June 15 – Croatia’s Zlatko Dalic singled out Luka Modric after his man-of-the-match performance in a 4-2 extra-time victory against the Netherlands in the Nations League.
Even his Dutch counterpart Ronald Koeman could not refrain from praising the midfielder.
On Wednesday, Modric provided a masterclass, educating a youthful-looking Dutch team on how to play the beautiful game with smooth passes, great flicks and an intensity that defied his age. The midfielder was also lethal in the final third, converting a penalty, forcing one and setting Bruno Petkovic up for Croatia’s third goal.
“He can be the one to help us win the gold medal,” said Dalic. “Luka will decide for himself after the finals (on his future), but with him we are way better, we have far more quality.”
At 37, Modric’s future is up in the air, but on a night of Croatian dominance, age once again did not seem to bother him as he completely outclassed and outplayed Frenkie de Jong, eleven years his junior.
Dutch coach Ronald Koeman was also moved to praise Modric, whose Croatia ended the Netherlands’s unbeaten run of 31 matches at De Kuip. They had last lost in Rotterdam in 2000 when Portugal were too strong.
Koeman said: “One word – awesome. He is decisive and so good. It’s difficult to say, but I can even enjoy him. That such a guy can still play at this level and with the capacity to play 120 minutes – huge class.”
Modric himself added that he simply loves the game and that drives him forward. On Sunday, Croatia and their talisman will have the opportunity to win their first international trophy when they play Spain or Italy in the final of the third Nations League. Croatia have reached the last four of the World Cup on three occasions, but they have never clinched a prize.
“We have been a team of constant quality for the past six years,” said Dalic. “It would be a great reward to win the gold medal, I think we have deserved it.”
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