Pepe says Cristiano Ronaldo is "fine" after his emotional response to Portugal's shock defeat to Morocco in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

Ronaldo was left out of the starting line-up by head coach Fernando Santos for the second straight game after his angry reaction to being substituted against South Korea in the final group match.

Youssef En-Nesyri scored a towering header to give Morocco the lead, and despite Ronaldo's introduction shortly after half-time, Portugal were unable to find an equaliser as they were dumped out of the tournament. 

The loss elicited an emotional reaction from Ronaldo as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner left the field in tears, before a social media post on Sunday saw him accept his "most ambitious dream" of winning a World Cup with Portugal was over.

While Ronaldo held off from making a definitive call on his international future, Pepe feels the forward should be appreciated for his efforts in a Portugal shirt whatever he decides to do.

"Ronaldo is fine," Pepe told reporters after arriving back in Lisbon. "He's our Portuguese flag. He reaches all parts of the world.

"He gave us his contribution when he was called. We have to thank him and all his team-mates who did their best to be available for the coach."

Despite Portugal head coach Fernando Santos' contract running until 2024, it is rumoured he may step down after this World Cup disappointment.

Asked about Santos' future, Pepe explained: "I'm a player, I don't have to talk about it. I'm not going to go down that path.

"Unfortunately, we didn't achieve the goal we wanted. We tried to give everything to honour our country.

"It's football. There are these things. We have to learn from what happened so that the future is better for us."

Portugal's next match is against Liechtenstein in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier on March 23.

Cristiano Ronaldo's farewell to the World Cup was followed by tributes from sporting superstars Pele, Kylian Mbappe and LeBron James.

The Portugal captain said his dream of winning the trophy was over, after his fifth World Cup ended with a quarter-final defeat to Morocco.

Now 37, Ronaldo has conceded the Qatar 2022 tournament was his last World Cup, although he has left the door open for now on playing on in the short term.

Ronaldo lost his place in the side and was a second-half substitute in the last-16 win over Switzerland and also the Morocco game.

He became the first player to score in five separate World Cups, having netted in each edition since 2006, and is also now the joint most-capped player and highest goalscorer in international football history.

However, he never scored in a game in the knockout stages of the World Cup, a blip on an otherwise remarkably successful career.

There was a rapid reaction to an emotional message from Ronaldo on Instagram, where he described the goal of World Cup glory as "the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career".

NBA great James said Ronaldo was a "LEGEND!!", with the Los Angeles Lakers star adding a salute, thank-you and crown emoji to his message.

Three-time World Cup winner Pele, paying close attention to the tournament from his hospital bed in Brazil, wrote: "Thanks for making us smile my friend."

Mbappe, who helped France beat England 2-1 on Saturday to reach the semi-finals, replied to Ronaldo with three emojis. Those were of a goat, referencing Ronaldo's 'greatest of all time' credentials, plus hands together to signal his thanks, and a crown.

Ronaldo's recent interviewer and cheerleader, British journalist Piers Morgan, sent a message containing six sets of clapping hands.

Former Brazil striker Pato wrote to Ronaldo: "You are an example! You inspire people and children around the world. The same ones that criticise you are the ones who want the same success as you. You are a giant! Congratulations."

Jesse Lingard, Ronaldo's former Manchester United team-mate, seemingly got his acronyms muddled, however, as he posted "GAOT".

Cristiano Ronaldo accepts his "most ambitious dream" of winning the World Cup with Portugal is over, but has held off from making a definitive call over his international future.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo left the field in tears on Saturday following Portugal's shock 1-0 quarter-final loss to Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium.

The 37-year-old made history in Qatar by becoming the first player to score in five separate World Cups, having netted in each edition since 2006.

However, that landmark goal – a penalty against Ghana in Portugal's opening group match – proved a rare high point in a tournament that ended in frustration and heartbreak.

Ronaldo lost his place in the side and was a second-half substitute in the last-16 win over Switzerland and quarter-final loss to Morocco.

He did not discuss his future after the match, but the free agent took to social media on Sunday to confirm he will not take part in another World Cup.

"Winning a World Cup for Portugal was the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career," he posted on Instagram. 

"Fortunately, I won many titles of international dimension, including for Portugal, but putting the name of our country on the highest level in the world was my biggest dream.

"I fought for it. I fought hard for this dream. In the five tournaments I scored in over 16 years, alongside great players and supported by millions of people, I gave my all. 

"I left everything on the field. I never turned my face to the fight and I never gave up on that dream. Unfortunately, yesterday the dream ended." 

Ronaldo is both Portugal's most-capped player (196) and record all-time goalscorer (118).

