SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) – Croatia captain Luka Modric put in a man of the match performance to lead his side to a penalty shootout victory over hosts Russia, but he has no interest in personal awards as they chase their World Cup dream in a semi-final against England.
Croatia came back from a goal down to draw 1-1 after 90 minutes and thought they had done enough to win when they took the lead through Domagoj Vida in extra time, but Mario Fernandes headed home a free kick to make it 2-2 and take it to penalties, which the Croatians won 4-3.
The playmaker, who won a third successive Champions League title with Real Madrid before coming to Russia, brushed off suggestions that his performance might put him in the running for the Ballon d’Or prize as the world’s best player.
“The most important thing for me is that my national team succeeded and that we do something big. We’ve already accomplished something big, but we want to do more,” he told reporters.
“In the second half and in extra time we dominated, we should have finished the job before penalties, but maybe it’s written in the stars that we have to go through the extra drama,” he added.
The Croatians looked more comfortable from the spot, netting four of their five attempts with midfielder Ivan Rakitic firing home the decisive effort to put them into the semi-finals, prompting tears from Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic.
“I was concentrated throughout the match, but after Rakitic’s penalty the emotion came bursting out of me. We made ourselves happy, but also everyone back in Croatia happy – I don’t cry often, but now I had good cause,” he told reporters.
Dalic’s side now face England, who comfortably beat Sweden 2-0 earlier in the day, in their semi-final on Wednesday in Moscow.
“Of course there is some power left for the English – we will not stop, we will try to play our best game then. We have two matches to play, we are very motivated, we will give our all,” Dalic said, adding that the competition is wide open.
“There are no favorites at this World Cup, every game is fifty-fifty and you have to fight it out.
“The favorites, the big teams are home. The teams who are hard-working, who are compact and united, these are the teams that are still here.”
Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Christian Radnedge