Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has hailed England midfielder Jordan Henderson for his "immaculate" World Cup performances.

Henderson was not named in the starting line-up for the Three Lions' opening two group games, but has made a big impression after featuring from the outset in the Group B closer against Wales and the last-16 triumph over Senegal.

The Liverpool midfielder scored the opener against Senegal, becoming his country's second-oldest scorer in the finals aged 32 years and 170 days, after Tom Finney against USSR in 1958 - at 36 years and 64 days.

Gerrard has been impressed with his former Reds team-mate's leadership qualities and believes his contribution can sometimes be undervalued.

"Obviously being an England fan I'm following England and Jordan from a personal point of view. I think he's been immaculate, both on and off the pitch," Gerrard told Liverpoolfc.com.

"His last performance he was obviously man of the match, very well deserved, and he shut a few critics up that for some reason seem to point fingers at Jordan. 

"Being a midfielder, being around Jordan on the daily basis, to see the sacrifices, his dedication and what he puts into his own preparation, the hard work that he puts in, I'm not surprised that he's putting in this level of performance and I'm delighted for him. 

"But it seems as if a lot of people outside the LFC family don't need an invite to point a finger towards him so I'm delighted that he has shut a few up."

Asked what attributes Henderson brings to the England midfield, Gerrard added: "Experience would be the most important thing. 

"I think England have got a lot of young, exciting talent, but you need experienced players that positionally give these younger players licence to go and cause a lot of damage.

"I think Jordan, what he's found in that performance is a typical Jordan Henderson performance where he is solid, his A to Bs are all really good, positionally he is bang on, but at the right time he joins in and gets himself forward. 

"He's a really strong runner and his timing for the goal and his execution of the goal was world-class and it was the perfect all-round performance, so credit to him."

Henderson will be hoping to start again alongside Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice in midfield when England take on France in a mouthwatering quarter-final on Saturday.

Lionel Messi does not need to win a World Cup to cement his legacy, Adlene Guedioura told Stats Perform.

Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has landed eight league titles and four Champions League trophies during a glittering club career.

But international success with Argentina has largely eluded Messi, though he did lift the Copa America last year having finished a runner-up three times previously.

Messi came close to winning the World Cup in 2014, but La Albiceleste suffered final heartbreak as Mario Gotze scored an extra-time winner.

The 35-year-old's failure to bring home international football's top prize has been cited by some as harming his legacy in comparison to the likes of Pele and compatriot Diego Maradona.

The ongoing tournament in Qatar could represent Messi's final chance to win the World Cup, with his Argentina side set to face the Netherlands in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Guedioura believes even if Argentina fail in their quest to win a third World Cup in Qatar, Messi's legacy will not be tainted.

Asked if he feels the potential gap in Messi's trophy cabinet will impact how he is remembered, the former Algeria midfielder told Stats Perform: "Not at all. We've enjoyed him for such a long time with [Cristiano] Ronaldo.

"I think, of course, a title with Argentina will put him on the top of everything. But watching him in Barcelona and with Paris Saint-Germain is something special."

Argentina came into the tournament on a run of 36 matches unbeaten, but that streak came to a stunning end when they were beaten 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in their World Cup opener.

La Albiceleste have steadied the ship, though, finishing top of Group C and beating Australia in the round of 16 to set up the meeting with the Netherlands.

Despite Argentina's improvement, Guedioura highlighted rivals Brazil as the team more likely to take the trophy back to South America, explaining: "Argentina started poorly with Saudi Arabia.

"Maybe, it was a little accident or a little warning for them. But compared to Brazil, I feel Brazil they are stronger than Argentina."

Guedioura played for Algeria at the 2010 World Cup, and though his nation failed to qualify this year, fellow African sides Senegal and Morocco made it to the knockout stages, with the latter set to face Portugal in the last eight.

The Al-Duhail midfielder thinks African nations pull together at tournaments in a way that is not replicated across other regions of the world. "This is maybe a difference when you have England or Scotland," he observed.

