News ID: 218221
Published: 0211 GMT July 13, 2018

There is more to Croatia than Modric magic

There is more to Croatia than Modric magic
Croatia's Luka Modric in action against England at the 2018 World Cup semifinal in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, on July 11, 2018
KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS

Croatia’s run to the World Cup final is largely down to Luka Modric’s tireless work in midfield but the Croatians’ ability to switch tactics efficiently should be a warning for the opponent France on Sunday.

When the two sides meet at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium all eyes will be on Modric and how the French will attempt to put shackles on the creative midfielder, who at 32 is eyeing the biggest prize of the sport, Reuters reported.

While Modric may be a worthy contender for Footballer of the Year, his team’s quick switch in tactics during its World Cup semifinal against England shows that danger lurks around every corner playing against this Croatia squad.

The English were already with one foot in the final after leading 1-0 and completely dominating the game, with Modric and fellow midfielder Ivan Rakitic, who have five Champions League titles between them, unable to feed their forwards.

But after the break, a quick switch from the favored 4-3-3 to a 4-1-4-1 meant that suddenly the game moved higher up the England half and the wings became Croatia’s main points of attack.

Sime Vrsaljko is not your average right-back. At times he operates as a world-class winger whose power, accuracy in crosses and passes have little to do with that of a fulltime defender.

When Modric is bogged down in midfield, it is Vrsaljko who will often shoulder the duty of carrying the ball past the midfield and it was one of his forays into the English half that allowed him to cross for Ivan Perisic to level.

The same goes for the other wing, with Ivan Strinic equally attack-minded and his replacement late in the game, Josip Pivaric, doing as he was told, crossing into the box from the left to give Mario Mandzukic the chance to score the winner and send his team into the final.

With opponents’ defenders kept busy with trying to contain the three strikers and the holding midfielders working to deal with Modric and Rakitic, it is the fullbacks who could prove to be key.

With a strike force that is the envy of almost every other World Cup team, with players such as Mandzukic, Perisic, Ante Rebic and Andrej Kramaric, Croatia can be lethal.

But the Croatians can equally turn into a hard-working defensive mechanism as they showed when Russia pressed high in their quarterfinal stopping from unfolding their attacking game plans.

France will obviously need to use N’Golo Kante’s and Paul Pogba’s power and stamina to rein in Modric and Rakitic early but the French defense must also be equally alert to the danger from the wings if the Frenchmen are to shut out the Croats and lift their second World Cup.

 

‘We can stop Mbappe, Griezmann’

 

Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic insisted that his side can beat France, as Croatia has already shackled Lionel Messi and Harry Kane.

Dalic is confident that his players will be able to nullify the threats posed by the likes of France duo Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, goal.com reported.

“Croatia can still play better," he told reporters.

"France is a very dangerous team but if we stopped Messi, Eriksen, Kane... we can stop Mbappe and Griezmann too.”

While Dalic is bullish about his side's chances, he acknowledged that Croatia found it difficult to deal with the threat of England forward Raheem Sterling throughout the semifinal.

Sterling was eventually substituted and replaced by Marcus Rashford by Gareth Southgate, and Dalic has now conceded he was thankful for the switch.

“I felt relief after Southgate substituted Sterling because he is very hard to stop," he added.

"And I admired Southgate, he showed he's a gentleman, a sportsman, he congratulated all of us individually on the pitch.”

France reached its third World Cup final with a victory over Belgium, setting up the meeting between the two sides in Moscow.

Croatia will be able to call upon the talents of midfielder Rakitic, who beat a virus to play against England in the last four.

He has claimed he would "play without a leg" in the final, and Dalic hailed the determination of his players to beat the Three Lions.

“In the morning ahead of the England match I had Rakitic with a fever of almost 39 (degrees).

"Ante Rebic said he couldn't play and I told them only those who were 100 percent fit will play.

"But at our last meeting ahead of the match they all said they are ready. And during the game as I wanted to make substitutions, all of the players kept saying ‘Not me, not me’.”

 

   
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