Tom Brady is a "good bet" to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the first time of asking, though he will still have to wait five years.

Brady called time on his playing career on Wednesday, a year on from retiring for the first time.

While that stint out of the game only lasted 40 days, the legendary quarterback – a seven-time Super Bowl champion – said he was retiring "for good" this time around.

Brady is sure to go down as one of the greatest athletes of all time, though that does not mean he will be able to skip any queue in order to become a Hall of Famer.

Indeed, while Hall of Fame chief communications officer Rich Desrosiers believes Brady will make it into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, the earliest that will come will be 2028.

"Even Tom Brady has to wait, even Peyton Manning had to wait," Desrosiers told Stats Perform when asked if Brady could be fast-tracked into the Hall of Fame.

"There's some others that we can assume will be or would have been first ballot types of people – Peyton Manning, one that I mentioned, this same conversation came up with him.

"You've got a couple of guys out there whose clocks are running: a Larry Fitzgerald, let's say a Drew Brees.

"I think many people assume they'd be first-ballot guys. It's just something the hall doesn't want to do, because then you've created a precedent, you've established a line, and who's making that determination?

"It's also unfair to the people who are queued up right now to be part of the class of 2024. If Tom were to have the five-year mandatory waiting period waived, then he's really knocking someone else out of the class of 2024, who has been waiting to get in, and we have many players who are on their second, third, fourth, fifth, even 10th year of eligibility.

"[If] all of a sudden, you're just saying, 'we're going to let somebody jump that line', you've displaced somebody else who's gone through the process. So it's not going to happen."

Asked if Brady will be into the Hall of Fame as soon as he can, Desrosiers said: "I would think so. Right now, we have 49 selectors.

"These are 49 mostly active journalists from around the country. They meet and consider the candidacies and each person who's up for election has a presenter who presents the case for the person under consideration.

"The debate might last five minutes 10 minutes, 20. There's been debates on candidates that have gone into 25-30 minute range when you really are starting to weigh this person against that person in the past, and I think it may have started with Brett Farve – Brett's presenter stood up and said two words – 'Brett Farve' and sat back down.

"It happened again with Peyton Manning, and I'm pretty sure that whoever is the presenter for Tom Brady will take a similar approach. They'll just say, 'Tom Brady', sit down.

"Nothing can ever be assumed. But it's probably a pretty good bet."

On Brady's illustrious career, Desrosiers added: "There's people far more talented than I am in debating those things. We'll let them debate that but it's hard to argue with seven Super Bowl championships, five Super Bowl MVPs, he's virtually passing every record, whatever number you want to throw out there.

"He's at the top or near the top of every offensive statistical category there is and a winner, and the longevity – there's plenty of boxes, you can check on the side of the ledger that says greatest of all time for sure."

Cody Gakpo will come good for Liverpool once he has had time to adapt to the Premier League, according to Wesley Sneijder.

The 23-year-old forward has made five appearances for Jurgen Klopp's men since his January move from PSV without registering a goal or assist, as the Reds have faltered in the league and been eliminated from the FA Cup.

Gakpo recorded nine goals and 12 assists in 14 Eredivisie games this season before moving to Anfield, but has so far been unable to replicate that form in England.

Speaking to Stats Perform, former Netherlands international Sneijder expressed his belief that Gakpo is a "great player" who can help his new team recover their season.

"Of course I'm confident [he can improve at Liverpool]. It's always difficult to change clubs during the season," he said. "You don't get the time to adapt.

"Normally when you start with a new club in the pre-season, you have a longer period to adapt to the system, to adapt to the country, to adapt to everything, and to English football as well.

"Now he arrived and he has to play directly so it's difficult, and we should give him some more time because he's a great player with a lot of progression."

Former Ajax midfielder Sneijder also reserved praise for the job Erik ten Hag has done in his first season as Manchester United head coach after leaving the Johan Cruijff ArenA.

"He started the way that he also started in Holland," he said. "Maybe in the beginning [it was] a little bit difficult for people to understand.

"But he's really clear in his decisions and that's what he has shown with Cristiano [Ronaldo], of course, and with more decisions that he's taken.