He is currently without a club after having his contract with Manchester United terminated by mutual consent last month.

There had been suggestions he would call time on his international career after Qatar 2022, but the former Real Madrid man will wait before making a formal decision.

"It is not worth reacting hot," he said. "Much has been said, much has been written, much has been speculated, but my dedication to Portugal has not changed for an instant. 

"I was always one more person fighting for everyone's goal and I would never turn my back on my team-mates and my country.

"For now, there's not much more to say. Thank you, Portugal. Thank you, Qatar. The dream was beautiful while it lasted.

"Now, it's time to be a good advisor and allow each one to draw their own conclusions."

While Ronaldo fell short in his bid to win the World Cup with Portugal, he played a part in his nation's Euro 2016 triumph and their Nations League success three years ago.

Eddie Jones says his next step will be "the right job at the right time" following his England exit, as rumours of a return to the Australia national set-up rumble on.

The coach was dismissed on the back of a frustrating 2022, less than a year out from the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

As England move to find his successor, with Leicester Tigers boss Steve Borthwick considered the frontrunner, talk has swirled over Jones potentially linking up with the Wallabies.

The 62-year-old however is happy to wait on his future, having also mooted a cross-code switch to rugby league, and suggests he will not rush into a decision.

"Everyone knows I love a scrap, and I'm up for whatever challenge is next," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I'm open to looking at everything in rugby, and I've made no secret of my wish to give the NRL a go, too.

"Nothing is off the table. Nothing. It's all about the right job at the right time, and I'll look at it all."

Reflecting on his departure, Jones acknowledged his pride for his England achievements, while stressing he will not adapt to please his cynics.

"In this job I've learnt it's impossible to avoid being moved on," he added. "It comes with the gig. But I'm proud of what we accomplished in my time here, and I wish I had the opportunity to finish what I started.

"All the critics are having their say. My only response is that I have coached a certain way my whole career and I'm happy with that. I'm not about to change anything."

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan confirmed he had contacted Jones on Saturday, but refused to disclose what he had discussed with him.

Jones previously led his home country between 2001 and 2005, and was in charge when they lost the 2003 Rugby World Cup final to England.

Ben White has resumed training with Arsenal following his early departure from England's World Cup camp in Qatar.

The 25-year-old returned home on November 30 "for personal reasons" without playing a single minute in any of England's three group matches.

Widespread reports suggested White's premature exit from England's Al Wakrah headquarters came after a falling out with assistant manager Steve Holland.

Commenting on those rumours earlier this week, Southgate said: "The article written used words like 'alleged', so whoever wrote it didn't feel strongly enough it was correct.

"Ben left for personal reasons. We made that very clear and I think especially in this day and age it is very important that a situation like that is respected."

England went on to beat Senegal 3-0 in the last 16 but were eliminated by France at the quarter-final stage on Saturday with a 2-1 defeat.

A day on from the Three Lions' tournament exit, White took part in a training session with Arsenal at their warm-weather camp in Dubai.

White has started all 14 Premier League games this season for leaders Arsenal, who resume their campaign against West Ham on Boxing Day.

Ghana midfielder Thomas Partey and United States goalkeeper Matt Turner also resumed training with Mikel Arteta's side on Sunday following their own World Cup exits.

Arsenal have friendlies with Serie A sides Milan and Juventus to come before facing London rivals West Ham.

England's World Cup exit came despite the Three Lions outperforming every other side at the tournament, says Jamie Carragher, who felt Gareth Southgate could have been "braver" in Saturday's defeat to France.

Harry Kane scored a penalty and missed another as England suffered more quarter-final heartache, despite outplaying the world champions for long periods at Al Bayt stadium.

Despite amassing double the number of shots (16 to eight) and expected goals (2.41 to 1.01) than France, England succumbed to their seventh World Cup quarter-final elimination – a tournament record.

Former Three Lions defender Carragher was present for one of those exits, missing a penalty in a 2006 shoot-out loss to Portugal, but he believes Southgate's men played at a higher level than past England sides.

Recounting England's previous World Cup exits in a column for The Telegraph, Carragher wrote: "The biggest compliment I can pay Southgate's side is that they do not belong with such company. 

"This England team was no underdog going toe-to-toe with the world champions. This England team leaves the tournament having played better than any side in Qatar over their five games, a genuine contender that could and arguably should have gone all the way.

"France won on the night because of moments – a stunning goal from distance and a cross from Antoine Griezmann that would have troubled any defence in the world.

"Then England missed a penalty, knowing that had Harry Kane equalised for a second time, it would have carried positive momentum into extra time."

While praising the quality of England's displays in Qatar, Carragher said Southgate should have made better use of his squad when Saturday's game was poised at 1-1 in the second half.

