Luka Modric is comforted by Argentine striker Angel Di Maria, who put an arm around him after defeating Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals (3-0). A little later it appeared in the syndicated press. “Lionel Messi was the best again,” he says. “He deserves the world title. Really.”
The 37-year-old Modric is the most eye-catching player on the beautiful lawn at Lusail Stadium for half an hour. He throws passes and plays carelessly with the opponent through the legs. Chopping the ball here, easy heading there. How simple soccer looks when he’s on the ball. As if it didn’t bother him at all.
But after half an hour, Modric clumsily lost the ball. Enzo Fernandez sees in the corner of his eye that Julian Alvarez is completely free. The striker, who often comes on as a substitute for Manchester City, collides with Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Levakovic. Messi scores his fifth goal in the tournament from a penalty kick. Six minutes later, when Álvarez scored, the semi-final battle was close to being decided. Alvarez scored again in the 69th minute after an unparalleled dribble from Messi, the best action of the match.
A glorious career without a world title
Modric knows he will end a great career without a world title, just as his counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo probably realized after Portugal were defeated by Morocco (1-0) in the quarter-finals. Four years ago, he was the cool midfielder for Croatia in the World Cup Final. But then France was very strong 4-2.
The Real Madrid footballer does not want to think about saying goodbye to the national team immediately after his 161st international match. But at the 2024 European Championships, he will be almost 39 years old. And after the next World Cup in the USA, Mexico and Canada, he will celebrate his 41st birthday. Modric may take off in the Netherlands next summer as Croatia battle Orange, Spain and Italy for overall Nations League victory.
Modric won the 2018 Ballon d’Or, the award for the best soccer player in the world. “We played the World Cup well in Qatar,” he says. However, Croatia has only beat Canada (4-1) in recent weeks. The group matches with Belgium and Morocco ended without goals (0-0). Croatia beat Japan and Brazil only after a penalty shootout. Modric is looking forward to the condolence final on Saturday against France or Morocco. “Now we have to ensure that we finish third.” “We have to close this World Cup as best we can.”
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