Gareth Southgate described the England manager job as "the greatest privilege" of his life and said he wanted to make sure he was "fresh and hungry" before committing to remain in the role after the Three Lions' World Cup exit.

A year-and-a-half on from reaching the Euro 2020 final on home turf, England were edged out 2-1 in the quarter-finals of Qatar 2022 by France.

The tournament nevertheless marked a turnaround in form for the Three Lions after a dismal Nations League campaign, underlining Southgate's record in his role.

But the former Middlesbrough boss acknowledged he needed time to ensure he made the right call in choosing to remain on board.

"I never want to be in a position where my presence is affecting the team in a negative way," he told BBC Sport.

"I didn't believe that was the case, but I just wanted a period after the World Cup to reflect and make sure that was still how it felt."

"Is it the right thing to keep taking this project on? I wanted to make sure I'm still fresh and hungry for that challenge. [It is] the greatest privilege of my life.

"The quality of performances and the progress that we're making [shows] the team [is] still improving. We're all gaining belief in what we're doing."

England face a banana-skin qualification pathway for Euro 2024, with defending champions Italy, Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta in their group.

The Three Lions will play the former two sides in March as they begin their campaign working towards next year's tournament in Germany.

Fernando Santos has been appointed Poland head coach until 2026 following the end of his tenure with Portugal.

Santos, 68, was in charge of the Selecao for over eight years and guided them to success at Euro 2016 and the inaugural Nations League in 2019.

Despite those trophies, Portugal fans had become frustrated with the style of football Santos' team played in recent years, with there being a perception of him underachieving given the wealth of talent at his disposal.

Santos' Portugal contract was not due to expire until after Euro 2024, but he was removed from his role after the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco last month.

Roberto Martinez has since replaced him.

Santos has not wasted much time in taking a new job either, however, with Poland his third international position in succession after also coaching Greece for four years prior to taking over Portugal.

He will be only Poland's third non-native head coach after Portuguese compatriot Paulo Sousa, who had a brief spell in charge in 2021, and Leo Beenhakker.

Polish Football Association (PZPN) president Cezary Kulesza had essentially confirmed the hiring on Monday when he posted a photo of himself with Santos, the caption announcing a press conference for the following day.

Santos' first goal will be to secure Poland's qualification for a fourth successive appearance at the European Championship, with the 2024 edition to take place in neighbouring Germany.

He will then be tasked with leading Poland to the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the United States, after which his contract is due to end.

Rudi Voller revealed his first reaction at being asked to become director of the Germany national team was: "Is there nobody else?"

The former Germany striker and head coach ultimately agreed to take on the job, filling the role previously held by Oliver Bierhoff until he departed after a second successive World Cup failure.

Voller's appointment was confirmed by the German Football Association (DFB), with head coach Hansi Flick among those who welcomed his arrival.

It came after deliberations from a DFB task force that included Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Oliver Kahn, Matthias Sammer and Oliver Mintzlaff, plus Voller himself.

Hans-Joachim Watzke offered 62-year-old Voller the job, and the vide-president may have been surprised by the initial response.

"First I asked: 'Is there nobody else?' I wasn't really convinced," said Voller. "In the end I let myself be convinced."

Watzke, speaking at a press conference on Friday said there were "arguments" between the pair to begin with.

"Then we found each other more and more. In the meantime, a friendship and a total relationship of trust have developed from it," Watzke said. "Rudi is actually ideal for this position."

Voller will begin work on February 1, the DFB said. He won 90 caps for West Germany and later Germany, playing a significant part in the Italia 90 World Cup triumph.

He went on to become head coach of the team that lost to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup final.

Voller has held various roles at Bayer Leverkusen but will direct his energy to the Germany job for now.

Germany will host the Euro 2024 finals, and bringing about success in that tournament will be the priority for Voller and Flick. Group-stage exits at the last two World Cups came either side of a Euro 2020 last-16 defeat to England, leaving the national team in the doldrums.