"When you lose a game there's always things you look back on and think you could have done differently," he told Sky Sports.

"That's easy to say after the event, but I did feel before the game that England had to be brave from the bench. I just felt that in the period between the two goals, we could have been braver from the bench.

"With five substitutions, it's a big part of a manager's role to try to influence or change a game. I know Gareth's been criticised for that in the past, after the games against Croatia [in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals] and Italy [in the Euro 2020 final].

"Both those sides, if we're being totally honest, were better than us. I don't think France were better than us, and I felt the change should have been to try to go and win the game.

"England certainly had the strongest bench in the competition, I firmly believe that, and I just think we could have been a little bit more proactive in that period where it was 1-1 and we were playing really well."

Aurelien Tchouameni warned "a group is being born" after France edged out England 2-1 to reach the World Cup semi-finals.

Les Bleus are the first reigning champions to reach the last four since Brazil in 1998, as Olivier Giroud settled a tight affair with 12 minutes remaining after a Harry Kane penalty cancelled out Tchouameni's earlier 25-yard effort at Al Bayt Stadium.

Didier Deschamps' side suffered a late scare when England were awarded a second spot-kick six minutes from time, only for Kane to blaze high over Hugo Lloris' goal.

Tchouameni told beIN SPORTS: "We are getting stronger. A group is being born, we feel good, we must continue.

"We suffered – it's the World Cup, we played a very good English team. We managed to win, we are happy."

Meanwhile, Adrien Rabiot hailed the togetherness in the France group, with Morocco up next in the last four on Wednesday.

"[I feel] pride, proud of this team, this group," the midfielder said. "There is joy. We have suffered, we have shown that we can be united and in solidarity.

"We were warned and prepared, we knew they would be committed. We responded with our weapons. It's an incredible moment. It is a moment of communion, as from the beginning, that carries us.

"More and more people are behind us and believe in it. We feel that there is something to be done. Even when we are in trouble, nothing can happen to us."

Pepe has slammed referee Facundo Tello following Portugal's World Cup exit, claiming "it is unacceptable for an Argentine to referee the game."

Fernando Santos' side bowed out in the quarter-finals after becoming Morocco's latest victims; Youssef En-Nesyri's first-half header enough to seal a 1-0 win at Al Thumama Stadium.

The Atlas Lions, who have also beaten Belgium and Spain in Qatar, are the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals, though Pepe was left enraged by the performance of Argentine referee Tello.

This comes less than 24 hours after Lionel Messi heavily criticised Spanish official Antonio Mateu Lahoz following Argentina's shoot-out victory over the Netherlands.

"It is unacceptable for an Argentine to referee the game. I am very sad," he said in quotes reported by O Jogo. 

"There were 90 minutes in which they always wanted to stop our game with little fouls - the referee did not give a yellow card, did not call attention. 

"After yesterday, with Messi talking, an Argentinian comes and whistles. In the second half, nothing was played, there were only eight [additional] minutes. 

"We were always on top. They were lucky enough to score a goal. We worked well and did a lot to win the game."

However, Santos refused to blame Portugal's elimination on Tello, insisting the official did not have a negative influence on his nation's display.

"He could have called fouls in a few plays, but generally speaking, I do not think so," the head coach said during his post-match press conference.

"I think we could have done more, and we failed to do so. I don't think we should blame the referee, it does not make sense. There were a few plays, but honestly, I do not think that's the way to see it."

Brazil's World Cup shoot-out defeat by Croatia brought back memories of Italy's loss to the Selecao on penalties in the 1994 final for former Azzurri boss Arrigo Sacchi.

The five-time champions crashed out in the quarter-finals, as the 2018 finalists held their nerve from 12 yards to prevail 4-2 following a 1-1 draw at Education City Stadium.

Sacchi oversaw Italy's run to the 1994 showpiece at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, where Brazil denied them glory on penalties with Franco Baresi and Roberto Baggio notably shooting over the crossbar.

The 76-year-old Sacchi empathises with Tite's side, but also saluted the desire demonstrated by Croatia.

"The Croatians never gave up and hid the ball from the Brazilians," he wrote in his La Gazzetta Dello Sport column. "They were more determined than the Brazilians, who will now understand how much it hurts to lose on penalties.

"Unfortunately, I know something about it and I confess that, by watching the match on TV, I thought about the emotions and feelings of Pasadena in 1994."

Sacchi also offered his thoughts on Argentina's victory over the Netherlands, criticising La Albiceleste's approach after surrendering a 2-0 lead before recovering to prevail on penalties.

"I didn't see much quality in the first half - only when [Lionel] Messi had the ball, the lights turned on," he continued.