"When Scotland is not qualified, it's like they don't want England to do well. For us, I don't think it's like this. Any team that does well, all of Africa support them because they are the hope for the country and for the continent really."

Cristiano Ronaldo's acrimonious Manchester United exit "won't affect" his legacy at Old Trafford, former team-mate Diego Forlan told Stats Perform.

United announced earlier this month they had reached a mutual agreement with Ronaldo to terminate his contract with immediate effect, following a controversial interview prior to the World Cup.

The Portugal captain, who scored 145 goals in 346 appearances for the club, did not hold back with his array of criticisms, including ones directed towards manager Erik ten Hag, and it became apparent he was on borrowed time at Old Trafford.

Forlan played alongside Ronaldo during the latter's debut season with the Red Devils in 2003-04, and the ex-Uruguay forward was disappointed at the nature of his former team-mate's departure.

"It won't affect [his legacy], but obviously it wasn't the best [exit]," he said. "The truth is that it was a pity, because we are talking about one of the best players in history, a great professional and a club that is an example.

"The fact that it's broken, it is a real shame. Because he, like other great footballers that were players at the club, were ambassadors of the club itself.

"In general, these kind of players have the chance to play where they want, but maybe not where they would prefer now, because of their age.

"Some clubs would love to have them, but today it is more difficult because clubs look more at numbers and age, and the teams start taking other decisions. But will have to see what motivates him, what he likes and which options of different clubs will be available for him." 

Controversy has followed Ronaldo to the World Cup, where Portugal were forced to deny reports he had quit the squad after being dropped to the bench for the thumping 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last 16.

That came after head coach Fernando Santos criticised his reaction to being substituted against South Korea, and it remains to be seen if Ronaldo will feature in their quarter-final showdown with Morocco on Saturday.

This is likely to be the 37-year-old's swansong at the finals, while the same can be said of long-time rival Lionel Messi, with Argentina set to face the Netherlands in the last eight.

Should this be the last stand for both players on the world's biggest stage, Forlan believes seeing either of them lift the trophy would provide a fitting ending to their international careers.

"It is what they are looking for," he added. "They have so many titles, many of them repeated many times, that it would be the grand finale, to end with a World Cup."

The former Uruguay captain, who was the joint-top scorer as La Celeste reached the 2010 semi-finals, is backing leading scorer Kylian Mbappe to go on and land the Golden Boot.

 "[The Golden Boot race] will depend on the team, how far it goes," he said. "If France has the chance to reach the final, I think that Mbappe has enough goals to be able to win the Golden Boot." 

Cristiano Ronaldo must understand "time passes for everyone" and accept he may no longer be a regular pick for Portugal, former Brazil defender Junior has told Stats Perform.

Free agent Ronaldo has fallen out of favour at club and now international level, having been named among the substitutes for Portugal's 6-1 win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is also currently without a club after his contract with Manchester United, where he struggled for playing time, was terminated by mutual consent.

Ronaldo's replacement, Benfica youngster Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick against Switzerland and is now set to keep his place for Saturday's quarter-final tie with Morocco.

Junior, who earned 74 caps for Brazil and appeared at two World Cups, believes Portugal boss Fernando Santos deserves praise for his huge selection call.

"You need to have the courage to put Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench and the coach did," Junior said.

"And there was the answer he got - it was Goncalo Ramos scoring three goals. It's not just for the goals, but for his collective behaviour, I'm talking about the game as a whole.

"Time passes for everyone. Naturally, Cristiano will understand this in the best way so that he can continue to have the great respect that the group has for him. 

"He is the main player of the Portuguese national team for the last 10 years. Just look at everything the Portuguese team did before and after. But time passes for everyone."

Portugal are joined in the last eight of Qatar 2022 by next opponents Morocco, Argentina, the Netherlands, Brazil, Croatia, France and England.