Voller said: "First of all, we have to lay the foundations for a successful home European Championship in 2024, supported by the whole of Germany. We have the players to do this.

"Out of these top players, we want to form a close-knit community, a strong-willed and likeable national team with the clear purpose of winning back the complete support of the fans. Above all, I would like to give plenty of support to head coach Hansi Flick and his coaching team."

Flick said of the appointment: "Rudi is a constant in German football. He has thrilled the fans in both his manner and his successes as a player, coach and general manager.

"At this point in time, with his experience with the national team and his years of work at Bayer Leverkusen, he is the right appointment for the task ahead. My coaching team and I are looking forward to working together with him towards the home European Championship next year."

Joshua Kimmich joked he may have to play until the age of 45 to lift an international trophy as he rued Germany's dire showing at the 2022 World Cup.  

Having been eliminated in the group stage at Russia 2018 and fallen to England in the last 16 at Euro 2020, Germany arrived in Qatar in the midst of a dismal run of tournament showings.

Hansi Flick's side were left with a familiar sinking feeling as they failed to recover from a shock defeat to Japan in their Group E opener, missing out on a place in the round of 16 despite taking four points from games against Spain and Costa Rica.

Bayern Munich midfielder Kimmich has now been a Germany regular at four major tournaments, and their shortcomings have left him with a "bitter" taste.

Kimmich is back in Doha for a mid-season training camp with Bayern, and asked in a press conference about Germany's chances of winning a major trophy as they look ahead to hosting Euro 2024, he said: "I just have to keep playing until I'm 45, then we will, hopefully."

Reflecting on Germany's World Cup exit, the 27-year-old added: "We had big objectives and wanted to reach something. 

"Eventually, we got knocked out early again. After 2018, the Euros and now another tournament like this, it is very bitter.

"You don't get that many chances with the national team, so this is not something you can just easily forget and move on from because it is what it is."

Kimmich believes Germany could have grown into the tournament had they qualified from their group, but he acknowledges other sides – including eventual champions Argentina – arrived in Qatar in better form.

"I thought that in 2018, many things weren't working, also internally on our team. Against England [at Euro 2020], it felt like a 50-50 game," Kimmich said.

"Last year, I don't want to say everything was great but in the end, those 30 minutes against Japan cost us the tournament. If we had drawn there, we would definitely have progressed.

"We were also missing self-confidence, especially when I look at other teams. Italy before the Euros had a long streak of unbeaten games, Argentina as well [before the World Cup].

"This is something we have to aim for. We can't just start with that once the tournament starts. We should start that in March. 

"We have to win our games, gain self-confidence and gain some self-understanding for our processes. Then we have to also bring that to the pitch and be able to rely on that."

Gareth Bale has brought an end to an illustrious playing career after announcing his retirement at the age of 33.

The forward hangs up his boots with a record of 226 goals in 664 games from spells with Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Los Angeles FC and on the international stage with Wales.

Initially a left-back, Bale was utilised further forward by Harry Redknapp at Spurs which sparked the start of an incredible transformation of the player – who would go on to make a significant impression at both club and international level.

Here, we've taken a look back at some of the finest moments from Bale's career.

San Siro statement

On October 20, 2010, Bale gave Tottenham fans memories to last a lifetime with a stunning hat-trick in a Champions League group stage fixture against Inter at San Siro in a year that marked Spurs' first-ever involvement in the competition.

Four goals down at half-time and down to 10 men, Bale enjoyed a meteoric display in the second period that, despite Spurs losing 4-3, still stands as one of the greatest individual performances in the competition's history.

A hat-trick saw the then 21-year-old display his raw pace and strength, tormenting opposing players Maicon and Javier Zanetti, propelling him into stardom and setting the path for a remarkable career.