"Nobody wanted to take risks with five defenders for Argentina and five for the Netherlands. Van Gaal's teams are usually attacking-minded, but the Dutch were more defensive in this World Cup.

"When Argentina went 2-0 up, Van Gaal threw in his tall strikers, adding centimetres and battling physically. A right move, but Argentina made an unforgivable error. They should not have allowed the Dutch to go close to the goal, and keep a high line."

Morocco became the first African team ever to reach a World Cup semi-final as the Atlas Lions continued their fairytale run in Qatar with a 1-0 win over Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday.

Walid Regragui's side saw off Spain on penalties in the last 16, but this was even more impressive and notable as Morocco ensured they will go where no other African nation has ventured before.

Youssef En-Nesyri had the honour of scoring what will go down as one of the most important goals in the history of African football as he powered in a header just before the break.

Portugal piled pressure on for much of the second half, introducing the again-benched Cristiano Ronaldo, but their efforts fell short much to the delight of the Morocco-dominated crowd.

Fernando Santos' side unsurprisingly enjoyed early control, but clear opportunities were non-existent.

Encouraged, Morocco looked dangerous on the break and the contest livened up after the half-hour mark – Selim Amallah blazed over from Romain Saiss' cut-back and the lively Sofiane Boufal shot at Diogo Costa from 25 yards.

As such, the Atlas Lions were good value for the lead when En-Nesyri towered above Costa to head in Yahya Attiat-Allah's cross after 42 minutes.

Portugal looked for a response.

Bruno Fernandes' dipping right-wing volley struck the crossbar, and he was subsequently denied a penalty after claiming to be tugged back in the box.

Ronaldo's introduction – just before Azzedine Ounahi wasted a decent chance – effectively ushered in complete Portugal control.

But Portugal created precious little until crucial late Yassine Bounou saves from Joao Felix and Ronaldo, as Morocco valiantly held on for another momentous result despite substitute Walid Cheddira's stoppage-time dismissal for a second booking.

Argentina and the Netherlands are being investigated by FIFA following Friday's fiery World Cup quarter-final.

South American champions Argentina prevailed 4-3 on penalties at Lusail Stadium, having earlier squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 as the game went the distance.

Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz issued 15 cards to players who played a part in the game – the most in World Cup history, overtaking Cameroon versus Germany in 2002 (14).

Netherlands defender Denzel Dumfries was also shown a red card after the match.

There was a big flashpoint in the 89th minute when Leandro Paredes committed a foul on Nathan Ake and then booted the ball into the Netherlands' dugout.

Both sets of players and coaching staff squared off, though tensions again threatened to boil over in extra-time and also in the subsequent penalty shoot-out.

FIFA announced in a statement on Saturday that proceedings have been opened against the Argentinian Football Association and the Dutch Football Association.

The charge relates to a possible breach of article 12 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code – the misconduct of players and officials.

Lionel Scaloni's side are also being investigated over an additional potential breach of article 16, which relates to order and security at matches.

Argentina have won the most penalty shoot-outs of any side in World Cup history (five out of six), while only Spain have lost more than the Netherlands (one win from four).

Speaking after the game, Argentina superstar Lionel Messi criticised Spanish official Lahoz over his handling of the contest.

"I don't want to talk about the referee, because you can get a suspension, but people saw what happened," he said. 

"FIFA have to look at that, they can't put in a referee who isn't up to the job at this stage."

Defenders Gonzalo Montiel and Marcos Acuna were among the players booked and will now serve a suspension in Tuesday's semi-final against Brazil's conquerors Croatia.

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.

Cristiano Ronaldo was named on Portugal's bench again as Fernando Santos stuck with Goncalo Ramos for the World Cup quarter-final against Morocco.

Ronaldo was dropped to the bench for Portugal's last-16 tie with Switzerland on Tuesday, and Santos' decision was rewarded as his side cruised to a 6-1 victory.

Benfica striker Ramos, Ronaldo's replacement in the starting XI, repaid his coach's faith by scoring a hat-trick and getting an assist, and he retained his place in the team on Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium.

Santos made just one change to the team that beat Switzerland, bringing in Ruben Neves for William Carvalho in midfield.

That meant Manchester City's Joao Cancelo also remained on the bench, with Diogo Dalot preferred at right-back and Raphael Guerreiro keeping his place on the left.

Morocco coach Walid Regragui was forced into two changes, with key defenders Noussair Mazraoui and Nayef Aguerd unavailable. Yahia Attiyat Allah and Jawad El Yamiq came in for the duo.

The Atlas Lions are appearing in the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time, while they are just the fourth African side to reach the last eight in the tournament's history.

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."

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