French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte must leave office after receiving a two-year suspended prison sentence for corruption, sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said.

The Paris Criminal Court announced the punishment on Tuesday, after investigating a number of marketing decisions made by Laporte that favoured Mohed Altrad, the president of Top 14 club Montpellier, including a shirt sponsorship deal for his construction business with the France national team.

Laporte was also handed a €75,000 fine and a two-year ban from involvement in rugby by the court, raising the possibility of him being out of office before France hosts next year's Rugby World Cup. Altrad was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a €50,000 fine.

The court heard Laporte had taken his actions while also agreeing a personal image rights deal with Altrad that was worth €180,000 to the former France coach, according to Le Parisien and other French media.

Laporte's lawyers announced there will be an appeal against the punishments. Prosecutors had been seeking jail time for both he and Altrad.

The French federation (FFR) said Laporte would stay as president pending the outcome of his appeal. Laporte is also a vice-chairman of World Rugby, which said its executive committee would meet later on Tuesday to consider the outcome.

Laporte and Altrad had denied wrongdoing, and Oudea-Castera said the planned appeal from Laporte should be allowed to run its course.

But her office said in a statement: "In terms of good governance, the minister considers that this new context prevents Bernard Laporte from being able, as it stands, to continue his mission in good conditions at the head of a delegated federation of a public service mission, at a moment as decisive for French rugby as the home stretch before a Rugby World Cup where France will receive nations from all over the world.

"The minister therefore calls for a new democratic era allowing French rugby as quickly as possible to restart on sufficiently healthy and solid bases, with a governance of the federation which will have the full confidence of the clubs and will be able to bring people together.

"It is therefore up to the authorities of the federation that it is now up to them to take up their responsibilities."

Montpellier issued a statement that read: "The Paris Criminal Court delivered a decision at the start of the afternoon which, on the merits, is not fully satisfactory, although the sentences are very different and well below the requisitions requested, which testifies to the insufficiency of the elements of this file."

It said Altrad's lawyers would consider whether to appeal, adding: "It is essential to emphasise that Montpellier Herault Rugby is neither targeted nor impacted by this decision and that Mohed Altrad will continue to invest his time and energy in his management missions for his club, its employees and its partners."

Croatia are the only side capable of stopping Lionel Messi and Argentina in their tracks at this World Cup, according to former Germany international Holger Badstuber.

The two nations collide at Lusail Stadium in what promises to be a mouth-watering semi-final encounter on Tuesday, with France or Morocco awaiting the winners in Sunday's showpiece.

Croatia, who battled their way to the 2018 final before losing 4-2 to France, are one win away from matching that performance four years on following a similarly determined run in Qatar.

Zlatko Dalic's side came from behind against Japan and Brazil in the knockout stages, before successfully prevailing in a penalty shoot-out on both occasions.

Badstuber, who was part of the Germany side that finished third at the 2010 World Cup, is a huge admirer of the Vatreni.

"I can't get what Zlatko Dalic said out of my head," Badstuber wrote in his Eurosport column. "Because it sums up things exactly at this exciting World Cup in Qatar.

"The Croatia coach said after his team's quarter-final victory in the penalty shoot-out against Brazil: 'Only Croatians can do that.' There is so much to those words; so much conviction, character and strength that I have great respect for this top football nation.

"Croatia is a top nation in world football. The 2018 final was no coincidence, and the current success is definitely no surprise. All those who still speak of Croatia as a surprise team have not looked closely enough.

"This team seems almost unbreakable because, in a way, it combines several valuable qualities: bite, self-drive, ambition, emotion and the will to devote 100 per cent to the cause.

"[The semi-final] has the potential to be an epic battle with what I would call a certain basic aggression, two strong midfield lines and fanatical fans in the stands. I don't see a favourite, the chances are 50-50.

"[Previously] I described why Messi is actually almost unstoppable. In the meantime, however, I am convinced that the Croatians can do it as a team. And probably only them."

