Warriors on a football pitch - Croatia 2018
Hardened by battle and toughened by experience, Luka Modric's Croatia are legends before even playing the World Cup Final on Sunday.
How do you find the will to go on time and again with the passion, effort & determination? Luka Modric and his Croatian teammates are warriors with mental fortitude beyond imagination. As Kieran Trippier whipped England into an early lead, Croatia found themselves chasing the game for the 3rd consecutive game in the knockout stages of the World Cup. But such is the belief and fight within this Croatian team that for the 3rd consecutive time they came from behind to win the game and go through.
Sheer refusal to accept defeat at any cost is Croatia’s greatest strength. Instead of talking about the shrewd tactics of the relatively unheard Zlatko Dalic and the technical supremacy of Croatia, it’s time to throw light on the quality that has gotten Croatia through battle after battle.
Strength in Character – On and Off the pitch
The inspiring stories of Raheem Sterling and Romelu Lukaku on The Players’ Tribune opened the eyes of football fans to the struggle and sacrifices that players have had to realize their dreams. Something that is not publicly spoken of enough is that the players flying the Croatian flag high today were born in an era when the idea of Croatia as a country wasn’t fully accepted by the world.
15 players of the current squad were either born outside of modern-day Croatia or had to flee their country due to war-torn circumstances. Growing up as refugees in foreign countries, facing rejection and criticism on a regular basis, it’s no surprise that these boys from the Balkan don’t take no for an answer.
Their captain and talisman – Luka Modric is one of the footballers who simply cannot be hated. But little does the world know that the midfielder who runs the midfield for Real Madrid so effortlessly grew up a refugee after having to flee his home country at the age of 6 after his grandfather was shot dead during the Balkan wars. Criticised for not being big enough or physical enough to play in midfield by coaches when he was young, ‘Modric for Ballon d'Or’ is a shout not just echoed by his teammates anymore.
Dejan Lovren is a footballer who has seen the worst parts of the modern game. From being substituted at 30 minutes after a horrendous showing at Tottenham to receiving death threats on social media; Dejan Lovren has dealt with it all. Voted as the worst player in France when he was a 20-year-old centre-back at Lyon, Lovren stands at the cusp of the winning football's greatest prize. Such mental fortitude is built through years of struggle. Having to flee his hometown after it was bombed, growing up in Germany as a refugee facing discrimination daily and battling his way through criticisms season after season. Lovren has grown into one of the few stars to play the Champions League final and the World Cup final in the space of 2 months.
The individual stories of the struggles of these Croatian would make a great book someday. But what they’ve shown through their career and through the World Cup is the character that many football stars can only dream of.
The Final Lap
Luka Modric will lead Croatia out on Sunday against France with the odds once again heavily stacked against them. Having had one day less that their opponents to recover and having played 90 minutes more over 3 games going to extra time; Croatia should be out of energy within no time against a counter-attacking French side in an ideal world.
However, with Luka Modric making his opponent dance to his tunes this World Cup game after game the Twitter joke is closer to reality now more than ever.
'This is Luka Modric’s world. We are all just living in it!'