FIFA 2022 World Cup: Luka Modric’s underappreciated golden age with Croatia is ended by Lionel Messi’s Argentina

Four years after the unexpected FIFA World Cup final match in 2018, Croatia fell to the semi-finals in Qatar after losing 3-0 to Argentina on Tuesday. Lionel Messi #10 took advantage of some sloppy Vatrani mistakes in La Albiceleste at the Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, while Lionel Messi #10 was in inspired form.

There could have been little argument against the result of Zlatko Dalic, who was second-best for most of the match, as Lionel Scaloni’s men ensured that emotions did not overpower them. However, despite the heavy loss, some flashes of magic came from star man Luka Modric, who may have made his last big international appearance.

Now 37 and two years older than Messi, the Real Madrid man and his Croatian teammates have been overshadowed by the South Americans. It’s hard to see the evergreen Modric play for two more years until UEFA Euro 2024, let alone the next World Cup in 2026.

But that shouldn’t detract from the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner’s individual brilliance, which has sparked several times with Kockasti’s submission. Up until the 81st minute substitution, Modric seemed like the most likely person to make it all happen for Croatia, who had to pay the price for a surprising early breakup.

His team may have lagged behind, but the man from Zadar still displayed class like Messi’s as he danced around the Argentine players to do something for his country. Unfortunately, this Croatian side was not on the same wavelength when it mattered most, and the former Tottenham Hotspur and Dinamo Zagreb man was isolated for his technical and cerebral excellence.

As his five UEFA Champions League titles have proven, Modric, a series winner with Real, has nothing left to prove at the club or international level, but he is still open to securing a World Cup title. Third place wouldn’t be a shame if Croatia could beat the loser of France and Morocco in Wednesday’s match, but the turnout wasn’t the recognition this creative genius was looking for.

Especially after the agony of losing to Les Bleus in 2018, which could now be demoted to the playoffs third place if Atlas Lions achieve the unthinkable. Not a masterclass, but his long-standing brilliance for Real and Croatia.

Despite not being on the winning team in Moscow, winning the Ballon d’Or again in 2018 was testament to his ability to single-handedly take Vatreni to the finals. The way he managed to maintain similar form for the best part of the next five years was nothing short of spectacular – as evidenced by the standing ovation when he left.

If this will be the last time we see Modric in a red checkered shirt at an international tournament (and Croatia always wears a red checkered shirt in spirit even if they are forced to wear blue on Tuesday), we are blessed to have witnessed the master of his craft at his peak for as long as we did at an international tournament. Also, given the young Croatian talent emerging right now, a future without Modric shouldn’t look so bleak.

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