The former Bayern Munich defender lined up alongside the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic during his time with the Bavarian giants, and is subsequently well aware of the character their compatriots bring to the table.

"Croatian players who I have played with in my career were all very good footballers, real 'gamblers' with a positive aggressiveness who embody the image of a street footballer," he explained.

"They fight back, they don't take any s*** on the pitch. This aggressiveness becomes a unit on the pitch, which is why it is so difficult to play against them.

"Niggles, even hidden fouls, make them an unpleasant opponent in the first place. The fact that they also set highlights from midfield makes them really dangerous."

Gareth Southgate should remain as England manager if he feels the players are behind him, according to former Three Lions boss Fabio Capello.

Southgate has admitted to being "conflicted" as he weighs up his future in the role following England's World Cup quarter-final exit to France on Saturday.

The former Middlesbrough boss, who led England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and Euro 2020 final, has been in charge since 2016 and is contracted until December 2024.

Capello, who managed England between 2007 and 2012, praised the job Southgate has done and believes he should remain in post as long as his players are content to follow his lead.  

"He's done a good job and created a really good team, a young team," the Italian told Sky Sports.

"He has to decide to stay or leave. This is his problem. If you are sure that the players follow, you have to stay. If you think the players are not with you, then you have to leave.

"This is my idea. Southgate can decide freely, though.

"To understand he [also] has to talk to the FA. Do you believe in me? Yes. Do you not believe in me? Then go. Bye bye."

Harry Kane's penalty cancelled out Aurelien Tchouameni's opener in the defeat to France, but a second spot-kick from the Three Lions captain sailed over the crossbar after Olivier Giroud had restored France's lead.

Capello has questioned whether Kane should have taken that second spot-kick due to France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris being his team-mate at Tottenham.

"Another really important thing, in my career I took penalties and I missed after 11 penalties because the opposing goalkeeper was one who played with me [in the same team] for two years before," he added.

"It's the same after Kane scored the first penalty; the second was a bit more difficult. This for me was a problem.

"I think they had to choose another player."

Bayern Munich will not make a move for Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic as a replacement for Manuel Neuer, says Oliver Kahn. 

The Bundesliga champions are set to be without their first choice man between the posts after he suffered a leg injury on holiday following Germany's exit from Qatar 2022.

With Neuer out for the season, it remains to be seen whether Bayern will stick with Sven Ulreich as his understudy or look further afield.

Dinamo Zagreb keeper Livakovic has enjoyed an excellent World Cup with Croatia so far, and was the hero in their penalty shoot-out win over Brazil, but Kahn says they will not be looking at him as an option.

"The man who stopped Brazil will always be a hero to me," Kahn said. "Livakovic is worthy of praise. Such a goalkeeper must play at a top club.

"I have no doubt that this will be the case in the new season, but at the same time, he is not within the scope of our interests."

Kahn refused to comment on speculation Bayern will dip into the market in the new year in pursuit of a new goalkeeper, though he acknowledged the club needed to consider their options.

"We've lost our goalkeeper before the end of the season," he added. "It's terrible because he is one of the best in the world. It's a very serious loss for the team.

"We believe that the recovery will go well and his return too, but for now, we have to solve the problem of a replacement. This is temporary. Manuel will be back."

German Football Association (DFB) president Bernd Neuendorf has announced the formation of a new advisory group to help the national team bounce back from their dismal World Cup.

Germany, who were expected to reach the latter stages of Qatar 2022, crashed out at the group stage, leading to the departure of team director Oliver Bierhoff after 18 years.

There was speculation boss Hansi Flick would follow him, but the former Bayern Munich coach confirmed he would be staying on board.

The new advisory group includes former Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Oliver Mintzlaff, and former Germany internationals Matthias Sammer, Rudi Voller and Oliver Kahn.

It will be led by Neuendorf and DFB vice-chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke.

"I think this is a group that knows a lot about men's football and the national team," Neuendorf said. "We are not an association in which one person decides everything.

