Croatia needs Luka Modric one last time to reach Euro 2024 knockout stage

Croatia only has one point after two matches in Euro 2024, but can still qualify for the knockout stage if it beats Italy on June 25 (3am Malaysian time).

Its captain, Luka Modric, who turns 39 in September, may call time on his international career after Euro 2024, but has agreed to remain with Real Madrid for another season.

It will be an injustice if one of the best players of his generation ends his Croatian service by failing to get out of Group B.

Besides Croatia and Italy, the other two teams in the group are Spain and Albania. After two matches each, Spain has six points and will top the group, Italy has three. Albania has a point but has a better goal difference than Croatia.

The top two teams automatically qualify for the Round of 16, while four of the best third-placed teams from the six groups will reach the knockout stage.

To improve its record of never getting past the quarterfinals at the European Championship and falling in the Round of 16 at the previous two editions, Croatia needs the “Real Madrid Modric” to turn up against Italy.

Since joining the Spanish club in 2012, Modric has won 26 major trophies, including six UEFA Champions League titles, four La Liga titles, and two Copa del Rey titles.

He was voted the world’s best player in 2018 – the same year he won the Golden Ball at the World Cup – but has yet to win any honours with Croatia, although he did lead it to the 2018 World Cup final, and third place, four years later.

In the opening match against Spain, Modric showed glimpses of his magic as Croatia had 60 per cent of the ball.

That was the first time in 136 competitive matches since the Euro 2008 final that a team had more possession against the Spanish team. But, despite Croatia’s dominance, Spain won 3-0.

Croatia also dominated Albania – 67 per cent possession – yet conceded a late goal to draw 2-2.

Despite those two “dominating” performances, Modric has not been his usual self. Age may be a factor, but there is no doubting his talent.

Modric’s first major tournament was at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Croatia failed to qualify for the knockout stage after finishing third in Group F behind Brazil and Australia, and ahead of Japan.

Eighteen years later, Modric’s final international tournament could end like his first – unless he turns on the magic one last time against Italy.

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