"He's really clear, he has his own vision. Now you see that they're doing very well. [Marcus] Rashford is in the best [period] of his life. This is what Ten Hag wants, and that's his quality to take the team and let them play the way he wants.

"Also, he knows how to manage it. He knows how to manage the team by making these decisions.

"So he made the statement in the beginning, and, of course, in the beginning, it was a little bit difficult and different from the rest of the coaches but he did a great job. I hope the best for him and that he will bring United back to the top."

Sneijder also spent two years playing for Real Madrid between 2007 and 2009, and has been impressed by the impact of another for Los Blancos midfielder in the Premier League, with Martin Odegaard playing a key part in Arsenal's title charge this season despite struggling to establish himself at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Yeah, of course [I'm pleased to see how he's doing], because I always believed in his qualities," Sneijder added. "And, of course, Madrid is a difficult club because you don't get that much time there.

"You see now at Arsenal, they really want to build the team and it's going very well so far.

"Also in England, as a midfielder, you have some more space to control the ball and turn in your position than you get in Spain. So you can see that the Premier League really suits him. He's an excellent player and he's showing his qualities every week."

Harry Kane will choose to stay with Tottenham and can win trophies with the club, says former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp.

Kane scored his 266th goal for Spurs in the 1-0 victory over Fulham on Monday, equalling Jimmy Greaves' all-time goalscoring record for Tottenham and boosting their top-four hopes.

But with the striker's contract due to expire in 18 months, it has been rumoured Kane may opt to leave to pursue silverware elsewhere, with links to European giants such as Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

Kane has spent 19 years with Spurs but is yet to lift any major trophies, losing the 2018-19 Champions League final to Liverpool and finishing as an EFL Cup runner-up twice.

But Redknapp, who handed Kane his Spurs debut in a Europa League qualifier against Hearts in 2011, is confident the 29-year-old will not move on.

"I think he'll stay there," Redknapp told Stats Perform. "He's happy there.

"He's got a fantastic contract, obviously, he earns amazing money. His life is good, got a lovely family. I think he's moving house and his life is good. He's enjoying his football there."

Aside from Spurs' bid to repeat their top-four finish of last season, the club remain in both the FA Cup and Champions League as they look to win their first major trophy since the EFL Cup in the 2007-08 campaign.

Redknapp believes the London side can provide Kane with a route to silverware, saying: "I think he feels he can still win something with Tottenham.

"I think Tottenham could win a trophy in the next year or two for sure. I think there's got to be chances they'll win the FA Cup."

Milan Skriniar's expected departure from Inter is down to "a problem of management" at the club, former midfielder Wesley Sneijder has told Stats Perform.

Slovakia international Skriniar, who is a confirmed target for Paris Saint-Germain, is into the final five months of his contract after rejecting fresh terms in December.

The January transfer window is therefore Inter's final chance to receive a fee for the centre-back, who is into his sixth season as an Inter player.

Inter have seen a number of players depart on free transfers in recent years, and ex-Nerazzurri midfielder Sneijder has questioned why that is still happening.

"This is a problem of management," he said. "When management is not good it's hard to control all the details. On the pitch it is easier, while off it, it is harder but just as important.

"You cannot let the players say they want to leave, let alone at this very moment. You have to take precautions in time to prevent all this."

Inter are reported to have already lined up possible replacements for Skriniar, with Fiorentina's Nikola Milenkovic among those to have been linked with a switch to San Siro.

While Sneijder believes Inter have the resources to cope without Skriniar, the former Netherlands international called on the Italian giants to take more responsibility.

"Inter have a great squad and won't suffer from this problem, but there will be others," he said. 

"They need someone to take responsibility and say 'enough is enough, now we only talk about playing football and that's it'.

"I don't know who is responsible for [the Skriniar situation], but someone has to tell the players they are there to play."

Skriniar has played 242 times for Inter in all competitions since joining from Sampdoria in July 2017, helping the club to Serie A, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana success.

Providing an update on PSG's interest in the 27-year-old this week, head coach Christophe Galtier said: "I cannot say if he will arrive in [January] or in the summer.