World record transfer & Copa del Rey Clasico

A six-year spell in north London came to a close in 2013, when Real Madrid splashed a then world record fee of €100.8 million (£85.1m), a figure that surpassed the previous record set by Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Santiago Bernabeu from Manchester United.

Scoring on his debut against Villarreal, the first half of Bale's inaugural season in Spain was plagued by injuries and came alongside some media criticism – something that he would have to endure throughout the majority of his spell with Los Blancos.

A starring moment came in the 2014 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, however, outsprinting Marc Barta and even exiting the field on his way to goal before tucking home his first El Clasico strike.

Champions League glories

Just over a month after scoring in the Copa del Rey final, Bale was at it again in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid – putting his team ahead in the 110th minute of an eventual 4-1 victory to seal Madrid's 10th European Cup, the fabled La Decima.

In 2015-16, Bale won the Champions League for a second time, Atletico on the receiving end yet again, retaining the trophy the following season against Juventus in his home city of Cardiff, and winning a third in a row in 2017-18, where Bale added to his incredible highlight reel.

Against Liverpool in Kyiv, Bale scored an overhead kick from the edge of the 18-yard box to give Madrid a 2-1 advantage, then doubling his tally for the game with a speculative 30-yard effort that goalkeeper Loris Karius fumbled into the net.

Euro semi-finalists

While criticism at club level with Madrid was rife, Bale continued to be the leading man on the international stage for Wales and excelled for his nation at Euro 2016, the first time they had featured at the tournament.

Bale scored in all three of Wales' group-stage matches against Slovakia, England and Russia as Chris Coleman's side topped the group, with victories against Northern Ireland and Belgium to follow in the knockout stage.

An incredible tournament came to a close in the semi-finals with a 2-0 defeat to eventual champions Portugal but Wales returned five years later at the rearranged Euro 2020, where they reached the last 16.

MLS Cup victory

Bale's Madrid career ended in June 2022, fresh from picking up a fifth Champions League victory, as he completed a move to Major League Soccer to join Los Angeles FC.

LAFC won the Supporter's Shield in the regular season, though Bale was mostly unused, but he made his impact in the MLS Cup as his side won the title for the first time, having joined the league in 2017.

Bale came off the bench to score in the 128th minute against Philadelphia Union, sending the contest to a penalty shoot-out that LAFC subsequently won.

World Cup

After a 64-year absence, Wales returned to the World Cup stage after qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Qatar – which would prove to be Bale's last involvement as a player for either club or country.

An 82nd-minute penalty against the United States saw Bale score on his tournament debut as Wales begun the group stage with a point, but two stoppage-time goals in the second game gave Iran a shock victory.

Wales' campaign came to an early end with a 3-0 defeat to England in the final group match, marking a disappointing end to Bale's international career.  

Zinedine Zidane saw an obvious route back into coaching blocked off when France elected to stick with Didier Deschamps, raising the question of where the former Real Madrid boss could end up.

News came through on Saturday of a new deal for Deschamps that keeps him with France through to the 2026 World Cup.

Had Deschamps been unable to agree terms with the French Football Federation, or elected to walk away after his team's World Cup final penalty shoot-out defeat to Argentina, it seemed Zidane would have been the obvious choice as his successor.

Now, however, he must wait for the chance to coach his country, if it ever arrives, but Zidane should not give up hope of working at the top level in international football.

According to former Brazil playmaker Juninho Pernambucano, coaching the Selecao would be a "perfect" role for the 50-year-old former Ballon d'Or winner.

It has been a long-standing tradition for only Brazilians to be head coach of their national team, but ex-Lyon star Juninho thinks an exception should be made for Zidane.

Tite stepped down after Brazil's World Cup quarter-final exit, creating the current vacancy.

"Football is a democratic sport. Everyone can participate, although the priority will always be a coach from your country, who knows the local football," Juninho told French broadcaster RMC.

"But if today you don't have a name that is unanimous in Brazil, why not look outside? But you can't take someone outside because you're going to propose a huge contract."

