DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Luka Modric will win another World Cup campaign to propel Croatia to the title.
The 37-year-old midfielder will lead Croatia into their Group F opener against Morocco on Wednesday, a hurdle the 2018 runners-up should easily clear before facing Canada and then facing No. 2 Belgium. Kevin de Bruyne.
Four years ago, Modric worked tirelessly and was awarded the tournament’s best player award as Croatia reached the final, losing 4-2 to France.
Just five of the players who started the 2018 final are in this Croatia squad following coach Zlatko Dalic’s rebuild. The constant is Modric, who remains central to everything Croatia do, and perhaps more important to his team’s prospects than Lionel Messi to Argentina’s. and Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal.
The Real Madrid player has 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 temperatures are forecast to reach 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). However, this heat should not be a problem against the North Africans thanks to the cooling systems used in this year’s World Cup stadiums.
“The conditions here have been better than I expected,” said Croatia forward Andrej Kramaric, who was a substitute in the 2018 final. “And with the air conditioning in the stadiums, it (could) even get cold during the games.”
The climate in the Moroccan camp has also cooled significantly after the heated dispute between former head coach Vahid Halilhodzic and Chelsea striker Hakim Ziyech. Zijeh was kicked out of the team last year after Halilhodzic called his attitude “unacceptable”.
It threatened to leave Morocco, in desperate need of all its overseas talent, without one of its best players at the World Cup. Halilhodzic was sacked despite Morocco qualifying for the World Cup and replaced by Walid Regragui, who promptly recalled Ziyeh.
Ziyech hit the ground running and scored a stunning goal from his own half in Morocco’s final pre-World Cup warm-up.
But the coaching change did not come until the end of August, giving Regra, who has never been an international coach before, just two full months to put his strength into a team that was already set to struggle at the World Cup, notably against Croatia. and in Belgium.
Perhaps this time will not be enough for the 47-year-old Regragui to get something special from Morocco, which has only made it to the group stage of the World Cup once – in 1986.
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