"He is a player we've been tracking for a long time. In fact, we thought that we had already got him last summer."

Skriniar may have already played his final game for Inter after his sending off against Empoli on Monday, with that 1-0 loss leaving Inter 13 points behind runaway leaders Napoli.

Italy will be "hungry for revenge" following their World Cup absence when they meet Spain at the Nations League Finals in June, Roberto Mancini's assistant Alberico Evani has told Stats Perform.

The European champions missed out on a second consecutive edition of the global tournament last year after falling to a shock qualification play-off defeat against North Macedonia in March.

However, the Azzurri bounced back to top a competitive Nations League group containing Hungary, Germany and England as they qualified for the competition's final four for the second edition in a row.

Italy will face Spain – who beat them in the 2021 semi-finals at San Siro – on June 15 following Wednesday's draw, while hosts Netherlands will meet Croatia.

Evani, who was a World Cup runner-up as a player in 1994 before joining Mancini's backroom team in 2018, knows Spain will be tough opponents but hopes Italy can prove a point.

"We've struggled against them in the past because of their style of play," Evani said of the threat posed by La Roja. 

"We would have preferred to avoid them, but it's also nice to have to play against them, as we can see if we have improved. 

"We are the only two teams who reached the final four in the last two consecutive editions. Let's see if we can change the result. 

"We are hungry for revenge and to take back what we have left in London two years ago [when winning the delayed Euro 2020]. 

"We have the skills to do it and we are doing all we can to be competitive again, we are working to be in the best possible conditions in June."

Mancini recently called for coaches to be braver in giving top-level experience to young Italian players, something Evani is also keen to see. 

"We had a camp right before Christmas and we called up all these young players. There is a lot of quality, they are interesting players with big futures ahead of them," he said.

"We hope their respective clubs will let them play more and more so they can gain the right experience. We have the talents, I think the future is bright."

Evani was speaking less than a week after Serie A giants Juventus were issued with a 15-point deduction following an investigation into the club's past transfer dealings.

Italy won the 2006 World Cup amid investigations that saw several of Serie A's top clubs punished in the aftermath of the Calciopoli scandal, and Evani hopes the Azzurri can again find motivation from a crisis affecting the country's domestic league.

"Our country always find strength in hardships," he said. "We didn't qualify for the World Cup and we now have this issue with the entire Italian football system. Who knows, we might be able to find the right boost to reach new heights."

Ronald Koeman believes Cody Gakpo has a "great future" and made the right choice in signing for Liverpool.

After impressing at the World Cup, Gakpo joined Liverpool from PSV last month, with the Reds reportedly paying an initial £37million (€42m).

Since the start of last season until his move to Anfield, no player had more goal involvements in the Eredivisie than Gakpo's 46 (21 goals, 25 assists). Indeed, no other player in Europe's top 10 leagues tallied at least 20 goals and 20 assists over the same timeframe.

However, after four games – all starts – for Liverpool, Gakpo is yet to score or set up a goal. He has had 12 shots, with three hitting the target, and only 18 touches in the opposition penalty area.

While it has been a slow start for the 23-year-old, new Netherlands coach Koeman, back in charge for a second time, is confident Gakpo will develop into a top player.

"I think it's important that he's playing and that's really important for a young kid like Gakpo, [to be] struggling," Koeman told Stats Perform at the Nations League Finals draw, with the Oranje, who are hosts for the mini-tournament in June, having been pitted against Croatia in the semi-finals.

"It's difficult because Liverpool is not in the last few months at that [high] level. That's always difficult for a new signing, to come in during the season.

"You have to give him that time to develop and to adapt to the Premier League because it's a different level.

"The intensity is much higher than he used to play in Holland but he's young and he will learn and he will be better. But he has a great future."

As the Netherlands look beyond the Nations League Finals and towards Euro 2024, Koeman will be hoping to build on a young core of players.

"We have a great history, we have always creating good young talent and let's hope that they will develop as star players, and that will be really important for the national team," he added.

The Netherlands lost to Portugal in the final of the inaugural Nations League in 2019, and Koeman is hoping to make home advantage count this time around.