Record five-time champions Brazil, who beat South Korea 4-1 in the last 16, remain the favourites of many to end their 20-year drought and lift the trophy once again.

Richarlison has arguably been Brazil's best player so far in Qatar, the Tottenham man's three goals placing him joint-second in the goalscoring charts behind Kylian Mbappe.

He has led the line in three of Brazil's four games, the exception being the loss to Cameroon when Tite heavily rotated, and Junior has been impressed by the versatile forward.

"Richarlison rebuilt himself within the national team because he was a player who had much more visibility playing on the wings previously," Junior said. 

"When we see him playing the role of centre-forward, we see that he has recovered and is now in the starting line-up. 

"On the sides of the pitch, it'd be difficult for him with Vinicius Junior, Raphinha and Neymar who also play there. So, he started to evolve exactly in that centre-forward position. 

"The goal he scored with a volley in the first game is from a player who has great capacity and great resources when a situation like that presents itself."

 

Tite has made full use of his squad, so much so that he has already used all 26 members of his group – the most ever fielded by a team at a single World Cup.

The Brazil head coach brought on third-choice goalkeeper Weverton against South Korea to complete the set, which Junior says offers an insight into Tite's character.

"As happened in 2006 with Rogerio Ceni, Tite has done the same with Weverton. He's made sure he not only travels to the World Cup but is also on the pitch.

"This type of attitude strengths the group a lot. It's one of Tite's most important qualities: valuing the whole squad, including the third keeper, who rarely plays at a World Cup."

Tyson Fury issued a warning to Cristiano Ronaldo, insisting "no matter who you are, age will get you eventually".

The Portugal captain, who entered the World Cup fresh from his acrimonious departure from Manchester United, has scored just once in four appearances in Qatar.

That goal came from the penalty spot against Ghana in his nation's opening match.

Having been criticised by head coach Fernando Santos for his reaction to being substituted during the Group H clash with South Korea, Ronaldo was then dropped for Portugal's comprehensive 6-1 victory over Switzerland in the last 16.

After being left out of the starting line-up, A Selecao have subsequently strongly denied reports the 37-year-old threatened to quit the squad during what is likely to be his swansong at the finals.

Fury - the WBC heavyweight champion and a lifelong United fan - insisted he empathises with Ronaldo, who he feels is no longer at the peak of his powers.

The undefeated boxer drew comparisons with his iconic victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. 

"At the time, beating Klitschko was the Everest," Fury told talkSPORT. 

"I was the heavy underdog, people thought I was going to get smashed to pieces, and he was the unified champion for 11 years and at some point, he thought he was unbeatable.

"But I went over to Germany and beat him. In this game, it's not about how much better somebody is than the other person.

"A lot of it has to do with natural stuff, like age, and at 38 years old, you are on the decline - whether you want to admit it or not.

"If you look at Cristiano Ronaldo, he's 37 years old, he's had the best doctors, the best physiotherapists - he's lived like an egg in Mr Kipling's cake.

"But even Ronaldo is on the slide now.

"So even someone who has looked after himself like that, it catches up to you - so, imagine a boxer who has been punched to pieces for the last 20 years!

"The age factor will not wait for anybody, no matter how you've lived. 

"Whether you've never had a drink in your life, if you've never run on any hard surfaces, no matter who you are, age will get you eventually."

Ronaldo will hope to be reinstated to the starting line-up when Portugal face Morocco in the quarter-finals on Saturday, with his team aiming to reach the semi-finals for only the third time.

Hakim Ziyech needs a "change of air" and should join Manchester United from Chelsea, former Morocco international Mustapha El Haddaoui has told Stats Perform.

The 29-year-old has fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge, with just one start and five appearances in the Premier League this season.

A major U-turn occurred at international level, however, with Ziyech back in the fold for Morocco following Vahid Halilhodzic's exit and the arrival of Walid Regragui.

