a draw against Slovenia on Tuesday, while a win sees them through in top spot.

    "We're top of the group and we've all but qualified," added Kane, who was substituted with 20 minutes to go. "I know there’ll be loads of noise and a bit of disappointment at home, but we experienced this when we drew with Scotland in the last Euros. 

    "It's a time to stay calm, reflect and try to improve. Step by step, we'll get there."

    Kane's opener was his fifth goal at the Euros, making him the first England player and the eighth from any country to score five or more in both this competition and the World Cup.

    However, Hjulmand levelled 16 minutes later with a shot from 30 yards - his first goal for Denmark in all competitions on what was his ninth appearance - and England could not find a response of their own.

    Southgate's side dropped deep after going in front, as they did against Serbia and have done in recent tournaments, and Kane believes that is an area that needs working on.

    "It’s not just when we score that [we drop deep]," he said. "It's something we need to get better at. When the teams drop a few players deeper, we're not sure how who's supposed to be pressing. 

    "In the second half we tried to change it a bit with me and Jude [Bellingham] playing in front of their two midfielders and then trying to get up. But it was difficult. Credit to Denmark, they’re a really good side and they carried a threat."

    England have now won just two of their past eight competition meetings with Denmark, and this most recent result means they are unable to rest up against Slovenia.

    Reflecting on the disappointing performance, Southgate told BBC Sport: "The performance was not what we would have hoped. At the moment we're not using the ball well enough, and if you do that you'll suffer as we have at times tonight. There's another level we have to find.

    "There's a huge amount of work to do - that's evident. We have to stay tight. We understand people will be disappointed with the performances, and rightly so. We've got make them better."

  • Walker defends Southgate's tactics following England draw Walker defends Southgate's tactics following England draw

    Kyle Walker was quick to defend Gareth Southgate and his tactics following England's 1-1 draw with Denmark. 

    The Three Lions took the lead in the 18th minute through Harry Kane after a nervous start in Frankfurt, but as it played out against Serbia, were unable to build on their lead. 

    A criticism of Southgate during his England has been the defensive nature of his team when scoring the opening goal, despite the plethora of talent at his disposal. 

    But unlike their Group C opener, this time his side were punished when Morten Hjulmand took aim from distance and fired an effort beyond the grasp of Jordan Pickford. 

    "The manager has expressed that he wants us to play free, attacking football," Walker told BBC Sport when asked if Southgate's instructions were to sit back after taking the lead. 

    "Sometimes, in tournament football, you have to manage the game, it is what it is that is why it is so hard to win tournaments, just like the Champions League. 

    "It's tough when you come to these grounds and in hostile environments, but we know that we can do better. But, we are top of the group, so let's move on to that."

    Walker, who made his 85th appearance for England against Denmark, is one of the more experienced heads in the Three Lions' ranks and is vice-captain to former team-mate Kane. 

    When asked what he would say to the squad following the result, Walker: "They will know as individuals and as a team collective, we all know that we have another gear, but we have not lost the game. 

    "Obviously, everyone wants us to come and steam roll teams three or four nil, but it's not football, it's not football these days. 

    "We have got a point, we will move on. We are top of the group, and we just keep going like that."

  • Walker defends Southgate tactics following England draw Walker defends Southgate tactics following England draw

    Kyle Walker was quick to defend Gareth Southgate and his tactics following England's 1-1 draw with Denmark. 

    The Three Lions took the lead in the 18th minute through Harry Kane after a nervous start in Frankfurt, but as it played out against Serbia, were unable to build on their lead. 

    A criticism of Southgate during his England has been the defensive nature of his team when scoring the opening goal, despite the plethora of talent at his disposal. 

    But unlike their Group C opener, this time his side were punished when Morten Hjulmand took aim from distance and fired an effort beyond the grasp of Jordan Pickford. 

    "The manager has expressed that he wants us to play free, attacking football," Walker told BBC Sport when asked if Southgate's instructions were to sit back after taking the lead. 

    "Sometimes, in tournament football, you have to manage the game, it is what it is that is why it is so hard to win tournaments, just like the Champions League. 

    "It's tough when you come to these grounds and in hostile environments, but we know that we can do better. But, we are top of the group, so let's move on to that."

    Walker, who made his 85th appearance for England against Denmark, is one of the more experienced heads in the Three Lions' ranks and is vice-captain to former team-mate Kane. 

    When asked what he would say to the squad following the result, Walker: "They will know as individuals and as a team collective, we all know that we have another gear, but we have not lost the game. 

    "Obviously, everyone wants us to come and steam roll teams three or four nil, but it's not football, it's not football these days. 

    "We have got a point, we will move on. We are top of the group, and we just keep going like that."

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