"There will be a first discussion before Christmas. We will give ourselves a timetable there. We have to join forces towards the European Championship in 2024. It has to be a success."

Neuendorf also confirmed there will be a new group that will "take a close look at the entire business area for which Bierhoff was responsible".

This group will include DFB general secretary Heike Ullrich, former Germany international Philipp Lahm and European Championship ambassador Celia Sasic.

"We will see how we set up the area in the future in order to be successful," Neuendorf added. "And we will be self-critical."

Lionel Messi is channelling the spirit of Diego Maradona to drive Argentina's bid for World Cup glory, according to former Albiceleste midfielder Ossie Ardiles.

Messi provided a goal and an assist as Argentina overcame the Netherlands on penalties in the last eight, and he will hope to lead his country to their sixth World Cup final when they meet Croatia in Tuesday's semi-final.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner showed a different side to his personality after that game, angrily confronting Oranje boss Louis van Gaal and pausing a post-match interview to shout at Dutch striker Wout Weghorst.

Ardiles, who played for Argentina between 1975 and 1982, believes Messi's displays of passion are akin to Albiceleste icon Maradona, which is firing up supporters. 

"I know in England some people were surprised at his aggressive reaction after the Netherlands game, the confrontation with Louis van Gaal and some Dutch players," he told the Daily Mail.

"Van Gaal had tried to get Messi to react before the game, inflaming the fire by talking about how Messi didn't defend well for the team. Then, during the penalties, the Dutch players were constantly trying to disrupt the Argentinian players, playing mind games by walking up to them and celebrating by them if they missed.

"This isn't to justify what happened but to understand it. There was a lot going on, unsavoury scenes from both sides.

"But in Argentina many people loved this new image of Messi. It wasn't normal for him. It was more of a Maradona reaction, which means the people love him even more.

"The old perception was that he was cold and not passionate. Now they feel his desire to win for Argentina. We are Latin people. We react and show our emotions. Sometimes maybe we overreact."


The Paris Saint-Germain forward has assumed a familiar talismanic role in Qatar, with his return of six goal contributions – four goals and two assists – only bettered by Kylian Mbappe, who has five goals and two assists.

Messi has both scored and assisted in two different games at this World Cup, and in three at the tournament overall. Since 1966, no player has done so on four occasions.

The 35-year-old needs one more goal to surpass Gabriel Batistuta's tally of 10 World Cup strikes for Argentina, and Ardiles believes he is playing with less pressure since leading his country to Copa America glory last year.

"You could see in his face that the pressure had been lifted and you could feel it among the people as well," he added.

"They could see the team was rallying to him. And the whole country, even the previous critics, embraced him. He had always been the focal point, but now he is much more of a leader. And it looks as though the players in Qatar are determined to win it for him.

"Maybe there have been World Cups where he has played better, as a younger player. But there has never been a World Cup where his influence has been as important as it is now.

"He leads this team off the pitch and on the pitch, all their creative play comes through him. He is not just Argentina's most important player, but he is the most important player at the World Cup."

France coach Didier Deschamps saluted Antoine Griezmann for playing a starring role in Les Bleus' run to the World Cup semi-finals after coming through "challenging times".

Deschamps' side take on Morocco in the second semi on Wednesday, with France aiming to become the first European nation to reach successive World Cup finals since Italy in 1938.

While Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud have grabbed the headlines, Griezmann has been similarly key to the holders' progress despite being used in a new position, essentially in midfield.

The Atletico Madrid player has created more chances (17) and recorded more expected assists (2.9) than anyone else at the tournament, while his two assists against England in the quarter-finals took him to three for the campaign – no one has more.


Further to that, his 28 involvements in shot-ending open-play sequences is second only to Mbappe (40) in the France squad, highlighting his influence in their build-up play.

After several difficult years with Barcelona and back at Atletico, Griezmann's form has surprised some, but not Deschamps.