Ziyech has played a key part in the side's stellar performances at the World Cup, with the Atlas Lions reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in their history and becoming the first African side to reach the last eight since Ghana in 2010.

El Haddaoui is now calling for a similar turnaround at club level, as he wants to see a move across the Premier League to reunite with Erik ten Hag, who Ziyech played under at Ajax.

"He has to change of air because over there, [Chelsea] don't trust him. Now he is coming back very strong," he said.

"His problem with Vahid, who didn't want to call him, disturbed him. In the national team, when there is a FIFA date, everyone joins their selections. He stays there [in London] and it went around in his head.

"He sees that among the others who are with him at Chelsea, who go to the national team, he is of the same level, even superior, and he has lost a little bit of confidence.

"The coach who was there or the one who arrived afterwards didn't have much confidence in him.

"Afterwards, when you don't play, you lack playing time, you lack motivation, and you lack timing in the match. Now we see his potential, we see what he is capable of, but he has many offers.

"He has to move from Chelsea or go to Manchester United because the Ajax coach wanted him, he had him in his team. But he will bounce back. But now he has to leave during the transfer window."

Morocco's performances at the World Cup have inspired hope across the African continent, though El Haddaoui was always optimistic about the Atlas Lions.

"It's not just a pleasure, it's an exceptional joy, given what this team has shown, this Moroccan team," he added.

"I believed in it from the start. When the draw was made, I told myself that Morocco had a chance and that they would go through to the second round with another country. I knew that this generation had potential.

"Moreover, with the change of coach, the arrival of Walid Regragui has given new life to this team and the players. He made a call for the return of Ziyech and [Noussair] Mazraoui.

"How can we do without this world-class player? I hope we will go all the way. We were dreaming about it, but now it's starting to happen."

Portugal stand in the way in Morocco's bid to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, with a meeting set for Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium.

Nasser Al Khater, the chief executive of Qatar 2022, said "death is a natural part of life" when he was questioned over reports of a migrant worker dying during the World Cup.

The Athletic reported on Wednesday that a Filipino man said to be in his early 40s died while working at the base of Saudi Arabia during the group stage.

According to the report, the incident is being investigated by the Qatari government.

Asked by the BBC for a comment on the reports, Al Khater extraordinarily said "death is a natural part of life" as he questioned why the interviewer had chosen to ask him about the incident.

He said: "We're in the middle of a World Cup and we have a successful World Cup, and this is something you want to talk about right now?

"I mean, death is a natural part of life, whether it's at work or in your sleep.

"Of course, a worker died, our condolences go to his family, however this is strange this is something you want to focus on as your first question."

The Qatar World Cup has been dominated by off-field issues, such as the host nation's questionable human rights and its treatment of migrant workers.

On Thursday, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura was asked by Reuters for a comment on the incident.

"We've already elaborated... about what we are doing in Qatar," she said.

"We are talking about things we have already discussed for months and months, time and time again."

At the time of publication, FIFA had not responded to Stats Perform's request for comment.

Cristiano Ronaldo declared Portugal are "too close to be broken by outside forces" in response to reports he threatened to leave the World Cup.

Portuguese outlet Record claimed on Thursday that Ronaldo threatened to leave his country's camp in Qatar after being told he would not start the last-16 tie with Switzerland.

That came on the back of head coach Fernando Santos criticising the captain's reaction to being substituted in the 2-1 loss to South Korea in the final group game.

However, the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) was quick to deny that Ronaldo, who came on as a substitute in Tuesday's 6-1 win over Switzerland, made any sort of threat.

And free agent Ronaldo took to Twitter shortly after vowing to continue giving his all in Portugal's bid to win a first World Cup.

"A group too close to be broken by outside forces," the forward posted alongside an image of his team-mates celebrating a goal against Switzerland. 

"A nation too brave to let itself be frightened by any adversary. A team in the truest sense of the word, which will fight for the dream until the end! Believe with us! Strength, Portugal!"

