“Modric For Ballon d’Or!”
Almost exactly 20 years ago, Igor Štimac lined up against Didier Deschamps in the 1998 World Cup semifinals, and now he’s hoping Luka Modric and Co can do what they didn’t… Beat France.
Štimac, who was playing for Derby County at the time, came so close to helping Croatia reach the final in Paris, but a Lilian Thuram brace cancelled out Davor Suker’s opener and it was Les Bleus that went on to win the title.
Now though, with the two sides set to lock horns once again – this time in Moscow – the 50-year-old former centre back is ecstatic with what the current crop of players has managed to achieve – on and off the field – in Russia this year, already calling them heroes for what they’ve done.
Speaking to the Siya crew from Russia, Štimac said, “Our lads made us proud, they brought back happiness to Croatia… They’ve done more for Croatia than all our politicians together over the last 20 years.
“It’s very similar to our 1998 side, but we knew that we have great individuals in this team and now they proved that we have great team. It’s better than in 1998!”
Meanwhile, when asked if Ivan Rakitic and his teammates should be looking to avenge their ’98 defeat, the ex-West Ham United man said, “I honestly hope that is not going to be prior motivation. They need to enjoy the day, do their best and give everything that’s left of them on Sunday afternoon. They are already our heroes!”
Lastly, when asked about Modric’s contribution as captain of this current crop of Croatian players, Štimac said, “We all hope that Luka will be voted as the best player of the World Cup and get this season’s Ballon d’Or, because after winning the Champions League with Madrid he is the only serious contender for the most prestigious individual award in this final. Luka Modric is absolutely, definitely, the best Croatian player of all time.”