"Yes, he's had a great tournament, but we'll need him to be just as good [on Wednesday]," Deschamps told reporters in Tuesday's pre-match press conference.

"He's the type of player who can really change a team because he's so hard-working and so technically gifted. He's playing slightly different role in this World Cup, but it suits him well.

"He likes defending just as much as attacking and being a playmaker. Of course, his main responsibility isn't ball winning; his left foot is so wonderful, he creates chances for others.

"He's someone who always thinks of the team above everything else. He's extremely hard-working, probably more so than most players.

"He's been an elite player for 10 years now. Of course, he's gone through challenging times like any player, but he's mentally very strong. Like all world-class players, he's at his best in the most important games."


Dayot Upamecano is another France player impressing in Qatar after having to overcome certain struggles.

Although a regular at Bundesliga level from the age of 18, Upamecano did not win his first senior cap until just before he turned 22.

Then, last year he found himself back with the Under-21s instead of in Deschamps' squad for Euro 2020 as he paid the price for some unconvincing early appearances with Les Bleus.

However, he has started all but one of France's World Cup games, with Deschamps pleased to see he has moved past some psychological barriers that were previously stunting his progress.

"Dayot did have an issue with his mental strength, which I think prevented him from being the top player we knew he could become," the coach added.

"He's managed to overcome those challenges, he feels more relaxed, more confident. I do think that's what helped him reach his best level and show the qualities he has.

"He's very fit, good in tackling, good at passing. Sometimes he tries to overdo things a bit with his passing, is too ambitious, but he listens to advice, he's open-minded, relaxed, happy.

"Some players can be introverted in nature like him, and so maybe they need more time to develop and flourish.

"But I'm quite convinced when a player has potential that it will end up flourishing even if sometimes I must recognise there are other players in the squad who can also be very strong and have their role to play.

"So yes, he's been through challenging times, but he's now relaxed, more confident and showing he's a top player."

Morocco's celebrations said it all. Having done what many deemed the impossible against Spain, the Atlas Lions went one better by beating Portugal 1-0 in 90 minutes.

They only qualified for the World Cup semi-finals, so to some their jubilation might have even looked over the top.

But the significance of the win was not lost on Morocco's players.

Family members were on the pitch at full-time: goalkeeper Yassine Bounou brought his young son out to have a kickabout on the grass while the toddler adorably ran around wearing his dad's comically large gloves; Sofiane Boufal shared a heart-warming embrace with his mum, who subsequently joined him out on the turf; captain Romain Saiss held his son aloft; coach Walid Regragui was engulfed by a group of relatives in the stands.

These genuinely were comparable to celebrations that would be seen after winning the World Cup, and why not? After all, this is the closest any African team has ever come to lifting the famous trophy, with Wednesday's clash against France the first World Cup semi-final to include a CAF country.

While few would have picked them out as semi-finalists before the tournament, this run has been defined by tirelessness, spirit, and quality, with some perhaps surprised by how much of the latter they possess.

But who have been their standout performers to this point?

Bono's beautiful day

Any team that goes deep into a World Cup needs a dependable goalkeeper; when you look at the first-choice numbers ones in the semi-finals – Emiliano Martinez, Dominik Livakovic, Hugo Lloris and Yassine Bounou – the evidence is all there to see.

Bounou, or 'Bono' as he wears on his shirt, was named player of the match against Portugal. While he only made three saves, two of those were crucial stops near the end, and he was also just a generally assuring presence, swatting away high deliveries effectively.

The Sevilla goalkeeper, who was born in Canada, made his 50th appearance for Morocco on Saturday and became the first keeper to record three clean sheets at a single World Cup for an African team.

But he was also vital to Morocco's progression to the last eight, saving two spot-kicks in the penalty shoot-out that saw them past Spain.

If the Atlas Lions get past France, he'll have surely played a key role again.

Hakimi living up to his reputation

If there's one player in the Morocco squad who needs no introduction...

