Tireless Modric ready for last World Cup run with Croatia

DOHA, Qatar (AP) – Luka Modric will get another World Cup campaign to drive Croatia all the way to the title.

The 37-year-old midfielder will lead Croatia when they play their Group F opener against Morocco on Wednesday, a hurdle the 2018 runners-up are expected to comfortably clear before facing Canada and then a showdown with Belgium at number 2 and Kevin de Bruyne.

Four years ago, Modric worked tirelessly and was awarded the best player of the tournament as Croatia reached the final, where they lost 4-2 to France.

Only five of the players who started the 2018 final are in this Croatia squad after coach Zlatko Dalic’s rebuild. The constant is Modric, who remains central to everything Croatia do and is arguably more important to his side’s chances than Lionel Messi to Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal.

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The Real Madrid player has confirmed that this tournament will be the end of a 16-year international career.

It will be an early game against the Moroccans in Al Khor, north of Doha, where the temperature is predicted to push 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) by kick-off. That heat shouldn’t be a problem against North Africa, though, thanks to the cooling systems used in this year’s World Cup stadiums.

“The conditions here have been better than expected,” said Croatia forward Andrej Kramaric, who was a substitute in the 2018 final. “And given the air conditioning in the stadiums, it could (maybe) get cold during the games.”

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The climate in the Moroccan camp has also cooled significantly after a heated argument between former head coach Vahid Halilhodzic and Chelsea forward Hakim Ziyech. Ziyech saw himself exiled from the squad last year due to what Halilhodzic called his “unacceptable” attitude.

It threatened to lead to Morocco, who really need all their talent from abroad, without one of their best players for the World Cup. Halilhodzic was sacked despite Morocco qualifying for the World Cup and replaced by Walid Regragui, who immediately recalled Ziyech.

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Ziyech hit straight away and scored a wonderful goal from his own half in Morocco’s final warm-up before the World Cup.

But the coaching switch only came at the end of August, giving Regragui, who has never been an international coach before, just two full months to make his bigger mark on a team expected to struggle in the Cup. the World already, especially against Croatia. and Belgium.

That may not be enough time for 47-year-old Regragui to get something special out of Morocco, who have reached the group stage just once at the World Cup, in 1986.


AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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