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After masterclass, Luka Modric urges Croatia to stay calm in FIFA World Cup 2018

Luka Modric conducted the Croatia orchestra as they stunned Argentina 3-0 on Thursday to leave the twice champions teetering on the brink of elimination from FIFA World Cup 2018

football Updated: Jun 22, 2018 19:39 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Nizhny Novgorod
Luka Modric,FIFA World Cup 2018,Croatia football team
Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates after win over Argentina in a FIFA World Cup 2018 match.(Reuters)

There is a sense of calm that Luka Modric brings to a team. The diminutive midfielder has been a key figure in Real Madrid’s four Champions League triumphs in five seasons and a regular fixture in the Croatia national team for over a decade.

Modric conducted the Croatia orchestra as they stunned Argentina 3-0 here on Thursday to leave the twice champions teetering on the brink of elimination.

READ | How Lionel Messi’s Argentina can qualify for FIFA World Cup 2018 knock-out round

Modric topped his performance with a stunning long-range goal, his team’s second.

“He (Modric) has this calmness and so much experience. He knows how to play these big games. It’s a big joy to play with him,” said Croatia defender Dejan Lovren in the mixed zone.

For Modric though it was just another day at work and he called on his teammates to stay calm.

“We don’t have to think about this. We don’t have to be in euphoria; we have to stay calm and continue what we are doing. For the moment, we just need to keep our feet on the floor and look at our next opponent. We have a great squad, a great belief about us and, hopefully, we will keep playing the same way,” he said.

READ | FIFA World Cup 2018: Lionel Messi goes missing on Argentina’s biggest night

Against Argentina, Croatia had 42% possession but were the more dominant side as Modric sprayed passes to the flanks, allowing wingers Ivan Perisic, Ante Rebic and later, Andrej Kramaric to regularly torment Argentina’s three central defenders.

Argentina weren’t helped in their cause by coach Jorge Sampaoli using some players out of position but Croatia made the most of the situation.

“We had heard that they could play with a three-man defence but we had prepared for both three and four at the back. Today, we were good defensively, had some good counter-attacks and had great chances to score,” said Perisic.

Croatia had failed to capitalise on their chances until the 53rd minute when a goalkeeping error from Willy Caballero allowed Rebic to score.

READ | How Croatia plan to stop Argentina from entering Round 2 of 2018 World Cup

“That moment helped us a lot but it’s only one goal. We had only 40 minutes left after that goal and we had to continue to play. We did well; we grew into the game and scored two more goals,” said Modric.

A few minutes after his goal, Rebic hobbled off with an injury. His replacement Kramaric played an important role in the next two goals.

With constant sorties, Kramaric dragged Argentina defenders towards Croatia’s left flank. It freed up space for Modric in the middle which allowed him to make it 2-0.

Kramaric then aided Rakitic to score the team’s third goal after the duo led a counter-attack. It was the perfect finish to a game where Croatia proved that they belong to the big stage.

“We were the underdogs and that’s what has helped us. I think now, people will realise that they should respect Croatia. We had one of the toughest groups but we have shown that we can play under pressure,” said Lovren just before leaving for the team hotel.

So, can Croatia replicate a run similar to 1998 when they made the semi-finals? “We can. When you look at the teamsheet, we have better players than 20 years ago. But it doesn’t mean anything if we do not perform well.

“Whoever comes (in the next round), we are ready to fight. They will know that they have a tough opponent. We are not scared of anyone,” he said.

First Published: Jun 22, 2018 19:39 IST