"We are looking forward, we play at home," he said. 

"We saw Croatia during the World Cup and they're a really experienced football team.

"It's an extra [boost] that we play in front of our crowd in Holland. We know what the difficulty is when you play away.

"We have that experience in 2019 against Portugal in the final that we lost 1-0. Let's hope that the crowd will push the team."

Arsenal should be labelled as favourites in the north London derby, but Harry Redknapp says Harry Kane will always give his old team Tottenham a fighting chance.

Premier League leaders Arsenal make the short trip across the capital to face their rivals on Sunday.

A 3-0 defeat to Antonio Conte's team in the corresponding fixture last season was the start of Arsenal's capitulation in the run-in, which saw them miss out on the Champions League.

Yet Mikel Arteta's side are flying high this term and, having beat Spurs 3-1 in October, Arsenal are looking to complete their first league double over their rivals since 2013-14, which was also their last league victory away at Tottenham.

Former Spurs manager Redknapp believes Arsenal have the edge, but is confident Kane – the highest-scoring player in north London derby history with 14 goals – will take an opportunity if it comes his way.

"At the moment, you'd have to fancy Arsenal, to be honest, they look so good," Redknapp told Stats Perform.

"They're so full of confidence. I love the way they're playing. I think they've got some real quality players, but when you've got Harry Kane in your team, you've always got a chance, you've got a puncher's chance.

"They might get outplayed for long periods of a game but Kane can land a knockout blow anytime. So I wouldn't write Tottenham off by any means. I think it'll be a tight game."

Kane has scored in all but one of his eight league home games against Arsenal, only failing to find the net in a July 2020 clash, when the competition restarted behind closed doors during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 29-year-old has scored 198 Premier League goals and is just one strike away from matching Jimmy Greaves' record of 266 goals for Tottenham.

Only Erling Haaland (21) has scored more Premier League goals than Kane (15) this season, with the Spurs talisman having far over performed his expected goals of 10.5.

Wayne Rooney (208) and Alan Shearer (260) are the only players to have scored more Premier League goals than Kane, who Redknapp believes is the cream of the crop.

"Oh without a doubt, yeah," Redknapp said when asked if Kane will break the competition's goalscoring record.

"I think he'll smash it to pieces. Harry's just an amazing player, he's the best centre forward in the world in my opinion.

"He's right up there isn't he? Shearer you know how far do you go back you know, but you know, he's up there with the very, very best isn't he?

"The great Jimmy Greaves was a different type of player, Jimmy was a fantastic footballer. Genius. But Harry is just amazing. For me, he's the best all-round centre forward, he can do everything. The complete player.

"There's nothing he doesn't do. Team player. Great guy, not a problem. Perfect professional."

Harry Redknapp has backed Graham Potter to be a success at Chelsea once the former Brighton and Hove Albion boss has his best players available.

Potter is enduring a difficult time at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea having lost six of their past eight games.

The Blues have won just once during that poor run, beating Premier League strugglers Bournemouth 2-0 at home on December 27.

Sunday's 4-0 defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup served up a stark example of the gulf between 10th-placed Chelsea and teams battling for the title, yet Redknapp insists Potter, who replaced Thomas Tuchel in September, simply needs time to get to work.

Chelsea's injury list is a long one, with Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Wesley Fofana, Christian Pulisic, N'Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Edouard Mendy the first-team regulars out of action.

"You can't sack the lad can you, he's not been there 10 minutes – he's got a million injuries you know, you've got injuries galore, both his full-backs, Chilwell, James, important players, Fofana came in unfit, they've got lots of injuries," Redknapp told Stats Perform.

"They have still got a very, very strong squad. They've spent money like it's going out of fashion but he needs time. He's only as good as your players at the moment – it's not rocket science. People seem to think you go in and show them how to play football. It doesn't work like that.

"At the moment, he's got his best players missing and they're struggling to win. When they get back in the team, you'll see a massive improvement."

Chelsea have been active in the January transfer window, signing four players already, while they are also eager to land Benfica's World Cup star Enzo Fernandez.

While that transfer appears to be on ice for now, the Blues confirmed the loan signing of Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Redknapp does not think more signings are necessarily a silver bullet, however.

