Croatia are "living for the moment" as they prepare for a World Cup semi-final against Lionel Messi's Argentina, so says Borna Sosa.

Zlatko Dalic's team reached the final in Russia four years ago, losing to France, who will play Morocco in the other semi-final in Qatar.

Croatia were not fancied among the favourites to succeed in Qatar but overcame Brazil on penalties to reach the last four for the third time in their history.

Now they face Argentina, with the prospect of knocking both South American giants out of the World Cup - should Croatia do so, they would be the first team since Germany in 2014 to manage it.

Borna Sosa was excellent against Brazil. keeping Raphinha and then Antony quiet down Croatia's left side, and the full-back has every confidence this team can go the distance.

"Of course. Now, everything is possible," he said. "We are very dangerous like we showed. If it comes to penalties, I think everybody will have in their heads that we've won many, many times.

"The last World Cup, we were second. We are coming with a new squad with 17 and 18-year-old players, and we are showing that we have a lot of quality in our country.

"We have only four million people and we are showing a lot of good results for many years. That's why I'm proud of the whole nation because we are really living for this moment.

"This is our biggest strength as a team - to fight together. We do not have stars in the team who don't want to run or defend.

"We are really showing a lot of respect to the game and we are trying to give everything on the pitch."

It was Argentina's continental rivals Brazil that had become renowned for their dancing at this tournament.

Lionel Scaloni, though, wants his team to "keep dancing" as they bid for a place in the showpiece on December 18.

He said: "It's an objective. Now that we're dancing, we have to keep dancing.

"We'd like to continue, with all the respect we have to have with Croatia. Let's hope we live up to it."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lionel Messi

Messi, likely playing at his final World Cup, is leading the charge for Argentina as he looks to add the trophy to his collection.

The 35-year-old has both scored and assisted a goal in three different World Cup matches, including two at this year's tournament (vs Mexico and Netherlands).

Since 1966, no player has ever done so in four separate games.

Croatia – Marcelo Brozovic

Marcelo Brozovic has been excellent as a deep-lying playmaker for Croatia, and the Inter midfielder might well be crucial to stopping Messi.

If Brozovic can block off the central space and force Argentina wide, then they might just be able to limit Messi's influence.

PREDICTION

This is the third World Cup meeting between Argentina and Croatia, and first in the knockout stages. Argentina won 1-0 in 1998, before Croatia's 3-0 win in the 2018 edition in Russia.

Opta makes Argentina the favourites (55.8 per cent), with Croatia given a 17.9 per cent chance of winning.

Eight of Croatia's last nine World Cup knockout matches have gone to extra-time, however, so do not be surprised if this match is drawn over 90 minutes, or even 120.

There should be little argument where Lionel Messi stands among the pantheon of greats.

Whether he is the greatest of all time (GOAT, as the cool kids say) or just one of the very best to ever play the beautiful game, as if that wasn't enough – well, that debate will probably go on forever.

Winning the World Cup, or so far failing to do so in Messi's case, is what has been widely used by some to insist the Barcelona great cannot be considered as the best ever.

So, at what the 35-year-old has said will be his final World Cup, what more of a fitting way to bow out than to lead Argentina's charge to success.

Messi is certainly leading the charge, too. He seems a man possessed, single-handedly dragging Lionel Scaloni's side through against Australia in the last 16 before showing his aggressive side in the penalty shoot-out victory over the Netherlands, having set up one and scored the other of Argentina's two goals in regulation time.

While the world waits for Messi to finally clinch the trophy, another evergreen star in the supposed twilight of his career is still shining bright.

Luka Modric's Croatia team were not fancied to repeat their efforts of four years ago, when they made the final in Russia only to lose to France.

Yet after overcoming favourites Brazil on penalties, it is Croatia and Modric, 37 years young, who will vie to deny Messi his fairy-tale ending.

Tuesday's semi-final at Lusail Stadium might just boil down to two of the game's very best.

 

Messi magic Argentina's saving grace

After winning the Copa America last year, Argentina were always going to be among the favourites in Qatar. News of Messi confirming this would be his final shot at becoming a world champion only seemed to strengthen La Albiceleste's claim.

They went into the tournament on the back of a 36-game unbeaten run and they were facing Saudi Arabia in their Group C opener - surely, that streak would be extended to 37? Well, it wasn't. Messi scored, from the penalty spot, but Argentina slumped to a 2-1 defeat.