The FPF earlier stated: "News released this Thursday reports that Ronaldo threatened to leave the national team during a conversation with Fernando Santos.

"The FPF clarifies that at no time did the captain of the Selecao, Ronaldo, threaten to leave the national team during the stay in Qatar.

"Ronaldo builds up a unique track record every day at the service of the national team and the country, which must be respected and which attests to the unquestionable degree of commitment to the national team.

"Incidentally, the degree of dedication of the player most capped by Portugal was again demonstrated – if necessary – in the victory against Switzerland."

Ronaldo's replacement, Benfica youngster Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick in the thumping win against Switzerland to set up a quarter-final with Morocco on Saturday.

Santos is expected to stick with Ramos against Spain's conquerors Morocco, meaning a place on the bench once again for Ronaldo.

Ronaldo, who did not take part in full training on Wednesday, is both Portugal's most-capped player (195) and all-time leading goalscorer (118).

Louis van Gaal is not expecting a classic World Cup encounter between the Netherlands and Argentina on Friday due to the way "football has evolved".

The quarter-final at Lusail Stadium will be the sixth finals meeting between the two sides.

Those previous clashes include a dominant Netherlands win in 1974, a controversial 1978 final and Dennis Bergkamp's memorable winner at this stage in 1998.

Most recently, however, Van Gaal's Netherlands and Argentina played out a goalless draw in the semi-finals eight years ago, with La Albiceleste advancing on penalties.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference on Thursday, Van Gaal appeared to suggest a similarly tight affair was likely this time.

Explaining his "new vision", the Oranje coach had "a very attacking DNA" at Ajax in the 1990s but learnt at Barcelona "you can't always pursue that goal".

"It is much more difficult to play as offensively as Ajax used to play," Van Gaal added as he again faced criticism for the Netherlands' style of play. "If you fail to see that, it is very difficult to understand this is the way things go.

"When, in 2014, I started developing the more defensive system, people criticised me. Now, half the world is playing that kind of football. Football has evolved in that direction."

Asked how this latest episode in the Netherlands-Argentina rivalry might compare, the coach said: "I've just provided you with a wonderful answer to your question: football is no longer being played as in 1988 or 1974 or whatever.

"Then it was an open game, which it no longer is. You can have all sorts of opinions about that, but this is simply the way football has evolved.

"It is always possible to have decisive moments that you remember years afterwards, like Bergkamp's goal, so undoubtedly we will continue to remember this forever."

Memphis Depay, appearing alongside Van Gaal, is of a similar view, saying: "The game is going to be decided in moments.

"I believe we can catch a moment and go through. We obviously want to play a good game, but there's also going to be a tactical game, I think."

Van Gaal is unlikely to shift away from that "defensive system" now as the Netherlands prepare for a step up in quality.

"Argentina in my view are a top country with top football players in their squad," Van Gaal said. "The tournament actually is starting tomorrow for real for us.

"Of course, I don't want to downplay the importance of other countries we've been able to beat, but Argentina and possibly Brazil in the next round are quite different from the countries we've played in the groups and in the last 16."

Brazil head coach Tite insists the Selecao will continue dancing during goal celebrations because it is part of their "culture" as he dismissed the suggestion they are showing disrespect.

Croatia await Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals after Tite's side beat South Korea 4-1, a victory that saw them exhibit some of the best football on display at Qatar 2022.

Brazil players celebrated each goal by dancing, and Tite even joined in for the celebration after Richarlison made it 3-0.

The coach mimicked Richarlison's trademark pigeon dance after the Tottenham forward came over to the Brazil dugout.

Some pundits criticised Brazil for their celebrations, suggesting they were showing disregard for their opponents, but this is not an opinion Tite will accept.

For him, such criticism essentially reflects ignorance of Brazil and its culture.

"This is not my team, this is the Brazil team and I have the responsibility of being head coach," Tite told reporters in Thursday's pre-match press conference.