Juninho floated the name of Fernando Diniz, who is head coach of Fluminense and "makes his team play in an incredible way".

Unlike Zidane, however, Diniz has yet to win major silverware as a coach.

"I see Zidane as the perfect coach for Brazil," Juninho added.

Speaking in October, Zidane, who has won three Champions League titles as a coach, said he was looking to get back into work.

He had been linked with Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, and club opportunities may be presented now it is clear he will not be stepping into the France job.

"Do I miss the coaching suit? No, I'm not far away," Zidane said. "We're waiting, we're waiting a little bit. Soon, soon."

Enzo Fernandez is the epitome of the type of footballer Germany must look to produce, according to RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl.

Benfica midfielder Fernandez had an outstanding World Cup for Argentina and has since been linked with a host of major European clubs, prompting speculation of a move in the January transfer window.

The 21-year-old was an all-action figure in the team that carried off the trophy, and Eberl said Fernandez and Rodrigo de Paul were players whose industry caught the eye.

Eberl, previously sporting director at Borussia Monchengladbach for 14 years, is considered one of German football's smartest thinkers.

He wants to see leaders produced and believes that character trait can be as significant as skill.

"We should have this heart for the cause more into focus again. We have recently moved away a bit from the German virtues such as robustness and assertiveness," Eberl said.

In an interview with Kicker magazine, Eberl spoke of the players who are approaching the end of their international careers.

With Germany hosting Euro 2024, this is a moment where the pressure is on to deliver a winning team, and the World Cup group-stage exit suggests coach Hansi Flick is a long way off establishing such a group.

Eberl said: "I think we have outstanding football players in Germany, but we also know that we will lose very important players like Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and Ilkay Gundogan.

"We need players like Enzo Fernandez or Rodrigo de Paul with the Argentines. Good footballers who act with total dedication and the ability to work as part of a team. We've lost a bit of that greed to win every single duel."

Among players from teams who reached the World Cup knockout stage and contested at least 60 duels, only Croatia's Mateo Kovacic in the select group of 16 bettered Fernandez's 59 per cent success rate (40 of 68 duels won).

Germany goalkeeper Neuer broke his leg in a skiing accident after the World Cup and will be sidelined for the rest of the season. He is 36, while his Bayern Munich team-mate Muller is 33 and Manchester City midfielder Gundogan is 32. They are in the twilight of their international careers, and the new generation has yet to show it can deliver the success Germany expects.

Eberl added: "Time is clearly against us, because we will only see in the next 10 to 15 years what we have missed.

"We have to get more boys into football again. And one question would be: does it make sense to have youth academies up to under-eight or should we leave the boys in their clubs and start with the junior academies later?"

Gareth Southgate's decision to remain as England manager has left his players "absolutely delighted", according to Kieran Trippier.

The former Middlesbrough boss considered walking away from the post he has held since 2016 after his side were edged out in the World Cup quarter-finals by France.

With a semi-final appearance at Russia 2018, and a runner-up finish at Euro 2020, there had been questions over whether Southgate could depart before the end of his contract, which runs through to Euro 2024.

The subsequent confirmation he is staying has been positively received by his players, with right-back Trippier indicating the 52-year-old has the full backing of the squad he took to Qatar 2022.

"We are all absolutely delighted about it," Trippier told the i newspaper. "From the moment he first took charge until now, we've taken great huge steps.

"Players want to play for England, they know what it means to put the shirt on. He's a great man manager, and I think all the lads would say that.

"Speaking for myself, I'm delighted that he's staying on, and I know that all the rest of the players are too."

After a difficult time that saw England relegated in the Nations League prior to the World Cup, Southgate initially said he required time to think over his future before recommitting.

Trippier believes England are continuing to progress, pointing to the spirited performance against France as a sign of growth.