It left them needing to beat Mexico and Poland to ensure progress, and they did just that, if far from convincingly, at least against Mexico when Messi, again, was the difference-maker, this time with a low shot from the edge of the box, placed with delicate precision into the bottom corner, and then an assist for Enzo Fernandez's superb effort.

Messi scored Argentina's opener against Australia and then managed the match in the closing stages as Scaloni's team saw out a nervy 2-1 win after Fernandez's own goal gave the Socceroos hope.

Against the Dutch, Messi assisted Nahuel Molina's opener with the pass of the tournament – a defence-splitting, eye-of-the-needle throughball – before scoring a 73rd-minute penalty. It should have seen Argentina through comfortably, but they capitulated in the closing stages before rediscovering their composure in the shoot-out (Messi scored in that, too).

As they always do with Messi, the statistics speak for themselves. 

Messi's six goal contributions (four goals, two assists) in this tournament trail only his Paris Saint-Germain club-mate Kylian Mbappe (seven). To further prove his importance to Argentina, he has been involved in 39 shot-ending sequences in open play at this World Cup, 15 more than any of his team-mates.

 

He will equal Lothar Matthaus as the player with the most appearances in World Cup history (25) when he takes to the field on Tuesday, while his goal against the Netherlands saw him match Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina's record scorer in the tournament, with 10 goals.

Messi has both scored and assisted a goal in three World Cup games, including two at this tournament. Since 1966, no other player has ever done so in four separate matches, while one more assist would see Messi equal the late, great Diego Maradona's record of eight at World Cup finals.

There is more than the hint of Maradona-ness to Messi's performances, too. Often reasonably compared to Maradona in terms of playing style, Messi has never quite had the same penchant for chaos as Argentina's first iconic number 10, but it is hard to avoid the similarities of 1986, when Maradona dragged a rather average Argentina side to glory in Mexico.

Maybe Lionel is finally letting his inner Diego loose, and maybe the outcome will be the same – although VAR will ensure there's no 'Hand of God' repeat.

 

Modric a master at work

Messi will play his 171st game for Argentina on Tuesday. Modric, on the other hand, will make his 161st Croatia appearance. 

"It's such a pleasure to see him play, a role model for so many of us, not because of his talents as a player but also his behaviour," said Argentina coach Scaloni of Modric in his pre-match press conference.

"We should enjoy him, just like all the top players. If you love football, you want to see these players on the pitch."

It is, indeed, a pleasure to watch Modric do his thing. It is over a decade since the mercurial midfielder swapped Tottenham for Real Madrid, and the understated nature of his performances have, naturally, seen him go under the radar.

That changed in 2018 when, at 32, Modric won the Golden Ball at the Russia World Cup for his efforts in taking Croatia to their first final.

Croatia might have fallen short against France but Modric was incredible, and he went on to win the Ballon d'Or later that year, becoming the only player other than Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to scoop that prize since Kaka in 2007.

Arguably, though, his performances in Qatar have been just as good.

 

Yes, Croatia's approach under Zlatko Dalic is not the prettiest, but in Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic they have a midfield with a bit of everything; bite, skill and composure.

Captain Modric, who scored a stunning goal in Croatia's 3-0 defeat of Argentina at the last World Cup, is still the standout.

He has made the most World Cup appearances (17) of any Croatian player and has started all five of their games in Qatar. He will become only the fourth player aged 37 or older to start six matches at World Cup on Tuesday, barring any surprises. 

Even if his energy levels aren't quite what they used to be (he was subbed off in extra time against Japan in the last 16), Modric has, if anything, got even smarter with when and where he expends that energy.

Twice against Brazil, he skipped through midfield to relieve the pressure on Croatia's defence. His carry distance of 1,455 metres ranks second out of midfielders at the tournament, only behind Spain's Rodri. However, Rodri was playing in defence, naturally meaning he would carry the ball further, given Spain's possession-based approach.

Modric has won seven of his 12 attempted tackles, and 26 of his 58 duels, completing 330 of 373 passes (88.5 per cent). Against Brazil, he completed the most passes and had the most touches of anyone on the pitch.

Like Messi, this is surely Modric's World Cup swansong, but his excellence cannot be overlooked either.

Team-mate Borna Sosa claimed Modric must rank within the best five midfielders of all time, and should he drive Croatia on to their second straight World Cup final, there should be little debate over that.