"I am very sorry, but I won't make comments about people who do not know Brazilian football history, Brazilian culture, the way each one of us is.

"So, to those I leave that noise aside. I want my connection to be to my job, to people I relate to, to those who relate to my work, who know how much I respect and know my history.

"Those are the ones I give my heart and attention to. I am very discrete. I will continue to be so, because I respect the culture and the way I am, and this national team I play with.

"Having said this in terms of education we will definitely be identifying with [young people] and lots of other kids who will dance because that's our culture when we score, and it's not being disrespectful to anyone.

"That's how we do things, that's us in terms of culture, but we also help the education of these kids in school and we will continue doing things in our manner."

He added: "Once again, the Brazilian football identity is not me, it started a long time ago with desperate communities training boys who could produce good football. Even with all the risks it entails.

"I know we face criticism but that's the football I believe in, even if we face challenges and criticisms for not winning the World Cup, we keep moving forwards. That's what we believe in."

The topic of Brazil's dancing and celebrations was frequently brought up during Tite's briefing, with it seemingly the main takeaway for many after the win over South Korea.

While Tite was clearly frustrated by the perception of Brazil being disrespectful, he delved deeper into the issue as he claimed his involvement in the Richarlison celebration showed how engaged he is with young people.

"I think it's a connection I have with younger generation," he continued. "I am 61 and I work with players who are 21, 22 years old. They could be my grandkids.

"I have a connection with them, all those who truly know me. If I have to choose between those who know me and those who don't know me, I choose those who I do know, of course.

"And if I have to dance to connect with them, we will continue dancing. I also use a metaphor; when we paint a painting, the entire painting is the athletes. They are the ones who are portrayed.

"We are just participants; we just contribute to the painting. The players themselves are the painting."

Hakim Ziyech needs a "change of air" and should join Manchester United from Chelsea, former Morocco international Mustapha El Haddaoui has told Stats Perform.

The 29-year-old has fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge, with just one start and five appearances in the Premier League this season.

A major U-turn occurred at international level, however, with Ziyech back in the fold for Morocco following Vahid Halilhodzic's exit and the arrival of Walid Regragui.

Ziyech has played a key part in the side's stellar performances at the World Cup, with the Atlas Lions reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in their history and becoming the first African side to reach the last eight since Ghana in 2010.

El Haddaoui is now calling for a similar turnaround at club level, as he wants to see a move across the Premier League to reunite with Erik ten Hag, who Ziyech played under at Ajax.

"He has to change of air because over there, [Chelsea] don't trust him. Now he is coming back very strong," he said.

"His problem with Vahid, who didn't want to call him, disturbed him. In the national team, when there is a FIFA date, everyone joins their selections. He stays there [in London] and it went around in his head.

"He sees that among the others who are with him at Chelsea, who go to the national team, he is of the same level, even superior, and he has lost a little bit of confidence.

"The coach who was there or the one who arrived afterwards didn't have much confidence in him.

"Afterwards, when you don't play, you lack playing time, you lack motivation, and you lack timing in the match. Now we see his potential, we see what he is capable of, but he has many offers.

"He has to move from Chelsea or go to Manchester United because the Ajax coach wanted him, he had him in his team. But he will bounce back. But now he has to leave during the transfer window."

Morocco's performances at the World Cup have inspired hope across the African continent, though El Haddaoui was always optimistic about the Atlas Lions.

"It's not just a pleasure, it's an exceptional joy, given what this team has shown, this Moroccan team," he added.

"I believed in it from the start. When the draw was made, I told myself that Morocco had a chance and that they would go through to the second round with another country. I knew that this generation had potential.

"Moreover, with the change of coach, the arrival of Walid Regragui has given new life to this team and the players. He made a call for the return of Ziyech and [Noussair] Mazraoui.

"How can we do without this world-class player? I hope we will go all the way. We were dreaming about it, but now it's starting to happen."

