Japan defender Gen Shoji has already endured a bruising experience against one global superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo but hopes that experience will work in his favour when he confronts another in the shape of French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe on Sunday.
Shoji gets his chance to shut out Mbappe, one of football’s hottest properties, when his Toulouse team take on mighty Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1.
The 26-year-old, who arrived in France in the winter transfer window, came off worse when Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick in a 4-2 win for Real Madrid over Kashima Antlers at the 2016 World Club Cup.
“With my Japanese club, we tried to stop Ronaldo collectively. In France, when we defend, I feel as if the individual duel is more important so I will have to adapt the way I do things against Mbappe and the others,” said Shoji.
“To compare Ronaldo and Mbappe, I will have to have played both of them. I should have a better idea after the game but it will be complicated.”
Shoji, a native of Kobe, left Kashima Antlers — his only previous club — after 11 years and has helped Toulouse to a respectable mid-table place in Ligue 1.
“I wanted to have new experiences,” said Japanese international Shoji who admitted he has had to quickly adapt to a vastly different culture in France.
“You have to get out of your shyness. In Japan, if you are a little reserved someone will come to you; here, if you don’t make the effort, no one will come to you.”
To help him integrate in La Ville Rose (The Pink City), Toulouse have drafted in Japanese compatriot Toru Ota, who has played in the women’s teams at Lyon and PSG.
She interprets for Shoji in the dressing room and translates tactical tips being passed on to the pitch from the bench. A French teacher is also in the process of being hired.
Shoji opted against joining Toulouse after the World Cup last summer because he wanted to help Kashima win the Asian Champions League for the first time.
With that ambition achieved in November, Shoji was free to move to France in a three-million-euro deal.
“He learns very quickly. He has been a good purchase,” said Toulouse coach Alain Casanova.
For his part, Shoji believes that from a technical perspective “the Japanese championship is perhaps better” but “Ligue 1 is superior when you add in the speed and physicality”.
“I was very surprised by the quality of French football,” added the 15-time capped international who was left heartbroken by Japan’s World Cup elimination in a 3-2 last-16 loss to Belgium in Russia last summer after they had led 2-0.
“But you will see and I do not know when, maybe it will be after me, but one day, Japan will go very, very far at the World Cup,” he predicted.
In his brief Ligue 1 career, Shoji has endured some sobering experiences — a 5-0 rout at the hands of Lyon was particularly painful.
“In Japan, with Kashima, we won all the time. I have never thought that I have made a bad choice. I don’t have any experience of a team that has these kind of difficulties. It’s important to have this kind of experience.”
Casanova is confident that Shoji will be a success story in France. To help his new recruit, he has even picked up a smattering of Japanese.
“I have mastered the main words — hello and goodbye!”
Angel Di Maria scored a sumptuous free-kick and Kylian Mbappe was also on target as Paris Saint-Germain continued their relentless march towards another French title by hammering Montpellier 5-1 on Wednesday.
Layvin Kurzawa and Christopher Nkunku also scored for PSG at the Parc des Princes, while Montpellier captain Vitorino Hilton netted an own goal.
Florent Mollet had equalised at one point in the first half for the visitors before they crumbled in a rearranged fixture that had initially been postponed in early December due to disruption caused by “yellow vest” anti-government protests in France.
As they warm up for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester United on March 6, PSG are now a huge 15 points clear of second-placed Lille, and still have a game in hand as they race to a sixth Ligue 1 title in seven seasons.
Coach Thomas Tuchel was without a host of players for this game, with the injured Neymar and Edinson Cavani joined on the sidelines by skipper Thiago Silva, who was suspended.
French international left-back Kurzawa was making his first start in the league in an injury-hit season and he opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a header from a Daniel Alves cross.
However, Montpellier recovered well from that and claimed a deserved leveller just after the half-hour mark from a Mollet free-kick. Gianluigi Buffon thought he had kept it out, but goal-line technology confirmed the ball had just crossed the line.
Nevertheless, Di Maria restored PSG’s lead in first-half stoppage time with a stunning free-kick from 30 yards that went in off the underside of the bar for his sixth league goal of the season.
PSG then ran away with the game in the closing stages, although only after both Mbappe and substitute Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting had efforts disallowed for offside.
Nkunku, the 21-year-old making a rare start, headed home in the 73rd minute after the ball fell to him following a corner, and Mbappe then took centre stage.
The young World Cup winner turned in a Kurzawa centre in the 78th minute, but the goal was attributed to Montpellier’s 41-year-old defender Hilton.
From the restart, PSG won possession back and Mbappe beat Montpellier goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte with the aid of a huge deflection off Hilton.
This time the goal was given to Mbappe, who now has 20 goals in 19 league appearances this season, and 25 in all competitions.