"I think we have moved forward, for sure," the Newcastle United full-back added. "You see the freedom the players had to attack, and you just have to look at the France game. I thought we were brilliant.

"We have taken huge steps. It was another learning curve for us, but we move on now."

England will begin a possibly thorny Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with games against reigning European champions Italy and Ukraine in March.

France were above the clouds when the news came from Karim Benzema, and a thought came to mind: had he ever been more distant, figuratively or literally, from Les Bleus?

Retiring from international football at the age of 35 is the sort of thing that would not usually raise many eyebrows.

Yet Benzema's announcement, and its timing, caused a fresh quake, even as the tremors from Sunday's World Cup final were still being felt.

Why had it come the day after that momentous game? Was it coming today, win or lose yesterday? Why had Benzema interrupted his own birthday to release the news? Had he waited for the team flight to depart from Qatar before dropping his bombshell?

And why, almost above all, was the announcement so curt? Just 160 characters (in its original French format) to put the lid on a story of 97 caps and 37 goals for Les Bleus.

"I made the efforts and the mistakes it took to be where I am today and I'm proud of it! I have written my story and ours is ending," Benzema signed off.

He's taking the kids, the car and the dog, and the house is in his name, and he'll be back for his train set, don't you worry about that. Forget counselling, here's your divorce papers.

It felt like an entirely apt ending to what has been often an unhappy marriage between Benzema and the France national team.

There were 15 years and 77 days between his first and last caps, and his goals haul ranks fifth on the team's all-time list. He was man of the match against Spain in a Nations League final triumph last year, but it will be Benzema's near six-year absence from international duty that most likely defines him as a France player.

Because what else are you remembering? Sure, he was a starter at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, but France went out in the quarter-finals each time. And yes, there was certainly that Nations League win, but such a soupcon of success hardly satisfied Benzema's hunger for a proper platter.

He had been starved of the prospect of such a feed at Euro 2016, where France reached the final but lost out to Portugal, and again at the 2018 World Cup, where they beat Croatia in the final.

If it had come down to ability, Benzema would have been a part of those French feasts, but his exclusion from each squad, and his absence from national team service between the 4-0 win over Armenia on October 8, 2015, and the 3-0 victory against Wales on June 2, 2021, was not about Benzema's playing merits.

In November 2021, Benzema was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence and fined €75,000 after being found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena, a former international team-mate, in a case dating back to June 2015.

He always denied the accusations, having been accused of helping four other men blackmail Valbuena over an intimate video that had been taken from Valbuena's mobile phone. The other four defendants were also found guilty.

France froze Benzema out before any court verdict, excluding him essentially from the point of the allegations coming to light almost until the moment the verdicts were delivered.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet announced in November 2019 that Benzema would never play for France again.

"Karim Benzema is a very good player, I've never cast his qualities into doubt," said Le Graet. "On the contrary, he shows at Real Madrid that he is one of the best players in his position. But the France adventure is over."

This story could have been so different. Benzema captained France during a friendly against Brazil in March 2015, and during his absence from the national team his trophy tally at Madrid stacked up spectacularly.

He was dramatically recalled in time for the delayed Euro 2020 finals, which were held last year, saying he felt "so proud" to be back, with Didier Deschamps noting there had been long discussions that opened that door. France then exited at the last-16 stage, despite Benzema making a positive contribution on the pitch.

And now, barely 18 months later, the door that was pushed ajar has closed, with Benzema this time doing the shutting down of his international career, rather than the FFF.

His final cap came in a 1-0 home defeat to Croatia in the Nations League, back in June. He should have figured in France's World Cup squad, but when he aggravated a thigh injury on the eve of the tournament it was announced he would play no part in the Qatar 2022 campaign.

Then, when rumours swirled that Benzema might make a comeback in time for the final, Deschamps quashed the prospect.

"That doesn't interest me," Benzema subsequently posted on Instagram, a somewhat cryptic message. You took what you wanted from that remark, but it was hardly a good-luck message to the squad ahead of the final against Argentina.