He said: "They've got enough players, they just need those back from injury – they need James back, they need Chilwell back. There's no reason they can't go on a run."

Potter has won eight of his 18 games in charge at Chelsea (44.4 per cent), and Redknapp says it would be foolish for the club to show him the door.

"Five years – you just gave him a five-year contract, you can't very well bring him in, give him a five-year contract and then sack him, surely to God," Redknapp said.

"I know they've done it before, Chelsea, that is the way they've worked. Managers who've won the Champions League and then they've been sacked a couple of games later, it happens. But I don't see that happening this time."

Gareth Bale was only behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the peak of his career, according to former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.

Wales legend Bale announced his retirement from football on Monday, bringing to a close a career that included three LaLiga titles and five Champions League medals with Real Madrid, among other accolades.

Prior to his move to Spain, Bale made a name for himself at Spurs under Redknapp, where he won two PFA Player of the Year awards and scored 71 goals in 237 games for the Premier League side.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Redknapp said he was not overly surprised by Bale's decision, and feels at his very best his name belongs in the most esteemed of company.

"I suppose it was a bit of a surprise but not a great surprise," he said. "He'd gone to America [joining MLS side Los Angeles FC in June], not played many games and even though he came on in the [MLS Cup] final and scored a goal, he looked like he wasn't figuring in their team much.

"He played in the World Cup, did okay [and it was] great to get Wales there, a fantastic achievement. But in all honesty, it wasn't a Gareth Bale when they played England [losing 3-0 in the group stage] or anybody really that we've come to see over the years.

"He maybe felt he couldn't reach the heights [he used to] and the standards he set over so many seasons when he was absolutely fantastic for me, when he was the third-best player in the world for a period behind Ronaldo and Messi.

"And maybe he felt he couldn't quite get back to that again and decided [to] maybe call it a day. But he's had a fantastic career."

Bale had already been at Tottenham for a year before Redknapp was appointed in 2008, and the former West Ham and Southampton boss knew he had a gem on his hands as he decided to move him further forward from his original position at left-back.

"I sort of inherited him in that position," Redknapp explained. "But I knew him from Southampton, I'd followed his career very closely and knew that he was an amazing talent from a very early age.

"When I went to Tottenham, I was very much looking forward to working with him because I just felt he was a player with the ability to go on to become a big star. He was a left-back, I pushed him forward onto the left wing, but if he had stayed at left-back, he'd have been the best left-back in the world, he was just an amazing talent.

"He had everything really, he had the physique, he had the ability to run, that speed with and without the ball, he could dribble, he could shoot, he could head it. There was nothing really that he couldn't do.

"He wasn't obsessed with football. He wouldn't be one in the dressing room that would voice any opinions or one that would want to spend hours out practising after training. It just came very easy to him, he was just a fantastic, naturally gifted footballer and athlete."

Redknapp credited Bale's form at his peak to his professionalism, and after scoring 21 goals in 33 Premier League games in 2012-13, he earned a big money move to Madrid.

"He was so easy to handle, he was just a smashing lad," Redknapp said. "He was low maintenance, was never a problem, you knew at night he wasn't out in nightclubs or drinking. He's a family man.

"[He was] quite humble, quite shy. But when he got on the pitch and he got the ball, away he went and when he got it, whoever was playing against him was in trouble every time... [it was] just amazing what he could do."

Journalist Marshall Kramsky described the "bone-chilling experience" of being in the stadium as Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest in Monday's game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Kramsky, who covers the Bengals, was reporting on the fixture at the Paycor Stadium.

The game was suspended after 24-year-old Hamlin, who as of Tuesday was in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital, collapsed on the field.

Hamlin received emergency treatment, including CPR, before he was transported from the stadium in an ambulance.

"I've never seen a stretcher come out so fast. I'm a former athlete myself and in my journalism career or in my sports career, I've never seen such quick action," Kramsky told Stats Perform.

"We heard the mics of the players, [Bengals running back] Joe Mixon screaming 'check him out, check him out!' after Damar Hamlin got up and collapsed.

