The Week in Quotes

"We know Belgium really well. Most of their players play in the English Premier League. Panama is a team we’ve never played, so for us, it’s interesting to find out more about the team. Tunisia personally takes me back to 1998 and the first game of the World Cup in France, because as a player, my first game was against them." England manager Gareth Southgate gives his reaction to his side’s Group G opponents after the FIFA World Cup Final Draw

"I took a break from the national team. Both for Juventus and for the national team I have always considered myself a soldier. Even when I'm 60 I could never turn down any call because I have in me the concept of nation." *Speaking at the Gran Gala del Calcio, Gianluigi Buffon says he would never turn down a call-up to play for Italy, no matter his age

"When you think about the World Cup, you think about Argentina and Brazil, so it’s a little bit of a romantic feeling to play Argentina in the first game. Hopefully, we show our best side, both the players and the fans in the opening game." Manager Heimir Hallgrimsson after learning Iceland would face Argentina in their debut World Cup match

"The truth is that being a father is the most beautiful thing that's happened to me in all my life. We have two children and are waiting for another; the first was an incredible feeling, the second the same and so will be the third." *Lionel Messi tells Marca about his family life in an exclusive chat*

"Technique is the most important thing in today’s game. That’s what the ability of coaches to organise their teams tactically, make them balanced and get their ideas across to players depends on. Physical fitness is also a key factor, especially when it comes to challenging for the ball and switching direction. Another factor, and perhaps the most important one, is mental strength, the ability to handle pressure and the mental demands of getting a result, which are always there. The ability to deal with pressure is hugely important. Success hinges on these four things." Brazil coach Tite gives his take on the modern game in an exclusive interview

“Tino by miles. Tino was another league. But always in a nice way. Not that Maradona was in a bad way. But Tino was really, really, a constant search for trouble. Good trouble.” *Gianfranco Zola tells The Guardian which of his former team-mates was wilder: Diego Maradona or Faustino Asprilla*

"The amount of attention she has received in the past few months has gone from zero to 100 in terms of publicity and in the media. To come out and still perform shows how much she has matured as a person and shows her sporting quality. She is really becoming one of the superstars of Australian sport.” Australia women’s national team coach Alen Stajcic praises star forward Samantha Kerr after her superb performances throughout 2017

"He was a complete one-off, the most unpredictable man on the planet. When he got sent off at Arsenal he threw his boot through the plasma TV in the dressing-room! But he was bright, he wasn't stupid, and he was very generous. He would go into a garage and pay for everyone's petrol or give a homeless guy a wad of cash. Then he used to wonder why his car was impounded 27 times… because it was painted in camouflage and he parked it on double yellows outside San Carlo restaurant in the middle of Manchester every day. I opened his locker after he left and all his parking tickets just fell out!" Former Manchester City kitman Les Chapman gives insight into Mario Balotelli to the Daily Mail

"We are going to end the world in the celebrations. We had our share of critics but we kept our heads and got our reward. This group is fantastic and deserves this.” Gremio forward Luan reacts after lifting the Copa Libertadores and booking a spot at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017

"I asked Ibra that now that they are in the World Cup if he would like to go, he says no but I don't know... for me he has to go." Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo has his doubts about Zlatan Ibrahimovic claiming he won’t be going to the World Cup with Sweden

"I spoke with my friend Alex Doringer, the manager of the KTM team, who told me that I would still need a full year’s preparation to get there and that it was better to consider doing it with a car. So I got in touch with Team Overdrive and here I am!" *Andre Villas-Boas quits as coach of Shanghai SIPG to contest the Dakar Rally next year*

"When I was a kid I’d take a small foam ball and try to get my shot over the couch so it would finish in the corner of the window. At Milan we had Beckham, Ronaldinho, Seedorf… a lot of good kickers. We talked to each other, we watched each other and we stole each other’s secrets." *Andrea Pirlo gives insight about his history of taking free-kicks, speaking with L’Equipe*

"There's been a lot of change in personnel. Until recently, Pipita was the undisputed No9. Now Mauro Icardi has got his chance, which is richly deserved because of what he's doing for Inter Milan. Mauro can be useful for the national team, but that doesn't mean Higuain shouldn't be in the squad. Argentina are lucky enough to have an embarrassment of riches up front, from Pipita to Icardi, Dybala, Messi and so on. They've got so many options. I hope they can all go to the World Cup because they'd give the squad great strength in depth." Argentina and Internazionale legend Javier Zanetti speaks exclusively with about La Albiceleste’s embarrassment of riches going into next year’s World Cup