Davor Suker, president of the Croatian Football Federation has backed captain Luka Modric to handle the pressure of trying to guide his country to a first World Cup final.
The Real Madrid midfielder, 33 in September, has been instrumental in Croatia’s journey to the World Cup semi-finals this past month, where on Wednesday they meet England in Moscow.
Modric has been a key part of his side's success – the highlight coming in the 3-0 demolition of Argentine during the group stage, when he scored from outside the penalty area.
However, Modric has able support in Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic, who represent Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus, respectively. Mateo Kovacic, meanwhile, is a teammate at Madrid.
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Modric undoubtedly makes Croatia tick, though. Yet Suker, an integral component of the Croatia team that took bronze in 1998, insists Modric can shoulder the responsibility that comes with his side’s historic quest in Russia.
“He is the leader. That’s what we need to have,” said Suker, who was the tournament's top scorer 20 years ago. “Sometimes you need to have this kind of guy.
"We had it with Zvonimir Boban in 1998: that huge name, that huge person. So you need to have these guys. At that time, we had a lot of players at the best clubs in the world, like what’s happening now and we’re so glad.”
Asked if Modric, who in May won a fourth Uefa Champions League crown with Madrid, should be awarded this year’s Ballon d’Or, the honour bestowed upon the year's best footballer, Suker said: “He’s playing excellent, we see that in every part of the midfield.
“It’s good he’s controlling games. He helps everyone in the team and is a great captain. And if I had the vote I would give it to Modric.”