Brazil great Ronaldo says Lionel Messi's incredible achievements do not mean he deserves to win the World Cup and the Argentina captain must earn his shot at glory.

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

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has assumed a 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.

While praising Messi's performances, Ronaldo warned lifting the World Cup will not come easily for the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"We all deserve it. Nobody gives you anything, not even for your story," Ronaldo told reporters on Monday.

"Argentina isn't playing very well, but they play together, they're aggressive and then there's Messi, who is decisive when he's near the box. He now does less sprints than before.

"At the beginning of his career he did 30 actions and now he does 10, but he is still decisive. As soon as he gets the ball and he sees spaces, or is in the area, he is a killer.

"Would I be happy if Messi won the World Cup? Of course, I would be happy for him, but there is a big rivalry between Brazil and Argentina.

"I'm not going to be hypocritical and say that I would be happy for Argentina, that's not true!"

Messi will equal Lothar Matthaus' record of 25 World Cup appearances when he takes to the field on Tuesday, while a goal would see the 35-year-old surpass Gabriel Batistuta's tally of 10 World Cup strikes for the Albiceleste.

 

While Argentina remain in contention for a third World Cup triumph, their great rivals Brazil crashed out in the quarter-finals after losing a dramatic penalty shoot-out against Croatia.

The decision for Neymar to take Brazil's fifth and final penalty – a kick which never arrived due to Rodrygo and Marquinhos failing to convert – has attracted criticism, but Ronaldo does not view it as a mistake.

"I don't agree with any of the theories about the penalty shoot-out," he said. "I think changing the sequence... it's extremely delicate for you to approach a player and show that you don't have confidence in him, asking for another to take his place.

"That doesn't exist in football, in a group where everyone has full confidence in the coach and the nation. 

"You arrive and ask to change, this is a great absurdity. Those who support this theory do not understand the dynamics of a group."

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."

Lionel Scaloni dismissed the assertion his Argentina team were rightly criticised for their antics against the Netherlands.

Argentina face Croatia in the first World Cup semi-final on Tuesday, after overcoming the Netherlands on penalties.

The Copa America champions led 2-0 at Lusail Stadium yet were pegged back to a 2-2 draw by Wout Weghorst's double.

But Emiliano Martinez's saves paved the way for Lautaro Martinez to score the winning penalty in the shoot-out and send Argentina through to the last four.

The match was not without its controversy. Some of Argentina's players celebrated wildly in front of the Netherlands squad, while there were tussles on the touchline and Lionel Messi seemed to confront Oranje coach Louis van Gaal.

Scaloni, however, does not believe his team behaved poorly.

"The game was played the way we have to play, both teams did that," he said in a press conference.

"Some games, things can happen, arguments, challenging times. That's why there's a referee to ensure there's justice.

"We need to put an end to this idea that this is Argentina. We lost to Saudi Arabia and didn't do anything.

"We won the Copa America in Brazil and experienced the most sporting behaviour with Messi, [Leandro] Paredes and Neymar, all sat together in the tunnel.

"I'm not convinced of this idea of unsporting behaviour. We play with pride, the way we have to play and then the referee is in charge of decisions. We respect all the teams, the Netherlands, Croatia and all the opponents. That's one of our main characteristics of our personality.

"We need to end this idea of not being good winners or losers, that's very far from what we are as a team and a squad, and the way we represent this nation."

Messi, usually so composed, even seemed caught up in the emotion against the Netherlands, though with this likely to be his final World Cup, the 35-year-old's desire to end his wait for the trophy seems truly fierce.

Scaloni said: "Messi, I know him so well, he's always been like that, always been a winner, he's so eager and willing to keep playing football."

Asked how it felt to coach Messi at his last World Cup, Scaloni added: "We will see whether he continues playing or not, we will keep enjoying him, that's all we can do – for us and the world of football.

"If things turn out well, everything will be good for us, we have our whole country supporting us."

Lionel Messi gives Argentina a "special advantage", says Nicolas Tagliafico, as La Albiceleste prepare for their World Cup semi-final with Croatia.

Lionel Scaloni's side are two wins away from Qatar 2022 glory, having shrugged off a shock opening loss against Saudi Arabia to battle their way to the last four.

Captain Messi has won virtually all major honours possible save for the World Cup, and in likely his final World Cup with his country, is out to complete his collection.