Paris Saint-Germain right-back Achraf Hakimi has been exceptional for Regragui's men. Some might have expected more from him in attack, but defensively he's really shown his class and work ethic.


No defender left in the tournament has contested (62) or won (35) more duels than Hakimi, while he also tops the charts for tackles (19) and tackles won (13).

Morocco haven't been scored against by an opposition player at the 2022 World Cup, with their only goal conceded coming via an own goal against Canada. They've kept four clean sheets, with the last two sides to record five in a single edition going on to lift the trophy (Spain 2010, Italy 2006).

Hakimi's certainly played his part.

Amrabat and Ounahi: the engine room

Sofyan Amrabat was by no means an unknown quantity coming into the tournament given he's had a bright start to the season with Fiorentina.

Azzedine Ounahi will have been much less familiar to many, but he'll leave Qatar with his reputation massively enhanced.

The 22-year-old Angers midfielder is a very satisfying player to watch. Elegant on the ball and a competitor without it, Ounahi has really stood out as a midfield all-rounder.

No other central midfielder can better his four carries leading to a key pass, while he has completed seven of 10 dribble attempts.


This elegance is matched by his guile, with just five midfielders winning more duels than Ounahi (26). With him alongside Amrabat, Morocco possess a legitimately excellent central pairing.

Amrabat can match Ounahi's combativeness, with his eight tackles won the fourth-highest among midfielders, but he also has a fine understanding of how to read the game, as demonstrated by his tournament-leading 41 recoveries.


The X-factor

There's rarely a dull moment when Boufal or Hakim Ziyech have the ball.

Of course, Ziyech came into the tournament with something of a point to prove after falling out with the previous coach.

He undoubtedly brings the capability to do something special out of nothing, though he also works extremely hard, with his 61 duels contested the joint-best among all midfielders in the tournament.


While that may not be what Ziyech is best known for, Hakimi will undoubtedly be happy for the help against Kylian Mbappe next time out.

Boufal on the other flank has been similarly tireless. Classed as a forward by Opta, only two other forwards have been in more duels (63) than the mercurial winger.

Additionally, his 22 take-on attempts has been bettered by only six players in the whole tournament, and his 54 per cent take-on success is the third best among players to attempt at least 12.

There's never been any doubt about Boufal's natural ability; he has just tended to frustrate. In Qatar, his talent on the ball has been key in helping Morocco turn defence into attack.


En-Nesyri out to silence the doubters

It's been a difficult 18 months or so for Youssef En-Nesyri, who is a team-mate of Bounou's at club level with Sevilla.

Injuries have disrupted his progress, and he's struggled to recapture his best form after a promising first full season at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Nevertheless, he's got two goals now at this World Cup – that's two more than he has in LaLiga this term – and the second of those highlighted the striker's biggest strength: his aerial ability.

While that goal against Portugal went down as a Diogo Costa error, En-Nesyri's leap was remarkable. Counting it as a goalkeeping mistake arguably does the forward a disservice.


Regardless, he capitalised to become Morocco's all-time leading scorer at the World Cup, with his two in Qatar adding to the one he netted against Spain in 2018.

Whatever happens on Wednesday, Morocco will have two more matches, with a final or a third-place game to come. One more goal for En-Nesyri and he becomes just the fourth African player to score three or more at one tournament after Roger Milla in 1990 (four), Papa Bouba Diop in 2002 (three) and Asamoah Gyan in 2010 (three).

Judging by Morocco's giant-slaying narrative so far, however, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised if one of their two remaining games is for the title.

Cody Gakpo will only leave PSV for a "record transfer" amid continued links to Manchester United and Real Madrid, according to the Eredivisie side's director of football Marcel Brands.

A host of Europe's elite clubs are reportedly interested in the Netherlands international, who became only second player in World Cup history to open the scoring three times in the same group stage in Qatar.