So what happened for it to end this way, with seemingly little love on either side?

Former France defender Eric Di Meco told RMC Sport: "For me, it is a huge mess. A guy who plays so much time at Real, so strong, who is a Ballon d'Or winner, and who has never been able to express himself in the France team.

"There is his responsibility, and it is good that he says that there are mistakes. But for me, it's a mess at the level of the France team."

France will survive this, of course. They should have Kylian Mbappe around for the next decade, rewriting the record books.

But it takes an expert, perhaps, to judge what France have lost with news of Benzema's retirement.

Zinedine Zidane, who might yet be the next France coach, and possibly sooner rather than later, was asked after a Real Madrid game in December 2020 whether he considered Benzema to be the greatest French forward of all time.

"As far as I'm concerned, yes, he is," Zidane said. "He's showing it with all he's achieving. He's been at Real Madrid for a long time, he's played over 500 games, the goals... Really, the trophies he's won speak for themselves.

"For me, he's the best there is, no doubt about it."

After Zidane left Madrid, Benzema's performances went to still greater heights, hitting 44 goals in 46 games for Madrid last season, lifting the Champions League and LaLiga trophies as captain.

High up in the skies on Monday, the retirement news probably reached Deschamps and the returning France squad.

Benzema's tale of 'here's what you could have won' has arrived at a sad denouement, with Deschamps surely guessing he would face press interrogation about the striker on landing in Paris. And in that respect, plus ca change.

Gareth Southgate's decision to stay on as England manager has been welcomed by Gary Neville, who believes the Three Lions can win a tournament under his watch.

Southgate said he would take time to consider his future after England's 2-1 defeat against France in the World Cup quarter-finals last week.

That loss represented the latest in a series of near misses for Southgate's Three Lions, who squandered early leads in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the final of Euro 2020.

However, Sunday brought confirmation Southgate would remain in post until at least the end of Euro 2024 – his contract expires soon after that tournament – and Neville is pleased with the decision.

"I think it's the right decision," former England right-back Neville told Sky Sports News. "I felt it needed to be dealt with and the fact it has come out overnight is welcome. 

"It puts it to bed, it allows everyone to focus for the next 18 months. If there is going to be a change, it will be after the next tournament; it means a proper succession plan can be put in place.

"It didn't feel right, Gareth leaving, and it also didn't feel like either he or the FA had got anything lined up, either in his own career or for the FA to replace Gareth.

"We've played well in this tournament, we played well against France, I thought we were the better team on the night and that happens in football sometimes.

"I know we always want an autopsy, a scapegoat, someone to blame, but it doesn't really exist for me in this tournament. I think the players, manager and coaches have handled themselves pretty well." 

England won praise for adopting a more positive approach in Qatar than at previous tournaments, with their tally of 13 goals in this campaign their highest at any World Cup or European Championship.

While some have suggested England need an experienced winner to get them over the line, Neville feels the Three Lions have made progress and could win a trophy under Southgate.

"This idea they're mutually exclusive and you can't have what Gareth's brought – which is respect, integrity, good football, good performances – and then win, I don't go along with that," Neville said. "This idea that Gareth Southgate can't win a tournament with England, I don't buy into it.

"We brought in Sven-Goran Eriksson, who was apparently a hard winner, and so was Fabio Capello, coaches who had success at club level, and they didn't deliver anything like what Gareth has delivered with England. Let's put that to bed.

"Over the last 10 years, we've wanted a better team, a more technical team, better performances, getting to the latter stages of competitions, keeping possession... Gareth has done all those things.

"He has made us feel better about playing for England again, getting our players and our game respected around the world. We're in a good place. 

"With the women's success [at Euro 2022], with the youth team success, England have had a really good 10 years. 

