Suker Backs Croatia 'Role Model' Modric for Ballon d'Or

Zlatko Dalic has guided Croatia to the quarter-finals of the World Cup

Ahead of that contest against England in Moscow, Croatian Football Federation president Suker - a star of the team that reached the last four in France 20 years ago - says Modric deserves to be recognised for his achievements by breaking the 10-year monopoly Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have had on football's greatest individual prize. "It is true we have not made good results at major tournaments for decades, but we should not be surprised Croatia are in the last four of the World Cup given the quality of the players, which has been proven". In 2002, 2006 and 2014 they were eliminated in the group stages, and they failed to qualify for the 2010 tournament. "Football is sacred. We built the foundation for our house in 98, and now we're building the second floor". Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric and the man from Barcelona alongside him, Ivan Rakitic, are so vital to the way Zlatko Dalic's side play it is easy to overlook other threats, such as hard-working striker Mario Mandzukic.

The 51-year-old made it his mission to change that and the results have been spectacular, most notably a 3-0 demolition of Argentina in the group stage, although the side has needed penalties to get past Denmark and hosts Russian Federation in the knockout stages.

"We like to play against teams like England because we have fast players and it will be open", Vedran Corluka, the former Manchester City and Tottenham defender, said. "They have just displayed the qualities they have, that is all".

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The victory boosted France's morale, and they followed it up with a workman-like 2-0 win over Uruguay that was impressive because of how well they managed to control the game against tricky opponents.

"England are risky on set pieces", Modric said. The goalkeeper, Danijel Subasic, had carried a hamstring problem into the game, which he would feel at the end of normal time only to play on after treatment, while the right-back Sime Vrsaljko was forced off in extra time with a knee injury. We want those who are 100 percent match fit. "But I think it is a football event". But we have to kill games earlier. Those players on the pitch must be perfectly fit. A cracker of a contest awaits in an already cracker of a World Cup. Something has to change and, next to me, Claude Makélélé knows it too. "This is what drives, that is our petrol", Dalic said.

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