Tagliafico credits the veteran forward as the driving factor both for and behind their run to within 90 minutes of the final, stating he fires his team-mates on to greater heights.

"He's always been like this," he stated. "For us, he is our captain, our leader, the one who pushes us and motivates us. He's the one who has that special advantage.

"When we are on the pitch, we know we have Messi. We are so happy to have him as our captain. That's the most beautiful thing, to do this with Messi by our side.

"This World Cup, we have enough experience to reach this stage. We know in the knockouts, there'll be a few moments where we will struggle.

"We have the experience. We need to have enough character to go through all that and overcome it. That motivates you even further."

Penalties were required to see Argentina through their quarter-final clash with the Netherlands, in what devolved into a bad-tempered affair from both sets of players.

Scaloni's men were accused of being poor winners after their victory, but Tagliafico has defended his actions and those of his team-mates, suggesting they will behave the same again.

"Those situations happen in the world of football," he added. "We are not machines. The emotions were running high. It has happened in previous matches.

"It will likely happen again. This was a World Cup quarter-final, with two teams fighting it out. We tried to live it as such."

Harry Kane's penalty miss in England's World Cup defeat to France may have been influenced by the long VAR check, according to Jurgen Klinsmann, who feels there is "more to come" from the Three Lions.

England suffered an agonising quarter-final defeat to the reigning champions on Saturday, as Kane blazed an 84th-minute spot-kick over the crossbar after scoring an earlier penalty.

Referee Wilton Sampaio – who was criticised by some England players after the game – was initially unmoved by Theo Hernandez's push on Mason Mount, only awarding England's second penalty after a long VAR review.

Speaking in his role as part of FIFA's Technical Study Group on Monday, former Tottenham forward Klinsmann blamed that wait for Kane's costly error.

"From the time that he whistles for the penalty until the time he gets a chance to actually execute the penalty, there's far, far too much time passing by, and it works into your brain," Klinsmann said.

"I'm obviously a big Harry Kane fan and if Harry had the chance to just put the ball down and shoot, no big deal.

"But the whole VAR situation, double-checking whether it was a penalty… time goes by and by and by.

"Then you obviously start thinking and you get to a point where you don't execute the penalty the way you would have done it right after the whistle."

Kane's miss ensured England suffered a record seventh World Cup quarter-final exit, but Klinsmann believes they remain on the right path despite several near misses under Gareth Southgate.

"I think, overall, it was a very positive presentation from the English side in this entire tournament," the 1990 World Cup winner said.

"This game, France v England, came just too early. It should have been a semi-final or the final.

"But one team had to go home and unfortunately it was England, from an English perspective. But I think overall they played a very good tournament.

"It's still a team in growth. I think this team is still able to get better over the next few years. They are, age-wise, not on the limit now by any means.

"They have a lot of talent coming through, getting better, getting more experienced. They have now had three very positive tournaments with the one in Russia [in 2018], obviously the Euros where they went to the final.

"Now I think this was a very positive tournament, even if it ended in the quarter-finals. There's more to come from this England side, in my opinion."

England were not the only team to suffer penalty heartache in Qatar, with pre-tournament favourites Brazil bowing out at the same stage courtesy of a shoot-out defeat against Croatia.

Brazil planned for star forward Neymar to take their fifth and final penalty, which never arrived after Rodrygo and Marquinhos failed to convert, and Klinsmann believes that was a mistake.

Asked for his thoughts on where the Selecao went wrong, Klinsmann said: "Put your best shooter first. Set the tone with your best penalty-taker."

Luka Modric says Croatia must play the "best match of our lives" to overcome Lionel Messi's Argentina in Tuesday's World Cup semi-final.

The 2018 runners-up Croatia have reached the World Cup's last four in remarkable fashion once again, beating Japan and pre-tournament favourites Brazil in dramatic penalty shoot-outs.

Croatia could become just the second team to win knockout ties against both Brazil and Argentina at a single World Cup next time out, after Germany did so in 2014. 

Their hopes of reaching the final may depend on their ability to contain Albiceleste great Messi, who has recorded six goal contributions at the tournament – a tally only bettered by Kylian Mbappe (seven).

While Modric knows stopping Messi will be crucial, he warned Zlatko Dalic's men against focusing all their energies on one player.  

"I have the desire to play, but not only to play against one player," Modric said in an interview with RTVE. 

"Of course, Messi is an excellent player, we will have big problems to stop him, but we are ready and we will do our best.

