DOHA, Qatar (AP) – Luka Modric will win another World Cup campaign to drive Croatia to the title.
The 37-year-old midfielder will lead Croatia when they play their opening Group F game against Morocco on Wednesday, a hurdle the 2018 runners-up are expected to clear comfortably before they face Canada and then a showdown with Belgium with no. 2 and Kevin de Bruyne.
Four years ago, Modric worked tirelessly and was awarded the tournament’s best player award as Croatia reached the final, where they lost 4-2 to France.
Only five of the players who started the final in 2018 are in this Croatia squad after the rebuilding of coach Zlatko Dalic. The constant is Modric, who is still central to everything Croatia do and arguably more important to his team’s chances than Lionel Messi is to Argentina. and Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal.
The Real Madrid footballer confirmed that this tournament will be the end of his 16-year international career.
It will be an early game against the Moroccans in Al Khor, north of Doha, where the temperature is forecast to reach 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) by kick-off. That heat shouldn’t be a problem against the North Africans, though, thanks to the cooling systems being used in this year’s World Cup stadiums.
“The conditions here were better than I expected,” said Croatian forward Andrej Kramaric, who was a substitute in the 2018 final. “And given the air conditioning in the stadiums, (it might) even get cold during the games.”
The climate in the Moroccan camp has also cooled significantly following a bitter row between former coach Vahid Halilhodzic and Chelsea striker Hakim Ziyech. Zijh was kicked out of the team last year for what Halilhodzic called his “unacceptable” attitude.
It threatened to result in Morocco, in desperate need of all its overseas-based talent, being without one of its best players for the World Cup. Halilhodzic was sacked despite Morocco qualifying for the World Cup and replaced by Walid Regraghi, who promptly recalled Ziyech.
Zieh hit the ground running and scored a stunning goal from his own half in Morocco’s final warm-up before the World Cup.
But the change did not come until the end of August, giving Regraghi, who had never been an international coach before, just two months to make a bigger mark on a team that was already expected to struggle at the World Cup, particularly against Croatia. and Belgium.
That may not be enough time for the 47-year-old Regraghi to get something special out of Morocco, who have only managed to make it past the World Cup group stage once, in 1986.
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