Montpellier remain sixth, while PSG now host Nimes on Saturday before a French Cup quarter-final against Dijon and then a visit to Caen, as their busy schedule continues before the visit of United.
The other game in France on Wednesday saw bottom side Guingamp draw 0-0 at Bordeaux.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel said his two star forwards in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe could be fit to face Liverpool in the Champions League.
The pair were injured on international duty and missed PSG’s 1-0 league victory over Toulouse but Tuchel said Saturday that he is hopeful they can both feature in what could prove to be a must-win tie for the French club against the Reds on Wednesday.
“They’re getting better every day, we have time before now and Wednesday. It’s good for us. I think they’ll be able to play,” the German told television programme Telefoot on TF1.
PSG are on five points four rounds and mid-week wins for Jurgen Klopp’s side and second-placed Napoli would knock the French champions out at the group stage for the first since they made their return to Europe’s elite competition in 2012.
Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe’s rapid rise to global fame has earned the teenaged World Cup winner an appearance on the cover of Time magazine’s international edition, to appear on Friday.
Time said Mbappe was a global superstar who “is the future of soccer.”
Mbappe made headlines in September 2017 when he moved from Ligue 1 side Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain for a staggering 180 million euros ($207 million), a deal that saw the then 18-year-old player handed a reported monthly salary of 1.5m euros ($1.8m).
But the 19-year-old’s stock skyrocketed during this year’s World Cup, where a series of phenomenal displays drew compliments from Brazil legend Pele on his way to helping France end their 20-year wait to win another World Cup trophy.
Mbappe became the youngest French goalscorer in World Cup history when he struck in a 1-0 win over Peru in the group stages.
The teenager from the gritty Parisian suburb of Bondy then tore apart Argentina, scoring twice and earning a penalty as Les Blues eliminated the highly-fancied South Americans 4-3 in the last 16 knockout round.
In doing so, Mbappe became only the second teenager, after Pele in 1958, to score two goals in a World Cup match.
When Mbappe scored with a five-yard strike in the final, a 4-2 win over Croatia, he became only the second teenager to do so, after Pele, in 1958.
With a total of four goals in the tournament, Mbappe received Fi Fa’s award for Best Young Player of the World Cup.
Arguably better still were the plaudits from Pele himself, who said: “If Kylian keeps on equalling my records, I’m going to have to dust off my boots.”
Mbappe‘s teenage days will end when he celebrates his 20th birthday on December 20.
He is expected to spearhead France’s attack Thursday when France host Iceland in a friendly in Guin gamp.
Kylian Mbappe tore Lyon to shreds on Sunday with four goals as a 5-0 thrashing at the Parc des Princes saw Paris Saint-Germain set a new French top-flight record of nine straight wins to start a season.
Thomas Tuchel’s Ligue 1 leaders broke the 82-year-old record of eight consecutive wins set by Olympique Lillois in 1936, having equaled the mark with their 3-0 victory at Nice last weekend.
“Fantastic, incredible. It was super hard in the first half, it was a crazy match,” PSG coach Tuchel told Canal+.
A Neymar penalty gave PSG a ninth-minute advantage, but Presnel Kimpembe was sent off just after the half-hour mark to give Lyon hope.
Bruno Genesio’s side threw away their man advantage, though, as Lucas Tousart was dismissed, and after missing a string of chances, the sensational Mbappe capped a virtuoso display by scoring four times in 13 minutes to seal history for PSG.
The capital-city giants, bidding for a sixth title in seven seasons, are already eight points clear of second-placed Lille at the top of the table, with Lyon five points further back in sixth.
Lyon endured the worst possible start to the match, as star man Nabil Fekir was forced off injured in the seventh minute, and the hosts were awarded a spot-kick just seconds later.
Mbappe raced to reach a loose ball, and visiting goalkeeper Anthony Lopes needlessly charged off his line to bring down the teenager.
Neymar stepped up and sent Lopes the wrong way with a stuttering run-up to score his 11th goal of the season.
Lyon responded well, though, with veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon having to shovel a Memphis Depay free-kick over the bar before Di Maria was fortunate not to concede a penalty for handball.
The reigning champions thought they had got lucky again when Kimpembe was only shown a yellow card for a nasty tackle on Tanguy Ndombele, but with the young midfielder lying stricken on the ground, a video review resulted in the centre-back’s punishment being upgraded to red.
But Lyon shot themselves in the foot on the stroke of half-time as Tousart tripped Mbappe inside the PSG half and was given a second yellow card.
OL should have equalized early in the second period, but Maxwell Cornet contrived to miskick with the goal at his mercy.
Cornet, who came on for Fekir, almost scored in bizarre circumstances shortly after, as a Silva clearance ricocheted off his back and bounced back off the base of the post.
Mbappe almost put PSG out of sight three times in the space of five minutes — powering clear after Cornet’s unwitting effort and drilling against the far post, seeing Lopes dive at his feet as he ran through one-on-one, and shooting too close to the Lyon ‘keeper.
