World Cup 2018

Golden ball award is 'bittersweet': Modric

Croatian fans watching in despair as France won 4-2 on Sunday. Croatia are the smallest nation to make a World Cup final in 68 years and, despite the loss, the team have improved on their 1998 third-place finish.
Croatian fans watching in despair as France won 4-2 on Sunday. Croatia are the smallest nation to make a World Cup final in 68 years and, despite the loss, the team have improved on their 1998 third-place finish.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Croatia captain says team deserve better but is proud of not giving up & fighting to the end

MOSCOW • Croatia captain Luka Modric said he's honoured to be awarded the Golden Ball for the World Cup's best player but it was scant consolation after losing the final 4-2 to France on Sunday.

"Obviously I liked the recognition and thanks to those who chose me but, clearly, I would have preferred to have won the World Cup," said the Real Madrid midfielder.

"It wasn't to be and now we will rest and in the coming days celebrate this because it is still a huge thing for Croatia but, right now, the feeling is bittersweet. We are proud of what we have done, but a bit sad at losing the final."

Croatia are the only team in World Cup history to avoid defeat after trailing in three knockout matches in a single edition.

They dominated the opening period of the final and were desperately unlucky to trail 2-1 at half-time through Mario Mandzukic's own goal and a controversial Antoine Griezmann penalty.

The smallest country to make a World Cup final in 68 years, with a population of just over four million, finally wilted after the break as Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe added to France's lead before Mandzukic pulled a goal back.

"Sometimes, a better team doesn't win. The second French goal was the key, we conceded (when) we were at the top," added Modric. "Although I think we deserved more, we can't change anything. We can only be proud of what we did - we never gave up and fought until the end."

  • FIFA WORLD CUP AWARDS

  • GOLDEN BALL FOR BEST PLAYER

    Luka Modric (Croatia)

    SILVER BALL Eden Hazard (Belgium)

    BRONZE BALL Antoine Griezmann (France)

  • GOLDEN BALL FOR BEST PLAYER

    Luka Modric (Croatia)

    SILVER BALL Eden Hazard (Belgium)

    BRONZE BALL Antoine Griezmann (France)

  • GOLDEN GLOVE FOR BEST GOALKEEPER

    Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)

  • FIFA YOUNG PLAYER FOR BEST UNDER-21 PLAYER

    Kylian Mbappe (France)

  • FIFA FAIR PLAY TROPHY

    Spain

His midfield partner Ivan Rakitic also drew comfort from Fifa's decision to make Modric the fifth straight player to win the Golden Ball despite not being on the winning team, after Argentina's Lionel Messi (2014), Uruguay's Diego Forlan (2010), France's Zinedine Zidane (2006) and Germany's Oliver Kahn (2002).

"Brother Luka Modric, you do not know how proud I am!" wrote the Barcelona man on Instagram. "All deserved, we celebrate with our family and all Croats! Nothing more beautiful than to be Croatian."

France forward Mbappe picked up team and individual honours, after being named the Young Player of the tournament.

In scoring his fourth goal of this World Cup and France's fourth against Croatia in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, the 19-year-old became the youngest player since Pele to score in football's biggest match.

"I have a story to write, this is just the beginning," Mbappe warned the world. "I intend to go even further."

After starring as a 17-year-old in 1958, Pele went on to win two more World Cups. While Mbappe has much to do to match those feats, the teenager wants to build on his biggest achievement, and believes he can grow at Paris Saint-Germain.

"I will stay with PSG, continuing on my path with them," he added, amid speculation that European champions Real want to sign him this summer. "I am at the beginning of my career."

One man who will track his progress with interest is Pele.

"If Kylian keeps equalling my records like this, I may have to dust my boots off again," tweeted the Brazil legend.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE​

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'Golden ball award is 'bittersweet': Modric'. Print Edition | Subscribe