The 23-year-old boasts 17 goals and eight assists in 31 games this season, with Liverpool and Bayern Munich also said to be interested in Gakpo.

United are suggested to be the frontrunners, having already attempted to sign Gakpo in the past window, though Brands will demand a sizeable sum for the forward.

"When you talk about Cody Gakpo and the price tag, how many clubs are able to buy a player of that calibre?," Brands said on an appearance with the PSV Supporters Association. 

"You are talking about maybe 10 or 12 clubs in Europe. You have to need a player in that position and be able and willing to spend the money in January, which is normally less hectic than the summer.

"We have yet to see if it all happens. He has no clause or anything, and no amounts have been agreed on either. The agreements that were made were there before my time.

"It must be a record transfer for PSV anyway, so then you know in which direction it is going."

With the January transfer window looming and the Netherlands out of the World Cup after a quarter-final defeat to Argentina, Brands insists no decision has been made over Gakpo's future.

"In the media, it seems like all the clubs are lining up, but the reality is that we don't know anything about interest or anything yet. It's quiet," he added.

"I've spoken to Cody, he's going on vacation for ten days. If something happens, it is perhaps known to Cody or his management, but not to us yet."

Ajax convinced United to pay £81.3million (€95m) for Antony in August, though Brands believes that transfer is not an accurate representation of what PSV may be able to demand for Gakpo.

"But that had nothing to do with market conformity, but with a club that is in panic and a trainer who insisted on him," he continued. 

"Many players have left for market value in recent times, such as Gabriel Jesus [to Arsenal] for fifty million or Erling Haaland [to Manchester City] for 75 million."

Clement Lenglet saluted "legend" Hugo Lloris, backing his France and Tottenham team-mate to lead Les Bleus into another World Cup final.

Lloris is just two wins away from becoming the first captain to lift the World Cup trophy on two occasions, with the reigning champions continuing their title defence against Morocco in the semi-finals on Wednesday.

The goalkeeper earned a record-breaking 143rd France appearance in their 2-1 victory over England in the quarter-finals, surpassing Lilian Thuram (142) in the process.

Lenglet - Lloris' compatriot and colleague at club level - paid tribute to the 35-year-old on Tottenham's official website.

"I'm so proud of Hugo, it's such a big achievement," the defender said. "For a long time, Lilian Thuram was the number one, now Hugo is the new number one, and reaching the number in such a big game against England, where he played very well.

"To all French people, he's a legend because he's a very good person, a very good professional, an amazing goalkeeper. He's one of the best players in the history of the French national team.

"Hopefully, he'll have two more caps at the World Cup. He can make history. It's a long way yet, you have to think game by game - Morocco next. But as I said, it would be a big, big achievement for him [to lift the trophy again]."

Morocco, the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals, stand in France's way of a potential clash with Argentina or Croatia in Sunday's showpiece.

The Atlas Lions are the first side to progress to the last four having not conceded a single goal scored by an opposing player since Italy in 2006. However, Lenglet is confident of a French victory.

"It's a big game for both teams," he added. "We are happy to play an African team in the semi-final. I'm sure we will see a game with a lot of intensity and duels, they are very, very strong.

"I believe France has the experience, they won a difficult game against England when, during the game, it was not always easy. When you win that type of game, you are completely ready. I think France will do it, they have all the quality to do it again."

Morocco can "work miracles" under Walid Regragui with their "exemplary state of mind," says former midfielder and assistant coach Mustapha Hadji.

The Atlas Lions, who had only progressed beyond the group stage once in five previous World Cup appearances, are the first African nation to reach the semi-finals following an incredible run in Qatar.

Having only succeeded Vahid Halilhodzic in August, Regragui has overseen victories over Belgium, Spain and Portugal to set up a last-four clash with reigning champions France.

Hadji appeared for Morocco at two World Cups (1994 and 1998), while he served as his nation's assistant coach from 2014 until earlier this year.

The 51-year-old is thrilled with what he has seen, telling L'Equipe: "Here in Morocco, it's crazy, what's happening for the national team is extraordinary.