"The players were immediately extremely emotional. I've never seen so many players crying, adult men hysterical. The ambulance comes out shortly after, CPR is going on for about 10 minutes, the AD defibrillator, that's being used. They're shocking his heart back to life.

"And then, not a fan left the stadium. Everyone and every player was still on the field kneeling, praying or crying."

The NFL eventually elected to suspend the game, though Kramsky never had any doubt it would be called off.

"This game was over as soon as he went down, which is crazy because that doesn't happen in professional sports," he added.

"The NFL took a while to make their decision. But it wasn't like they really made it, it was never a decision. It was just a matter of getting through the appropriate rungs.

"They're seeing the players, Joe Burrow the Bengals quarterback went into the Bills locker room later on. I saw Josh Allen extremely teary-eyed going into the Bengals locker room. It was emotional. Nobody really processing it, because how do you? 

"It was a bone-chilling experience in the stadium. Players were still there until past one o'clock in the morning. It was a crazy night."

Kramsky was at least able to take some solace in the fact that fans of both teams, and from across the sporting world, have united behind Hamlin.

Having been drafted by the Bills in 2021, Hamlin established the Chasing M Foundation Community Toy Drive, and the fund raiser had received over $3million in donations in the wake of the incident.

"Tragedy brings people together and sports brings people together," Kramsky said.

"Yes, incredible. Unfortunately, not surprising, because it takes tragedy for this to happen. And it has brought people together.

"If you look at his GoFundMe for his toy drive, it had for over two years less than $3,000 raised. There's over $3million raised now.

"So yeah, as soon as that stretcher came out football became secondary. No one cared, it was all about Damar Hamlin and his family. And people did come together.

"Bills fans and Bengals fans are coming with candles praying, standing outside the stadium, outside the hospital. It's been a nice experience in that regard."

J.J. Watt is still going out at the top of the game even if it is "bittersweet" that he will end his NFL career without a Super Bowl title.

That is the view of Carolina Panthers defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who believes Watt has been a long-time inspiration to many younger players.

Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher Watt announced his impending NFL retirement on Monday.

He posted on Twitter that Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the first NFL game his son attended but also his final home game before retiring after the 2022 season.

Already eliminated from the playoffs, the Cardinals play their final two games on the road – at the Atlanta Falcons this week and at the San Francisco 49ers in Week 18.

"If it is the end, it is kind of bittersweet," Gross-Matos said to Stats Perform about Watt, whose 2021 move to Arizona did not produce the long postseason run he craved.

"For someone who has done so much for the sport, you kind of want them to go out with the championship, especially for all he has done. 

"But he has still had a great career. He is still getting double-digit sacks and he was able to get three in a game [against the Denver Broncos in Week 15].

"So I mean, he's still going out on top and I am hoping for the best for him.

"He did right by the shield and set a great example for a lot of great defenders coming after him

"He was definitely a huge inspiration for me, someone I looked up to a lot. He is someone I've watched over the years and continue to watch to this day.

"And, when I was in college he definitely convinced me to get in the weight room when he was throwing guys around [in the NFL]."

One of the NFL's most feared pass-rushers early in his career, Watt battled through some major injuries in the past few seasons and also revealed in October he was playing through a case of atrial fibrillation.

A first-round pick by the Houston Texans in 2011, the 33-year-old is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection.

The future Hall of Famer led the league in sacks in 2012 and 2015, and his 111.5 career sacks rank fourth among active players. His 9.5 sacks this season are his most since recording 16 in 2018.

"Koa's first ever NFL game," Watt wrote in his announcement. "My last ever NFL home game.

"My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It's been an absolute honour and a pleasure."

Cristiano Ronaldo must understand "time passes for everyone" and accept he may no longer be a regular pick for Portugal, former Brazil defender Junior has told Stats Perform.

Free agent Ronaldo has fallen out of favour at club and now international level, having been named among the substitutes for Portugal's 6-1 win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is also currently without a club after his contract with Manchester United, where he struggled for playing time, was terminated by mutual consent.

Ronaldo's replacement, Benfica youngster Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick against Switzerland and is now set to keep his place for Saturday's quarter-final tie with Morocco.