Portugal stand in the way in Morocco's bid to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, with a meeting set for Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium.

Luis Enrique has left his position as head coach of Spain following his side's surprise World Cup last-16 defeat to Morocco, the Royal Football Federation (RFEF) has confirmed.

Spain were eliminated on penalties after Tuesday's contest at Education City Stadium finished goalless after extra-time.

Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique's contract was due to expire at the end of the tournament in Qatar, and it was confirmed on Thursday he will not be staying on.

"The RFEF would like to thank Luis Enrique and his entire coaching staff at the helm of the absolute national team in recent years," the statement read.

"The sports management of the RFEF has transferred to the president a report in which it is determined that a new project should start for the Spanish soccer team.

"The aim is to continue with the growth achieved in recent years thanks to the work carried out by Luis Enrique and their collaborators.

"Both the president, Luis Rubiales, and the sports director, Jose Francisco Molina, have transmitted the decision to the coach.

"The RFEF energetically wishes Luis Enrique and his team the best of luck in their future professional projects.

"The coach earns the love and admiration of his collaborators in the national team and of the entire Federation, which will always be his home."

 

Luis Enrique had been in charge of Spain since 2018, bar a four-month period in 2019 when stepping aside due to the illness and subsequent death of his young daughter.

He led La Roja to the semi-finals of Euro 2020 last year, where they lost on penalties to Italy, and to the 2020-21 Nations League final, where they were beaten by France.

Spain's loss to Morocco was their third straight tournament exit on penalties, having also suffered defeat by that method against hosts Russia in the 2018 World Cup last 16.

Luis Enrique's side started their Qatar 2022 campaign in style with a thumping 7-0 win over Costa Rica, which they followed up with a creditable 1-1 draw against Germany.

However, a 2-1 loss to Japan saw them finish second in Group E and they were unable to overcome a Morocco side 15 places below them in the latest FIFA rankings.

Spain's failure to score a single penalty in Tuesday's shoot-out made them just the second team to do so in World Cup history, after Switzerland against Ukraine in 2006.

Asked about his future after that match, in which Spain recorded just one shot on target despite registering 1,019 passes, Luis Enrique said: "I can't tell you.

"Your colleagues already asked me and I don't know because I don't know this decision.

"Now is not the time for me to talk about my future. My contract is going to end, but I'm happy with the national team, with the federation, the president.

"I could always carry on but I need to think and have peace of mind about what's the best for me and my national team."

Spain's next match is against Norway on March 25 in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier.

Luis Enrique has left his position as head coach of Spain following his side's surprise World Cup last-16 defeat to Morocco, the Royal Football Federation (RFEF) has confirmed.

Spain were eliminated on penalties after Tuesday's contest at Education City Stadium finished goalless after extra-time.

Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique's contract was due to expire at the end of the tournament in Qatar, and it was confirmed on Thursday he will not be staying on.

"The RFEF would like to thank Luis Enrique and his entire coaching staff at the helm of the absolute national team in recent years," the statement read.

"The sports management of the RFEF has transferred to the president a report in which it is determined that a new project should start for the Spanish soccer team.

"The aim is to continue with the growth achieved in recent years thanks to the work carried out by Luis Enrique and their collaborators.

"Both the president, Luis Rubiales, and the sports director, Jose Francisco Molina, have transmitted the decision to the coach.

"The RFEF energetically wishes Luis Enrique and his team the best of luck in their future professional projects.

"The coach earns the love and admiration of his collaborators in the national team and of the entire Federation, which will always be his home."

 

Luis Enrique had been in charge of Spain since 2018, bar a four-month period in 2019 when stepping aside due to the illness and subsequent death of his young daughter.

He led La Roja to the semi-finals of Euro 2020 last year, where they lost on penalties to Italy, and to the 2020-21 Nations League final, where they were beaten by France.