But the World Cup-winner’s persistence finally paid off in the 61st minute as he latched onto the ball inside the area after Neymar had burst forward, turned his man and smashed the ball in off both posts.
Confidence was coursing through PSG, and the floodgates opened as centre-back Marquinhos drove into the box and squared for Mbappe to stab in his eighth goal of the campaign.
Neymar soon sent the 19-year-old bearing down on goal yet again, and Mbappe lofted the ball into the net to complete an incredible eight-minute hat-trick.
He was not done there, though, as he pounced to slam home his fourth with 16 minutes left after Neymar had seen a low shot blocked.
Monaco crisis intensifies
Earlier on Sunday, 10-man Monaco slumped to a fifth defeat in nine Ligue 1 matches as former PSG outcast Hatem Ben Arfa earned Rennes a 2-1 victory with his first league goal since April 2016.
Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco, runners-up to PSG last season, remain winless since the opening weekend and above the automatic relegation spots only on goal difference.
Elsewhere, ex-Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic saw his Nantes side beaten 3-0 at Bordeaux on his return to French football, while Kostas Mitroglou and Florian Thauvin scored as Marseille climbed to third following a 2-0 victory over Caen
Teenage star Kylian Mbappe played down comparisons with Brazil legend Pele after stealing the show in a 4-3 victory for France that sent Argentina crashing out of the World Cup.
Billed as Lionel Messi’s chance to reignite stuttering Argentina’s hopes, the thrilling last-16 clash in Kazan instead saw 19-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe showcase his sublime skills as he became the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to score at least two goals in a World Cup match.
“I’m very happy, and it’s flattering to be compared to a great player like Pele,” said Mbappe after his two second-half goals set up a quarter-final clash with either Uruguay or Portugal.
“But he’s in another category. Still, it’s great to join the list of players that have achieved such feats.”
Mbappe was born in the Paris suburbs in 1998, the year Les Bleus secured their first World Cup title under captain Didier Deschamps.
After his man-of-the-match performance overshadowed a mediocre display by Messi and Argentina, Mbappe laughed off suggestions that 1998 will be more remembered as the year of his birth,.
“For me there’s no debate… it was the first time we were world champions.”
Mbappe could now go on to become one of the stars of the World Cup, and he added: “All the big players are at the World Cup.
“It’s an opportunity to show what we can do. There’s no bigger stage in football.”
Kylian Mbappe scored twice and Paul Pogba netted a brilliant free-kick as France beat World Cup hosts Russia 3-1 in a friendly at Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Mbappe’s impressive double and Pogba’s strike helped the 1998 world champions bounce back from Friday’s 3-2 home defeat by Colombia, while Fedor Smolov’s goal for Russia proved to be only a consolation.
“We always have this ability to create opportunities, to score, and we managed three goals,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
“There are always things we can do better. In the first half, we gave away the ball a bit stupidly… But that was a little less the case in the second period.”
The game was preceded by a minute’s silence to remember the 64 people, including 41 children, who were killed in a fire at a Siberian shopping centre on Sunday.
Russia created the first clear chance of the match in the 15th minute when Alan Dzagoev found Smolov in the area, but Hugo Lloris kept out the Russian skipper’s low shot from 12 yards out.
The visitors came close through Mbappe 10 minutes later, but the Paris Saint-Germain forward was denied by home goalkeeper Andrei Lunev.
But Mbappe put France into a 40th-minute lead when he latched onto Pogba’s through ball, before cutting inside and lashing a low shot home despite the attention of two Russian defenders.
Pogba doubled the advantage four minutes after the interval with a magnificent free-kick which curled into the bottom corner past the diving Lunev.
“We expect a lot from him (Pogba), I ask a lot from him,” said Deschamps of the midfielder who has found himself out of favour under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United in recent weeks.
“He was also playing a ‘comeback’ match because it’s been a while since he played a full game, it’ll do him a lot of good.
“Apart from the free-kick, he showed creativity and quality of pass, he has that in his locker.”
Smolov gave Russia hope, beating Lloris after meeting a cross from Igor Smolnikov.
But Mbappe restored France’s two-goal cushion with seven minutes to go, skipping past Roman Neustadter and firing in a low shot which slipped through the grasp, and the legs, of Zenit St Petersburg keeper Lunev.
At the age of 19, Mbappe became the youngest player to score a brace for the France national team.
Although Russia put in an improved display from Friday’s 3-0 loss to Brazil, Stanislav Cherchesov’s side are now winless in five matches.
“All of them did their utmost today but none of them managed to avoid making mistakes,” Cherchesov admitted. “We need to analyse our performance quietly.
“After the match with Argentina we were criticised for a lack of attacking.