"Argentina is a big team. We will try to play the best match of the tournament, the best match of our lives. I hope that it will be enough to enter the final."

Few expected Croatia to repeat their 2018 heroics in Qatar, and while Modric thinks that has suited Dalic's side, he revealed he warned his Real Madrid team-mates of their quality ahead of time.

"It's normal that everyone is looking at the big countries," Modric said. "Given that we are small, no one counted on us. 

"But we don't mind that others are favourites and we are in the shadows. We can only do our best, try hard, and that is exactly our strength.

"Before I left for the World Cup, we talked a lot in the [Madrid] dressing room, during which I told them: 'Watch out for Croatia'."

If, as expected, Modric starts Tuesday's game, he will become just the fourth player to start six matches at a single World Cup when aged 37 or above, after Brazil's Nilton Santos in 1962, Italy's Dino Zoff in 1982 and England's Peter Shilton in 1990.

While several veterans of the 2018 tournament remain key for Dalic's side, Modric has been delighted by the impact of Croatia's younger players – including goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic. 

"I saw maturity in our national team with young players who brought new quality and energy," he added.

"It's incredible what our national team is doing. I believed that we could do something. It is a big thing that after four years we are in the semi-finals again. We showed great mental strength.

"In those moments, someone always jumps out, like our goalkeeper, especially in the last two games. I am happy for him, he showed that he is a great goalkeeper."

 

Neymar continues to struggle to come to terms with Brazil's World Cup exit, saying that he "still hurts like hell from loss".

Pre-tournament favourites Brazil were bundled out of the World Cup by Croatia 4-2 on penalties after the game ended 1-1 following extra time.

Neymar, who scored a brilliant goal in extra-time but did not take a spot kick in the 4-2 penalty shoot-out loss, wrote on Instagram on Saturday that he was "psychologically destroyed" by the loss and doubled down on that with another post on Sunday upon his return to his homeland.

"On Brazilian soil… still hurts like hell from loss, we were so close, so close," Neymar wrote. "Unfortunately or fortunately I still haven't learned to lose. Defeats make me stronger, but they hurt me too much and I'm still not used to it.

"Anyway, we have to move on... life moves us on, even if it hurts and the hurt takes time to heal, we have to move on.

"Once again I want to thank the Brazilian people for their support and affection. Hearing from you that we fought, delivered until the end comforts a little of our pain.

"Thank you Qatar for everything. The cup was beautiful and she had to be from Brazil to crown it all, but by God's destiny it wasn't."

It has been speculated that this will be 30-year-old Neymar's final World Cup, and he was reluctant to commit to playing on for his country in the immediate aftermath of the game.

He added on Instagram: "We keep going... Now it's to turn off the key, take advantage of family and friends, recharge energies because dealing with this defeat will be very difficult, it still hurts me A LOT! FAITH."

Neymar also reserved a special 'open letter' post for 61-year-old Brazil head coach Tite, who has stepped down from the role following the World Cup after six-and-a-half years in charge.

"I knew you as a coach and I already knew you were very good but as a person you are MUCH BETTER!," Neymar wrote. "I come here to openly thank you for everything, all the teachings you've given us... and there were so many.

"You will always be one of the best coaches I've ever had or will have, I will always lift you up. We had beautiful moments but we also had moments that hurt us a lot and the latter will hurt us for a long time.

"You deserved to be crowned with this cup. We all deserved it for everything we did and for everything we gave up to try to achieve our biggest dream. But God didn't want it that way, patience. God has given us EVERYTHING!"

FIFA has confirmed a new match ball will be used for the final stages of the World Cup, replacing the existing model that has been used throughout the tournament so far.

The Al Hilm, which succeeds the Al Rihla, will be used in the semi-finals, third-place playoff and final of Qatar 2022, having been introduced for the last four games by Adidas.

The existing ball, which has been implemented with technology to assist in tracking and helping referee decisions across the tournament, has been used so far across the group stages and initial knockout rounds.

But the Al Hilm, which will come with a gold base design and triangular pattern paying tribute to the deserts surrounding major host city Doha, will now take its place.

"Al Hilm represents a beacon of light on the power of sport and football to bring the world together," Adidas general manager Nick Craggs said in a statement.

"Millions will tune in from almost every country around the globe, united by their passion for the game. We wish all teams involved in the final stages of the tournament the best of luck."

