Luka Modric: the unassuming genius driving Croatia’s tilt at the World Cup

Croatia midfielder is lighting up Russia 2018 in a way that may finally see him ranked alongside Xavi and Iniesta

Saturday 17 November 2007 and the pitch at the National Arena in Skopje is a bog. Incessant rain has caused severe waterlogging and put Macedonia’s hosting of Croatia in a Euro 2008 qualifier under threat. The game goes ahead, and the hosts go on to win 2-0, but it is a poor contest as players on both sides struggle to control the ball, let along do anything with it.

Amid the sodden muck one player does catch the eye. Croatia’s No 14, a small and wiry midfielder who, despite the conditions, looks to use possession intelligently and precisely. Sometimes he fails but he continues to try, continues to trust in his technique, and what makes his display even more impressive is he is 22.

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