Today at the World Cup: No matches in Qatar as Walker primed for Mbappe tussle

It was the first day of the tournament without any matches as preparations for the quarter-finals stepped up.

As the dust settled on the dramatic last-16 matches, attention turns to the last-eight games, which kick-off on Friday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at how Wednesday unfolded in Qatar.

Walker determined to stop France

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Kyle Walker looks like being the man tasked with stopping Kylian Mbappe in Saturday’s quarter-final between England and France.

The Manchester City defender is the only man who can match the French star’s pace and has said he backs himself to keep Mbappe quiet.

He also says England will not be turning up just to allow the defending world champions to showcase their talents.

“We take our hats off to them, they are world champions, they have the respect they deserve,” Walker said of France.

“They won the last World Cup. But I can assure you that each and every one of us will not be rolling out red carpet for them to go and perform, thinking it’s a theatre for them to showcase their great talent.”

Rice absent for England

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Declan Rice missed Wednesday’s training through illness as England prepare for their last-eight tie.

The 23-year-old midfielder has started all four games for Gareth Southgate’s side in Qatar but was absent from the session at Al Wakrah Sports Complex.

Striker Callum Wilson also sat out as he recovers from a minor muscle strain.

A decision is expected soon on whether Raheem Sterling will return to Qatar after he travelled back to England following a burglary at his home.

Mbappe back in training

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As arguably the best player in the world currently, Mbappe’s every move is monitored and his non-appearance at training on Tuesday became a subject of discussion for 24 hours.

However, it is understood the Paris St Germain forward will rejoin the squad for a session on Wednesday night.

Hazard calls it a day but Flick stays on

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Eden Hazard has announced his international retirement in the wake of Belgium’s group stage exit from the World Cup in Qatar.

The 31-year-old revealed the decision on his social media account less than a week after his side were eliminated following a goalless draw with Croatia.

Hazard, who made his Belgium debut as a 17-year-old in 2008, wrote: “A page turns today… thank you for your love.”

Meanwhile Hansi Flick will lead Germany into Euro 2024 on home soil despite being in charge of an embarrassing group-stage exit at the World Cup.

Catar is feline fine

Brazil’s Vinicius Jr was joined by a feline friend during his press conference on Wednesday
Brazil’s Vinicius Junior was joined by a feline friend during his press conference on Wednesday (Andre Penner/AP)

Both England and Brazil have been making feline companions during the World Cup.

Gareth Southgate’s side have adopted a local cat that hangs around their training base at Al Wakrah, with Walker and John Stones growing particularly attached to it and even calling it ‘Dave’.

But ‘Dave’ was not the only member of the feline community to make an appearance as Brazil’s Vinicius Jr had a visitor during his press conference on Wednesday.

The Real Madrid winger was speaking to the media ahead of his country’s quarter-final with Croatia when he was joined by a cat at the top table.

The animal was eventually moved by the Brazil press officer, who left nothing to chance as he forcefully threw it from the desk.

Picture of the day

Japan may have lost in the last 16 but they were awarded a hero's welcome on their return to Tokyo on Wednesday
Japan may have lost in the last 16 but they were awarded a hero’s welcome on their return to Tokyo on Wednesday (Shuji Kajiyama/AP)

Tweet of the day

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Who’s up next?

World Cup quarter-final draw
PA Graphics

Quarter-finals

Friday, December 9
Croatia v Brazil (1500GMT, BBC1)
Netherlands v Argentina (1900GMT, BBC1)