The semi-finals have been set for Qatar 2022, with 2018 winners France and runners-up Croatia both potentially in line for a rematch in the final four years on.

The pair will play Morocco, the first African nation to reach the last four in the tournament's history, and former winners Argentina respectively.

Dani Alves has thanked outgoing Brazil coach Tite following the Selecao's shock World Cup elimination, declaring: "There are some medals you don't wear on your chest, but on your soul."

The five-time winners succumbed to a surprise quarter-final exit on Friday, losing 4-2 to Croatia in a penalty shoot-out after Bruno Petkovic cancelled out Neymar's opening goal late in extra time.

Alves became Brazil's oldest player to feature at the World Cup during their group-stage defeat to Cameroon earlier this month (aged 39 years and 210 days), but was an unused substitute as Tite's side slipped to a second consecutive last-eight exit.

Tite revealed in February that he would leave his role irrespective of how Brazil's World Cup campaign ended, and despite the pain of Friday's defeat, Alves remains grateful for the 61-year-old's work with the team.

Writing on Instagram alongside an image of the pair embracing, Alves said: "This hug is the purest meaning of what you represent to me and to this group of special human beings.

"Special for their particularities, for their character, for their humility and above all, for the stories of overcoming difficulties and for the great souls that exist behind the small screen.

"There are some medals you don't wear on your chest, but on your soul, and this is one.

"Thank you for teaching us how to be men, children, friends, brothers and human beings. It may be that what we have today has no value, or it may be that there are still beings who still believe how valuable and important it is.

"This is our last trip here, and I can tell you; I would not change a thing. I wish you all the wonderful and purest things in this life and the next.

"May you have the peace that I will also take with me. The peace of duty fulfilled and mission accomplished. The result of a game will never change the score of our lives.

"With great affection and respect, thank you for all these years together in the promise of representing the best country in the world."

Only fellow full-backs Cafu (143) and Roberto Carlos (127) have won more senior caps for Brazil than Alves (126), and the Barcelona great is under no illusions that his own association with the World Cup is over.

However, he hopes the same cannot be said for Neymar, who refused to give any guarantees on his international future in the aftermath of the Selecao's defeat.

Speaking after Friday's game, Alves told reporters: "This World Cup was my last one. For me, it's time to say that. But I don't think it will be the same for Neymar. He's great, Brazilian football needs him to keep going."

Neymar is struggling to accept he has become yesterday's man at the Qatar World Cup, saying Brazil's exit has left him "psychologically destroyed".

Defeat on penalties to Croatia on Friday meant Brazil's campaign was over, with the pre-tournament favourites falling to the shock finalists from four years ago.

This may have been Neymar's final World Cup, and he was reluctant to commit to playing on for his country in the immediate aftermath of the game.

His dazzling goal gave Brazil the lead in extra time, but a late equaliser from Bruno Petkovic took the quarter-final to spot-kicks, and it was Zlatko Dalic's side who got the better of Tite's men.

In an Instagram post on Saturday, Neymar wrote: "I'm psychologically destroyed. This was certainly the defeat that hurt me the most, which made me paralysed for 10 minutes and right after I fell into non-stop crying. It's gonna hurt for a loooong time, unfortunately."

Neymar's strike meant the Paris Saint-Germain forward equalled Pele's record of 77 goals for Brazil, but that was no consolation. He came to win a World Cup and may now never get his hands on that trophy.

"We fought until the end," Neymar added. "That's what I'm proud of my team-mates for, because there was no lack of commitment and dedication. This group deserved it, we deserved it, BRAZIL deserved it... But this was not the will of GOD!

"Thank you all for your support with our national team. Unfortunately it didn't work out."

Pele sent Neymar an impassioned and long message after the game, with the Brazil great attempting to rally the current generation while he is in hospital.

The 82-year-old again reacted on Saturday to Neymar's latest message, telling him: "Continue to be an inspiration."

Brazil have not reached a World Cup final since their 2002 triumph gave the Selecao a record fifth title.

Neymar's former Barcelona team-mate Luis Suarez also offered his support.

Suarez, who went out with Uruguay at the group stage, told Neymar: "Much strength bro and onwards and upwards. Many times we fall, but we always have the strength to move forward because we fight a lot to succeed in this beautiful sport. Stay strong little brother."

Gabriel Batistuta hopes Lionel Messi can overtake him and become Argentina's record World Cup goalscorer in La Albiceleste's semi-final with Croatia.