"This idea we need to bring in this hard-nosed, killer winner and all of a sudden we'll be okay, I don't buy into it. I played with Southgate, I've known him a long time – he desperately wants to win."

Gareth Southgate will stay on as England manager through Euro 2024, ending speculation over his future following the Three Lions' quarter-final exit from the World Cup.

Southgate, who took charge of England in 2016, saw his side eliminated at Qatar 2022 after a 2-1 loss to France in the last eight.

Having previously led England to a semi-final finish at Russia 2018 and the final of Euro 2020, speculation had been rife over whether Southgate would step away from the role.

The 52-year-old said immediately after the France game he would take some time to consider his future.

But the Football Association has now confirmed Southgate will remain in his post for the European Championship in Germany in 18 months' time.

"We are delighted to confirm that Gareth Southgate is continuing as England manager and will lead our Euro 2024 campaign," the FA said in a statement on Sunday.

"Gareth and [assistant manager] Steve Holland have always had our full support, and our planning for the Euros starts now."

Southgate's contract, which he signed last year, expires in December 2024.

England's next match is in Euro 2024 qualifying in March, facing Italy in a repeat of the previous European Championship final.

Although Southgate heads into that qualification campaign still without major silverware, he has overseen more tournament wins than any other England manager.

Gareth Southgate will stay on as England manager through Euro 2024, ending speculation over his future following the Three Lions' quarter-final exit from the World Cup.

Luka Modric has decided to play on for Croatia after the veteran captain helped his team to bronze at the Qatar World Cup.

That could mean Modric remains at the heart of the Croatia midfield at Euro 2024, by which time he will be approaching his 39th birthday.

Real Madrid playmaker Modric is not looking quite that far ahead for now, but crucially he has not ruled out extending his career for his country through to that point.

The first step for Modric will be a tilt with his country at the Nations League Finals in the Netherlands next year, with Croatia joined in that four-team tournament by the hosts, plus Italy and Spain.

Thrilled with another World Cup medal, after a silver four years ago in Russia, Modric told beIN SPORTS: "This medal is very important for us, for me, for Croatia as a national team and as a country.

"We confirm with this medal that Croatia is playing an important role in the world of football, and we are leaving Qatar as winners.

"About my future, I don't know if I will be at the Euros in Germany. I need to go step by step.

"I'm enjoying the national team, I feel happy, I still think I can perform on a high level, and I want to continue at least until the Nations League, and then after there'll be more time to think about the Euros.

"But now it's go step by step and continue at least until the Nations League, and after we will see."

There had been concern in some quarters that Modric would retire from international football after this World Cup, but coach Zlatko Dalic expressed optimism he would play on through to the 2024 European finals in Germany.

Now, after Saturday's 2-1 win over Morocco in the third-place play-off, Dalic's wish is close to becoming a reality.

Croatia have Wales, Armenia, Turkey and Latvia in their Euro 2024 qualifying group, and they would be strongly favoured to come through that and reach the finals.

It remains to be seen whether Dejan Lovren plays on, with the 33-year-old centre-back left with some thinking to do about his own future.

Lovren said getting a World Cup bronze was "something special" and paid tribute to Modric, his long-time colleague in the national team.

"I get emotional, because it's for us the last World Cup, and I lived so many great memories with him," Lovren said.

He said it was "an honour" to play in the company of such a top performer, with Modric having won the Ballon d'Or award after Croatia's run to the 2018 World Cup final.

Lovren even said Modric had proven himself a superior performer to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the latter stages of World Cups.

Messi may have something to say about that after Sunday's final, when Argentina take on France.

"He's better than them in these moments," Lovren said of Modric. "There's not too many players who took the silver and the bronze.

"He can be proud and he knows that. He's a special guy."

As for his own future, with a view to the next Euros, former Liverpool defender Lovren said: "I wish I can tell you what will happen in two years. I'm just enjoying this moment, and we will see."