Spain's loss to Morocco was their third straight tournament exit on penalties, having also suffered defeat by that method against hosts Russia in the 2018 World Cup last 16.

Luis Enrique's side started their Qatar 2022 campaign in style with a thumping 7-0 win over Costa Rica, which they followed up with a creditable 1-1 draw against Germany.

However, a 2-1 loss to Japan saw them finish second in Group E and they were unable to overcome a Morocco side 15 places below them in the latest FIFA rankings.

Spain's failure to score a single penalty in Tuesday's shoot-out made them just the second team to do so in World Cup history, after Switzerland against Ukraine in 2006.

Asked about his future after that match, in which Spain recorded just one shot on target despite registering 1,019 passes, Luis Enrique said: "I can't tell you.

"Your colleagues already asked me and I don't know because I don't know this decision.

"Now is not the time for me to talk about my future. My contract is going to end, but I'm happy with the national team, with the federation, the president.

"I could always carry on but I need to think and have peace of mind about what's the best for me and my national team."

Spain's next match is against Norway on March 25 in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier.

Croatia have been fined by FIFA after their fans targeted Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan during a World Cup group-stage match.

Born in Knin in Croatia, Borjan is an ethnic Serb who fled to Belgrade in 1995 during 'Operation Storm' – a Croatian offensive in its war of independence. 

Borjan later moved to Canada, who he now represents at international level, though he has spent much of his club career in Serbia.

During Croatia's 4-1 win over Canada, a flag was shown in the stands that read "Knin '95 – nothing runs like Borjan", while offensive chants were also reported to be aimed in his direction.

Borjan called the abuse "primitive" after the match, while FIFA announced it would be opening an investigation.

FIFA's disciplinary proceedings concluded with the decision taken to fine the Croatian Football Federation 50,000 Swiss francs.

A FIFA statement read: "The Croatian Football Federation has been fined CHF 50,000 for breaches related to article 16 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (use of words and objects to transmit a message that is not appropriate for a sports event) in relation to the behaviour of Croatian supporters during the Croatia v. Canada FIFA World Cup™ match on 27 November."

Netherlands and PSV forward Cody Gakpo will "think about" a move to Manchester United should the Premier League side come calling again.

Gakpo has been one of the stars of the 2022 World Cup so far and is reportedly a January transfer target for United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich among others.

The 23-year-old became only the second player in the competition's history, after Italy's Alessandro Altobelli in 1986, to open the scoring three times in the same group stage.

He fired a blank in the 3-1 win over the United States in the last 16, but the in-form attacker still boasts a return of 17 goals and eight assists in 30 games this season.

United are reputed to be the frontrunners to sign Gakpo, having already reached out in the past window, and he will consider any fresh interest in the coming weeks.

Asked about missing out on a move to the Premier League earlier this year, coinciding with PSV failing to qualify for the Champions League, Gakpo said: "That was tough.

"I've learned a lot from that. Next time I'll do it differently. I thought about Manchester United before, but when that didn't happen I didn't know anymore and started to doubt.

"Then Leeds United came and I wondered if I should go there. Now I'll wait for everything. I haven't heard from Manchester United yet, but when they come, I'll think about it."

 

Gakpo's goals and all-round attacking play have helped the Netherlands through to the quarter-finals in Qatar, where Argentina await in a mouth-watering tie on Friday.

The Oranje have lost just one of their nine meetings with Argentina, though the most recent of their four draws resulted in a penalty shoot-out loss in the 2014 World Cup semi-final.

Argentina have found their groove with wins over Mexico, Poland and Australia since suffering a shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia, with Lionel Messi playing a starring role.

"We shouldn't think only about him," Gakpo added in the interview with Dutch outlet NRC. "We need to win and it doesn't matter who we are facing.

"Argentina are here for one reason and so are we. We are aware we have to play better than them, and we can do that.

"But in a tournament like this, all that counts is the result. We have to find the right moments on the field to use each other's strengths."

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