"It's only been two or three months since Walid Regragui arrived in the national team. There was an upheaval with Vahid. 

"The new coach was able to find the words and the way to bring out the best players and make a team with a lion's state of mind.

"The team plays with heart and an exemplary state of mind. With a coach like that, you can only flourish and work miracles."

Croatia's journey to successive World Cup semi-finals is beyond head coach Zlatko Dalic's wildest dreams.

Dalic was appointed in October 2017 when Croatia were in danger of missing out on the 2018 World Cup, his debut win over Ukraine in the final qualification group game securing second place.

Initially, Dalic said he would not remain in charge if Croatia failed to reach Russia 2018, but a 4-1 aggregate play-off defeat of Greece sealed their spot in the draw.

Dalic ultimately led the Valtreni to their first World Cup final – a 4-2 defeat to France denied them a famous maiden title, but their achievement remained significant.

Expectations of Croatia from neutrals ahead of Qatar 2022 were nowhere near as lofty, yet successive penalty shoot-out defeats of Japan and Brazil have taken them to within one match of becoming the first European nation since 1990 (Germany) to reach consecutive World Cup finals.

Argentina await at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday, and Monday's pre-match press conference provided Dalic the opportunity to reflect on his own journey since 2017.

"The situation is quite different to back then," he told reporters. "Honestly, I couldn't imagine I would come so far, be head coach of Croatia in two World Cups, that I would be leading Croatia in the final and semi-finals.

"I thought that these games were reserved for other protagonists, but thank God I managed to do it, I got the chance and took it. I'm so grateful for that chance.

"Whatever happens [on Tuesday], I'm still proud of what I've done for the Croatian national team. I'm proud of my Croatia and of my players.

"No one expected Croatia in four years would be among the four best teams, so my pride has no limits. It's sky-high.

"I'm a happy person now. All of us has dreams, mine was to be the head coach of Croatia. I never dreamt of this, so thanks to God for this."

Dalic was very eager to take the pressure off his team, though at the same time he is fully aware of the gravity of a potential win, which he believes would be the greatest result in Croatia's history.

"For me, the semi-final against England [in 2018] was the greatest match of all time [for Croatia] and the Brazil one [2022 quarter-final] is second.

"Tomorrow's will be third. It's one of the most significant for us. After only four years to repeat such an achievement [reaching a World Cup semi-final] on the international stage with a new national team is a great success.

"If we manage to win, that will make it the greatest match in history for Croatia."

Argentina also needed penalties to reach this stage, despite finding themselves 2-0 up against the Netherlands with less than 10 minutes of regulation time to go.

Dalic predicts Lionel Scaloni's men will be better than they were against the Oranje, though he is also adamant all the pressure is on the Albiceleste as their bid to finally win Lionel Messi a World Cup reaches its penultimate step.

"We analysed that match [against the Netherlands] and we saw what Argentina does best," Dalic added.

"Messi's in great shape again, he's very good at setting the stage for assists and is very connected with the other players.

"They're assertive, feisty; an extraordinary team. They're well-balanced, they have their own qualities and really want to get a result.

"They did not expect the Netherlands to come back. I even expect them to be better against us, to be more compact and have greater strength.

"This match is very important for them too. They are under greater pressure than us, they'll have a lot of fans, which is a handicap for us, but we won't succumb to that, we won't complain.

"We're into the semis, so let's play one of the best teams in the world and let's enjoy it."

Hugo Lloris insists France will need 'all our strength, all our energy' when they face Morocco in the World Cup semi-finals.

Les Bleus became the first reigning champions to reach the last four since Brazil in 1998 after edging out England in a tight quarter-final on Saturday, Olivier Giroud's late header settling the tie.

It was a special day for Lloris, who became France's record cap holder after surpassing Lilian Thuram (142) with his 143rd international appearance.