Resignation never entered Hansi Flick's thoughts following Germany's early World Cup exit, as the coach lamented "unacceptable" mistakes.

A premature departure from Qatar means four-time champions Germany have suffered back-to-back group-stage exits at the World Cup, having also been eliminated early in Russia four years ago.

A 2-1 defeat to Japan in their opening match was followed by a 1-1 draw against Spain, while a 4-2 win over Costa Rica in their final Group E game was not enough.

Despite those shortcomings, Flick's focus remained on his post and he says the idea of leaving was never considered.

"No. It was never an issue for me to resign," he told SID.

"I am absolutely convinced. And the communication and cooperation with Bernd Neuendorf and [Hans-Joachim] Watzke are very good, we have a good understanding."

Germany's exit from the competition came despite having an expected goals (xG) of 10.4 from the group stages, higher than any other side, though only six goals were scored from 69 shots – showing Flick where improvements are needed.

"If you put the data on top of that, we were one of the teams that created the most scoring chances. But we lacked efficiency," he added.

"Defensively it was only average, so we didn't have enough compactness. The opponents took advantage of this, they had the efficiency that we lacked.

"We didn't have the consistency over 90 minutes to pull through our match plan 100 percent. But we need that for the future, which is enormously important.

"Mistakes like the last 30 minutes against Japan are unacceptable at this level."

Germany will now look to build towards Euro 2024, which they are hosting, and Flick knows exactly what his side need to work on.

"We have to generate enthusiasm again. Every player and every coach wants to be supported by the fans," he added.

"But we know that the general mood, which was depressed by the last tournaments anyway, was not improved by our performance in Qatar.

"We want to change that. We want to show attractive football and prove to the fans: 'we get it'.

"We're proud to be able to play for Germany and we're looking forward to the European Championships at home. Everyone has to give their all to show top performance in every game."

As the host nation, Germany's spot at the 2024 European Championship is already secure, with friendlies likely to be played in March's international break.

Zlatko Dalic is optimistic Luka Modric will play for Croatia at Euro 2024.

Modric won the Ballon d'Or after leading Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia four years ago, and the Real Madrid star enjoyed another fine tournament as Dalic's men reached the final four in Qatar.

However, the 37-year-old was unable to inspire his team to a semi-final victory over Argentina on Tuesday, leading to suggestions he may retire from the international game.

Modric refused to give anything away regarding his future after the defeat, and Dalic is hopeful he will stay on for at least another 18 months.

"I hope that he [Modric] will be there [at Euro 2024]," Dalic said. "I am looking forward to it.

"It is not certain that he will there be and he will personally decide how he feels. I personally feel that he will be, but it ultimately is his decision."

Croatia started their World Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against Morocco in Group F, and they face the African side again in Saturday's bronze-medal match.

Walid Regragui's outfit have been the surprise package of the tournament, with Dalic comparing their stunning run to Croatia's surge to the 2018 final.

"Morocco remind me of us four and a half years ago," he said. "Nobody expected them to be this high, but they got to where they are with their quality and emotions.

"From game to game, they only grew and I think we are in for a much more difficult match than the one from the opening group.

"We have full and great respect for them. They show unity and are not afraid of anyone."

Morocco captured the imagination of football fans around the world during their World Cup campaign, which saw them stun Belgium, Spain and Portugal.

They suffered a 2-0 defeat to France in the semi-final on Wednesday and boss Regragui is struggling to get excited about the third-place play-off.

"It is a little bit difficult," he said. "It is very complicated for both teams. You are so disappointed; you have just lost a semi-final and then two days later you have to go back out there.

"It is like the booby prize. I'm sorry for speaking like this. I understand it should be important, I understand it is better to finish third than fourth, but, for me, my takeaway is just that we didn't get to the final.

"Even if we did get to the final, and I finished second, I would be saying the same thing to you.

"We want to be as positive as possible, especially for our fans. Finishing third would be great for our image."

Page 1 of 45
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.