The trio of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic have been hailed as “the best Croatia midfield in history” by team-mate Josip Juranovic ahead of his side’s World Cup semi-final against Argentina.
The midfield three, led by 37-year-old Modric, have stood out in Qatar, helping their side to another memorable journey on the international stage.
And it hasn’t gone unnoticed by defender Juranovic, who stressed: “Mateo, Luka and Marcelo are the best Croatia midfield in history. I don’t think it can be repeated. When you pass them the ball it is safer than having your money in the bank.”
It will take a team effort to topple Argentina in Tuesday’s last-four showdown, however, and striker Bruno Petkovic has warned that there is much more to the South Americans than just the legendary Lionel Messi.
“We don’t have a specific plan yet for stopping Messi and usually we don’t concentrate on stopping one player but the entire team,” said Petkovic, whose side are hoping to make it to back-to-back World Cup finals.
Croatia’s success at Qatar has also been built on a solid defence having conceded only three goals so far en route to the last four.
They managed to contain the world No. 1 ranked side in Belgium in the group stage and shut out fellow semi-finalists Morocco before eliminating Brazil on a penalty shoot-out following a 1-1 draw.
“We will try to stop them as a team and not with man-marking,” continued Pekovic. “Argentina are not only Messi, they have a number of great players. We have to stop the entire Argentina team.”
Croatia will be confident of nullifying Argentina, and if they have to go the distance once again, they will do so with confidence. After all, this is a team that have won all four of the shoot-outs they have taken part in at World Cups.
“I think many people who are not professional footballers can take successful penalties,” Petkovic continued. “The difference is how mentally tough you are. There is huge pressure you have never experienced before. But it also helps when you have a world-class ‘keeper.”
Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic took the headlines following Croatia’s famous victory over Brazil, but it was Petkovic who levelled the scores in the 117th minute.
“I am becoming more and more aware of the magnitude of this goal with each passing day,” Petkovic said. “Maybe I’ll experience something similar in the semi-final or beyond.”