Modric sets sights on Nations League title

Midfielder to play on for Croatia until 2023, after leading them to bronze medal in Qatar

AFP December 18, 2022


Luka Modric led Croatia to the bronze medal at the FIFA World Cup 2022 on Saturday and revealed he will extend his international career into 2023 in an attempt to win the Nations League.

The 37-year-old won his 162nd cap in the 2-1 win over Morocco, four years after helping his country to the World Cup runners-up spot behind France.

Croatia will now attempt to win the Nations League title next June in the four-team finals also featuring Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

"That's the plan," said Modric when asked if he intends to keep playing international football.

"It would be a nonsense not to play in the Nations League, and then we'll see how to proceed. I definitely want to stay for the Nations League."

Croatia were defeated by a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina in the World Cup semi-finals but Modric insisted that his team have cemented a place amongst the heavyweights of the sport.

"We achieved something major for the Croatian football. We wanted the gold, we were close," he told broadcaster HRT.

"In the end, we return to Croatia as winners. Croatia is not a miracle that appears every 20 years. We proved that we are constant, that we cannot be seen as dark horses but as a football power."

Even though Modric intends to keep playing at international level, coach Zlatko Dalic admits that time is ticking on other senior players.

"It's the end of a cycle. It's the last World Cup for some older players," said the coach with one eye on the qualifying tournament for Euro 2024 which kicks off in March.

"But we have very good young players who give hope, (Josip) Stanisic, (Mislav) Orsic, many players who are on the bench. We have a very good team for the future.

"Croatia have nothing to fear with this generation. What awaits us is the League of Nations, and the qualifications of the Euro."

Meanwhile, fireworks lit the sky above the Croatian capital of Zagreb and many other towns in the country that joyfully celebrated the win in the third-place play-off.

"Croatia is on fire! Tears, songs, pride and joy throughout our homeland!" read the Vecernji List daily paper online edition.

"A long, happy night is ahead Croatia."

The nation of fewer than four million people won their third World Cup medal since independence in 1991. In France 1998, Croatia were third and at the 2018 World Cup in Russia they reached the final.

Dalic added that he would "dedicate victory to a man who started all this".

"To (Miroslav) Ciro Blazevic. 'Boss' this is for you! I could win five medals, but you will always remain the 'coach of all coaches'."

He referred to legendary coach Blazevic, 87, under whom Croatia won bronze in 1998.

"Three World Cup medals for our tiny country is a major achievement. I'm so proud, well done 'Fiery Ones'," said Marin Lovric, 32, who watched the game at a Zagreb bar.

On Sunday, the capital will organise at the main square a welcome for the squad, similar to 2018 when they returned from Russia.

At the time more than 550,000 people cheered the team during its parade on an open-top bus from the airport to the main square.

Since the independence, Zagreb has only once seen a larger crowd – for the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1994.


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