“We tried to play an offensive style of football in the second half of the match with Brazil and conceded three goals. Today we also tried to play attacking football from the very beginning.
“The matches against such teams showed that after we start to play open football we begin to experience problems at once. Luckily, we will not play against Brazil or France in our World Cup group.”
Russia open the World Cup against Saudi Arabia in Moscow on June 14, before completing their Group A campaign by facing Egypt and Uruguay.
French striker Kylian Mbappe has revealed he held talks with Real Madrid before joining Paris Saint-Germain but now no longer dreams of a move to the Spanish champions.
Mbappe had reportedly been a target of Real after he helped fire Monaco to a first French league title in 17 years last season, but instead he joined Paris Saint-Germain in August on an initial loan deal that will become permanent for 180 million euros ($209 million) next year.
“There were many rumours of a transfer, it’s true that we spoke, but I think that’s now in the past for me and for Real Madrid.
“I play for PSG now and I am going to defend these colours 100 percent,” he said in an interview published Wednesday in Spanish sports daily Marca.
Mbappe, who turned 19 last week, said he wanted to play for PSG because Paris is his hometown.
“It is like a child from Madrid has the opportunity to play in his team and goes somewhere else, another country. No, I wanted to play for PSG and I am happy for now with how things are going,” he added.
“I have time, and as I have said I want to play in the best team in the world and PSG has everything to achieve this. If this team grows with me, there is no reason to leave.”
Mbappe finished seventh behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d’Or voting this month — ahead of the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane and PSG team-mate Edinson Cavani.
Ryan Giggs says he advised Manchester United to sign Gabriel Jesus and Kylian Mbappe before they became stars and believes the club are paying the price for an inconsistent transfer policy.
The United legend joined the club’s backroom staff when his stellar playing career ended in 2014, serving as Louis van Gaal’s assistant after spending a year as player-coach under David Moyes.
And Giggs, who watched Brazilian striker Jesus and France forward Mbappe with a scout during that time, believes the club’s recruitment “could have been better”.
“I watched Gabriel Jesus play three years ago,” he told Britain’s Times newspaper. “I watched Mbappe for a year. I was watching them with the scout and it was a no-brainer. It was just like, ‘get them’.
“It would have been £5 million ($6.7 million, 5.7 million euros) or something — get them, loan them back — and that’s where the recruitment could have been better.”
Jesus joined Manchester City for a reported £27 million in January while Mbappe swapped Monaco for Paris Saint-Germain this summer, initially on loan but with an option to make the move permanent next summer for a fee of around £166 million.
United, who trail City by 11 points in the Premier League, have spent hundreds of millions of pounds in the transfer market since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 but Giggs believes they do not have enough high-class players to compete with their neighbours.
And the most decorated player in United’s history also thinks some of the players they let go should never have been allowed to leave the club.
“I know what a Manchester United player looks like,” he said.
“There have been a lot who have come through that haven’t been United players and also players who were United and shouldn’t have left.
“I’m talking about Rafael (Da Silva), (Danny) Welbeck, Jonny Evans — players who are United through and through.
“It was hard because Louis had his own ideas and you had to respect that but, yes, we had a few arguments about a couple of them.”
Giggs told the Times he felt he was in with a chance of succeeding Van Gaal as United’s manager but understood the decision to go for Jose Mourinho even though he feels he could have given the club continuity.
“They had fallen down the pecking order, so do they go for someone who — and it winds me up saying this — hasn’t got experience as a manager or do they go for a winner?” said Giggs.
“They went for a winner, in Jose, a win-at-all-costs type of manager. Is Jose a typical Manchester United manager? Probably not, but United were in a situation of ‘how quickly can we get back to the top?’”
Kylian Mbappe insisted his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar is “human like everyone else” after the Brazilian was reduced to tears on Friday by the controversy that has followed him since his arrival from Barcelona.
A tearful Neymar pleaded with the media to stop the “false stories” about his alleged frosty relations with PSG coach Unai Emery and fellow striker Edinson Cavani following Brazil’s 3-1 international friendly win over Japan in Lille.
The 25-year-old said he was “hurt” by the issue, before adding that he was “really happy” in Paris following his world-record 222-million-euro ($264 million) transfer in August.
Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani have linked up to devastating effect this season, with the trio combining to score 24 goals through PSG’s first 12 league matches.
But Mbappe conceded Neymar was just as susceptible to criticism as anyone else.
“It just simply proves that he’s human like everyone else. He’s like us, he has two arms, two legs, a heart, so he can be affected by the criticism he is subjected to,” Mbappe told French television channel TF1 on Sunday.
“From the outside he gives off a certain image, he doesn’t appear to be affected… But when you’re on the inside, he opens himself up to you, he shows he’s a normal person.
“He’s incredibly strong on the pitch that you think he’s just as strong off it, but away from it he remains a normal guy.”