To mark the occasion, the captain was presented with a commemorative shirt by Didier Deschamps as attention turns to the tournament's surprise package in Morocco, who became the first African nation to reach the semi-finals after stunning Portugal.

"[I am] still proud, still honoured to wear the shirt of Les Bleus, even after 143 appearances," Lloris said in a video posted on France's official Twitter account.

"I really want to thank the team, the staff, the entire management for making this game so special. Beating England in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, it will remain a special memory for me, but also for my family who were present.

"Now, we'll prepare well for this semi-final against Morocco. We'll need all our strength, all our energy knowing that there's something really special we can achieve.

"I think we're all aware of this, but we'll continue to be calm and collected. But it has to come from [the stomach]."

Antoine Griezmann was also presented with a personalised shirt, his pinpoint cross for Giroud's winner against England was his record-breaking 28th assist for Les Bleus.

The Atletico Madrid forward, who believes he will soon be surpassed by Kylian Mbappe (18), urged his team-mates not to lose sight on retaining the world title for the first time since Brazil in 1962.

"Kylian only needs 10 assists to reach 28, so I'm going to enjoy this moment!" he laughed. "There are still two games left, we can do it. Let's concentrate, be focused and enjoy."

Stefan Effenburg has ruled himself out of the running to replace Oliver Bierhoff as Germany's technical director, insisting "I am not available".

Bierhoff left his role of 18 years with the German Football Association (DFB) following Die Nationalmannschaft's second successive World Cup group-stage exit in Qatar.

Philipp Lahm – Germany's victorious captain in 2014 – and Dietmar Hamann were among several former players calling for significant changes in German football, though head coach Hansi Flick will remain in charge.

Regarding a replacement, president Bernd Neuendorf said he will "first discuss the future structure of this area of ​​responsibility within the DFB and then make a personnel decision."

Former midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger suggested Effenburg – Bayern Munich's Champions League-winning captain in 2001 – and Michael Ballack as potential candidates, telling ARD: "These are still guys who can really tackle".

But despite having held a similar position at KFC Uerdingen, the 54-year-old insisted he is "extremely comfortable" in his role as a brand ambassador at former club Bayern, while also serving as a columnist and television pundit.

"It is clear that many names were mentioned. The fact that mine was also there honours me," he told Sport1.

"[The ambassadorial and media work] fills me and that's what I want to continue to focus on. So I'm not going to send an application to the DFB. I am not available."

Milan have played a part in France's latest bid for World Cup glory after "revitalising" striker Olivier Giroud, according to the Serie A club's president Paolo Scaroni.

France remain on course to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the trophy after beating England 2-1 on Saturday to set up a semi-final showdown with Morocco.

Giroud scored the reigning champions' winner in the quarter-final against England, with that his fourth goal of Qatar 2022 – only team-mate Kylian Mbappe (five) has scored more.

The 36-year-old has also been in good form for club side Milan this campaign, having been directly involved in a team-high 14 goals (nine goals and five assists) in 19 matches.

He has scored 23 goals in 57 games in all competitions since the start of last season when joining from Chelsea, which is also more than any Milan player over that period.

As Giroud continues to show on the biggest stage that age is just a number, Scaroni says France should be grateful to Milan.

"He's doing very, very well. I think France's qualification [to the semi-finals] is due to him a lot," Rossoneri chief Scaroni told Sky Sport Italia.

"We at Milan have 'revitalised' him a bit. I don't know if I can say it, but I have the impression with us he has found new motivation that he has transferred to the national team. 

"Let's say that we too have played a small role in the success achieved so far by France".


Giroud scored twice in France's opening group match against Australia and then overtook Thierry Henry as his country's record scorer with his strike in the last-16 win over Poland.

The ex-Arsenal man could set another record in France's semi-final against Morocco as he is one goal short of becoming the oldest player to score five at a single World Cup.

Giroud is not the only Milan player in France's World Cup squad, with defender Theo Hernandez – who has played in four games – also included.

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