Junior, who earned 74 caps for Brazil and appeared at two World Cups, believes Portugal boss Fernando Santos deserves praise for his huge selection call.

"You need to have the courage to put Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench and the coach did," Junior said.

"And there was the answer he got - it was Goncalo Ramos scoring three goals. It's not just for the goals, but for his collective behaviour, I'm talking about the game as a whole.

"Time passes for everyone. Naturally, Cristiano will understand this in the best way so that he can continue to have the great respect that the group has for him. 

"He is the main player of the Portuguese national team for the last 10 years. Just look at everything the Portuguese team did before and after. But time passes for everyone."

Portugal are joined in the last eight of Qatar 2022 by next opponents Morocco, Argentina, the Netherlands, Brazil, Croatia, France and England.

Record five-time champions Brazil, who beat South Korea 4-1 in the last 16, remain the favourites of many to end their 20-year drought and lift the trophy once again.

Richarlison has arguably been Brazil's best player so far in Qatar, the Tottenham man's three goals placing him joint-second in the goalscoring charts behind Kylian Mbappe.

He has led the line in three of Brazil's four games, the exception being the loss to Cameroon when Tite heavily rotated, and Junior has been impressed by the versatile forward.

"Richarlison rebuilt himself within the national team because he was a player who had much more visibility playing on the wings previously," Junior said. 

"When we see him playing the role of centre-forward, we see that he has recovered and is now in the starting line-up. 

"On the sides of the pitch, it'd be difficult for him with Vinicius Junior, Raphinha and Neymar who also play there. So, he started to evolve exactly in that centre-forward position. 

"The goal he scored with a volley in the first game is from a player who has great capacity and great resources when a situation like that presents itself."

 

Tite has made full use of his squad, so much so that he has already used all 26 members of his group – the most ever fielded by a team at a single World Cup.

The Brazil head coach brought on third-choice goalkeeper Weverton against South Korea to complete the set, which Junior says offers an insight into Tite's character.

"As happened in 2006 with Rogerio Ceni, Tite has done the same with Weverton. He's made sure he not only travels to the World Cup but is also on the pitch.

"This type of attitude strengths the group a lot. It's one of Tite's most important qualities: valuing the whole squad, including the third keeper, who rarely plays at a World Cup."

Hakim Ziyech needs a "change of air" and should join Manchester United from Chelsea, former Morocco international Mustapha El Haddaoui has told Stats Perform.

The 29-year-old has fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge, with just one start and five appearances in the Premier League this season.

A major U-turn occurred at international level, however, with Ziyech back in the fold for Morocco following Vahid Halilhodzic's exit and the arrival of Walid Regragui.

Ziyech has played a key part in the side's stellar performances at the World Cup, with the Atlas Lions reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in their history and becoming the first African side to reach the last eight since Ghana in 2010.

El Haddaoui is now calling for a similar turnaround at club level, as he wants to see a move across the Premier League to reunite with Erik ten Hag, who Ziyech played under at Ajax.

"He has to change of air because over there, [Chelsea] don't trust him. Now he is coming back very strong," he said.

"His problem with Vahid, who didn't want to call him, disturbed him. In the national team, when there is a FIFA date, everyone joins their selections. He stays there [in London] and it went around in his head.

"He sees that among the others who are with him at Chelsea, who go to the national team, he is of the same level, even superior, and he has lost a little bit of confidence.

"The coach who was there or the one who arrived afterwards didn't have much confidence in him.

"Afterwards, when you don't play, you lack playing time, you lack motivation, and you lack timing in the match. Now we see his potential, we see what he is capable of, but he has many offers.

"He has to move from Chelsea or go to Manchester United because the Ajax coach wanted him, he had him in his team. But he will bounce back. But now he has to leave during the transfer window."

Morocco's performances at the World Cup have inspired hope across the African continent, though El Haddaoui was always optimistic about the Atlas Lions.

"It's not just a pleasure, it's an exceptional joy, given what this team has shown, this Moroccan team," he added.

"I believed in it from the start. When the draw was made, I told myself that Morocco had a chance and that they would go through to the second round with another country. I knew that this generation had potential.

