Sports Desk: Luka Modric has accused English journalists and pundits of showing a lack of respect to Croatia’s players and admitted his teammates had used criticism to motivate them to victory against England in their World Cup semi-final.
Modric impressed as Croatia came from behind to win after extra time in Moscow but the Real Madrid midfielder was scathing in his reaction towards sections of the English media, some of whom had predicted an easy win for Gareth Southgate’s side.
“People were talking … English journalists, pundits from television,” he told ITV. “They underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake. All these words from them we take, we were reading and we were saying: ‘OK, today we will see who will be tired.’ They should be more humble and respect their opponents more.
“We showed again that we were not tired – we dominated the game mentally and physically.
“We should have killed the game even before extra time. This is an amazing achievement for us – it’s a dream come true after such a long time. We are in the final and that is the biggest success in Croatia history. We have to be proud.”
Ivan Perisic, who cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s early goal with a fine effort of his own, admitted it was a difficult game but praised his team-mates’ perseverance for coming through a successive third knockout game after extra-time.
“We knew what was at stake and how important the semi-final is for a small country like Croatia,” he said. “We started slowly today but we showed our character and again came from a goal behind just like we did in the previous knockout rounds.
“Twenty years ago I was back at home in my hometown and I rooted for Croatia wearing the Croatia jersey. I could only dream of playing for my country and scoring one of the most important goals to reach the final.”
Defender Sime Vrsaljko was also critical of England’s attempts to find a way back into the game after they fell behind. “The all-round perception was that this is a new-look England who have changed their ways of punting long balls upfield but when we pressed them it turned out that they haven’t,” he said.
Croatia’s coach, Zlatko Dalic, said their extra-time victory was deserved and his players were not yet finished despite playing a lot of football in the past three rounds.
“We deserved to reach the final. What the lads played tonight was fantasy, they’ve made history,” Dalic said. “This tournament will be won by a team with character. We were 1-0 down in three games in a row. For Croatian football and the country this is history being written – I can’t think of a smaller country to reach the final.”
Croatia become the 13th team to contest the final and the first new finalists since Spain in 2010. Since their dream run to the last four in 1998, their first tournament as an independent nation, Croatia have failed to get past the group stage, with every subsequent failing team being compared unfavourably with the heroes of France.
“This has been the topic of discussion the past 20 years,” Dalic said. “Maybe that game has historical significance maybe, the dear Lord is giving us the chance to settle a score.”
Source: The Guardian
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