LONDON, United Kingdom, July 12 – Croatia were “underestimated” by English pundits who lacked respect, says captain Luka Modric.
Zlatko Dalic’s side beat England 2-1 in extra time to reach the World Cup final for the first time in their history.
Midfielder Modric said the team had been motivated by people saying they would be “tired” after their previous two matches went to penalty shootouts.
“We showed again we were not tired,” he said. “We dominated the game physically, mentally, in all aspects.”
Kieran Trippier gave England the lead in Moscow, but Ivan Perisic levelled for Croatia before Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute.
“English journalists, pundits from television, they underestimated Croatia and that was a huge mistake,” Real Madrid’s Modric told ITV. “They should be more humble and respect more opponents.
“All these words from them we take, we were reading and we were saying, ‘OK, today we will see who will be tired’.”
England face Croatia in October and November in the new Uefa Nations League.
Croatia, whose previous best World Cup performance was a third-place finish in 1998, face France in Moscow on Sunday.
“It is the biggest success in Croatian history in sport and we have to be proud,” added Modric.
World Cup final place ‘is everything’ to Croatia fans
Croatia defender Dejan Lovren said Modric deserves to win the Ballon d’Or if they win Sunday’s final, describing his team-mate as the “best midfield player in the world”.
The Liverpool centre-back also believes he should be considered one of the world’s best defenders.
Lovren, 29, made 43 appearances for Liverpool last season as they finished fourth in the Premier League and reached the Champions League final.
But he was criticised for some of his performances during the season, and received a death threat after October’s 4-1 defeat by Tottenham.
“I think people should recognise that I am also one of the best defenders in the world and not just talk nonsense,” he told Bein Sports.
‘We have become a football force’
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and several other politicians wore the national team’s football shirt to a meeting of the government on Thursday.
“This success speaks of the strength of a country that is not big, but has a huge heart, courage, enthusiasm and these young men who have gone a step further than the brilliant generation of 1998, ” he said. “In 20 years we have really become a football force.”
Newspaper Vecernji List carried the headline “This is unbelievable, now only sky is the limit, we can be champions” and pondered how the players were able to find the energy reserves necessary to survive their third period of extra time of the tournament.
“This is not a miracle, this is unbelievable! What our players have shown is beyond all parameters, above everything,” it said.