Lionel Scaloni's side secured Argentina's fourth last-four appearance since 1986 – a tally only bettered by Germany (six) during that time – after defeating the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties following a 2-2 draw on Friday.

Argentina have won more shoot-outs than any other side in World Cup history (five), with their sole defeat coming against Germany in the 2006 quarter-finals.

Messi was on target from the spot during normal time with his 10th goal at the finals, equalling Batistuta's long-standing record for their national team.

Former Fiorentina and Roma striker Batistuta, who remains the only player to score a hat-trick in two different World Cups (1994 and 1998), saluted his compatriot and hopes Messi can add more goals to his tally.

"Dear Leo, congratulations!" Batistuta posted on Instagram. "I had the record for 20 years and enjoyed it. Now it's a great honour and pleasure to share it with you and I hope wholeheartedly that you can overtake it in the next match."

Argentina face Croatia at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday in what will be the third World Cup meeting between the nations. Argentina won 1-0 in the 1998 group phase, while Croatia prevailed 3-0 at the same stage in Russia four years ago.

Brazil legend Pele has paid tribute to Richarlison, telling the forward to "never change" after the Selecao were knocked out of the World Cup.

Pre-tournament favourites Brazil crashed out of the tournament in Qatar when they were beaten by Croatia at the quarter-final stage on Friday.

Tite's side had hoped to earn their sixth World Cup title before they suffered heartbreak, prompting Richarlison to post an apology to fans on social media.

But Pele - who has been hospitalised amid the tournament back home in Sao Paulo - has offered his encouragement to the 25-year-old, crediting him for his resolve.

"Just keep on keeping on kid," he wrote underneath the former Everton man's Instagram post. "And never change. You made Brazil smile."

Richarlison - who departed the tournament with three goals to his name, including a sensational overhead kick against Serbia in the group stage - emotionally reflected on a missed opportunity.

"Writing this is definitely the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," he penned. "This is a wound that will stay open forever, because we all know the chances we had to get that title.

"My friends and I are going to have to live with it. Some (or many) won't even get another chance. Now it's time to lick our wounds, apologise to all of you and get our head straight."

Brazil's exit represents their fifth successive shortfall in the World Cup, with the Selecao having only reached the semi-finals once since they last won the tournament in 2002.

Croatia will play Argentina next week in the first semi-final, with the 2018 runners-up looking to make feature in back-to-back finals.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic insists his team will have no reason to "fear" Lionel Messi in the World Cup semi-finals if they repeat the defensive approach that limited Neymar's influence against Brazil.

A 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over the Selecao on Friday following a 1-1 draw after extra time at Education City Stadium secured Croatia successive World Cup semi-final appearances.

Neymar did give Brazil the lead in the first half of extra time at the end of a brilliant move, before Bruno Petkovic's deflected strike took the game to penalties.

But Brazil's talisman otherwise struggled to penetrate the Croatian defence.

Occupying a slightly more central position inside Vinicius Junior on the left, the two players managed just one key pass and five completed dribbles out of 14 between them as Mario Pasalic, Josip Juranovic and Luka Modric worked tirelessly to pressure them.

Life will not get much easier for Croatia in their next game as they face Messi and Argentina, though Dalic is confident in their ability to keep him quiet.

"We need to guard against Messi, but not in a player-on-player style, as we didn't [do that] in our last meeting," he said.

"We know how much he runs, how much he likes to play with the ball at his feet and the key to our defensive phase will be discipline.

"If we repeat the same thing as against Brazil, which is that we are close [to him], that we stand by the player, we have nothing to fear."

Dalic was keen to stress Messi cannot be their sole focus.

However, he believes Croatia should be able to take encouragement from Argentina's struggles against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

The Albiceleste were 2-0 up against the Oranje before being pegged back by Wout Weghorst's brace, forcing extra time and subsequent penalties.

Argentina came through the shoot-out successfully, though in Dalic's mind they clearly are not bulletproof.

"We will make a detailed analysis of [Argentina] because we have not been so focused on them so far," he said.

"Messi is still their main player, who plays great and carries this national team. They also have some young, talented players and they look very dangerous.

"However, they showed they are vulnerable because they led 2-0 against the Netherlands, and in the end they barely reached penalties at 2-2.

"It's up to us to give our best and go into the game one hundred percent focused."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.