Roshchino (Russia) (AFP) – Croatia can match their historic run to the World Cup semi-finals 20 years ago thanks to Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic forming the best midfield on show in Russia, according to defender Vedran Corluka.
Rivals at club level with Real Madrid and Barcelona, Modric and Rakitic have teamed up at international level for over a decade.
But after both netted in a 3-0 thrashing of Argentina that took Croatia into the last 16, Corluka believes they are in better form than ever at a major tournament.
“They are playing in the biggest clubs and this is their best performances for Croatia during a tournament,” Corluka, who earned his 100th cap against Argentina, said on Saturday.
“Maybe I am a little bit biased but for me they are the best midfield pairing in the tournament and hopefully they can take us a long way.”
Croatia had failed to even get out of the group stage in their three World Cups since reaching the last four in France.
And Corluka is hoping to follow in the footsteps of living “legends” by recreating that feat.
“They are all legends for the players, they are idols,” added the former Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur man.
“This is the first time we have passed the group stage in 20 years and hopefully this team will come close or repeat the same performance.”
Croatia also made a strong start at Euro 2016 when they beat reigning champions Spain in the group stage before bowing out to Portugal in the last 16.
Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic was Croatia’s star of that campaign and believes they now have the experience to challenge for the title if luck is on their side.
“For most players this is the fourth major tournament in a row,” said Perisic.
“In France we played really well and we were a little bit unlucky against Portugal. Hopefully our luck will turn in Russia.”
Perisic also reflected on watching his heroes in 1998 as a child and admits a deep World Cup run would be living a dream.
“They did a miracle job in France in 98,” said Perisic.
“I was nine dreaming about being in a similar situation. Now we are here and hope to come close to them.”