"Moreover, with the change of coach, the arrival of Walid Regragui has given new life to this team and the players. He made a call for the return of Ziyech and [Noussair] Mazraoui.

"How can we do without this world-class player? I hope we will go all the way. We were dreaming about it, but now it's starting to happen."

Portugal stand in the way in Morocco's bid to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, with a meeting set for Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium.

Hakim Ziyech needs a "change of air" and should join Manchester United from Chelsea, former Morocco international Mustapha El Haddaoui has told Stats Perform.

The 29-year-old has fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge, with just one start and five appearances in the Premier League this season.

A major U-turn occurred at international level, however, with Ziyech back in the fold for Morocco following Vahid Halilhodzic's exit and the arrival of Walid Regragui.

Ziyech has played a key part in the side's stellar performances at the World Cup, with the Atlas Lions reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in their history and becoming the first African side to reach the last eight since Ghana in 2010.

El Haddaoui is now calling for a similar turnaround at club level, as he wants to see a move across the Premier League to reunite with Erik ten Hag, who Ziyech played under at Ajax.

"He has to change of air because over there, [Chelsea] don't trust him. Now he is coming back very strong," he said.

"His problem with Vahid, who didn't want to call him, disturbed him. In the national team, when there is a FIFA date, everyone joins their selections. He stays there [in London] and it went around in his head.

"He sees that among the others who are with him at Chelsea, who go to the national team, he is of the same level, even superior, and he has lost a little bit of confidence.

"The coach who was there or the one who arrived afterwards didn't have much confidence in him.

"Afterwards, when you don't play, you lack playing time, you lack motivation, and you lack timing in the match. Now we see his potential, we see what he is capable of, but he has many offers.

"He has to move from Chelsea or go to Manchester United because the Ajax coach wanted him, he had him in his team. But he will bounce back. But now he has to leave during the transfer window."

Morocco's performances at the World Cup have inspired hope across the African continent, though El Haddaoui was always optimistic about the Atlas Lions.

"It's not just a pleasure, it's an exceptional joy, given what this team has shown, this Moroccan team," he added.

"I believed in it from the start. When the draw was made, I told myself that Morocco had a chance and that they would go through to the second round with another country. I knew that this generation had potential.

"Moreover, with the change of coach, the arrival of Walid Regragui has given new life to this team and the players. He made a call for the return of Ziyech and [Noussair] Mazraoui.

"How can we do without this world-class player? I hope we will go all the way. We were dreaming about it, but now it's starting to happen."

Portugal stand in the way in Morocco's bid to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, with a meeting set for Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium.

Michel Salgado believes there is a future for Luis Enrique's youthful Spain squad but says they must adapt after a shock World Cup exit.

La Roja were stunned on penalties following a goalless draw with Morocco in the last-16 on Tuesday, to curtail a tournament they had been among the favourites for.

It came after finishing second in their group behind Japan following an unexpected loss to the Samurai Blue and likely marks the end of the road for several senior players.

But with one of the younger squads at Qatar 2022, headlined by talents such as Gavi, Pedri and Ansu Fati, former Real Madrid and Spain defender Salgado believes the possibilities are still bright for the national team.

"If we want to win again, we have to make a clean slate, and we have to start working with the new," he told Stats Perform. "I think it's a team that can give much more in the next World Cup.

"It is a team with a lot of talent, there is no doubt about that. I believe that what we cannot be right now is fatalists. On the contrary, I think we have to be positive.

"We are not going to change our identity. Spain is a country that is measured by the football of possession and control of the game. What we do have [to do is] adapt to modern times.

"I think it's time to analyse how we can be more effective with what we have and look for that group that can be back to win the World Cup."

Salgado accepted the frustrations of Spain's ignominious exit, but says it is unfair to compare their achievements to those of the side that dominated world football over a decade ago.

"Obviously, for the fans, it is a disappointment," he added. "I have to see it from a different angle. I think it is a young team, a team at a time of total change.

"The pressure, I think that's the first thing we have to erase. We have to make a clean slate and start getting the best out of the players we have now."

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