Considering there are 736 players at the World Cup this year, ranking among the top 50 is not a bad shout.
ESPN, a U.S.-based global cable and satellite sports television channel, announced a list of the most impressive players at the World Cup in Russia this year. The 50 best were chosen according to the opinion of ESPN analysts, and among the fifty were Croatian national team players Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić, reports Index.hr on June 13, 2018.
While he was ranked 32nd by the portal at the start of the 2014 World Cup, Luka Modrić has moved up 19 places to be ESPN’s 13th best player in the 2018 competition.
“The brightest star of his generation, three-time Champions League winner and midfield maestro Modric has an image problem in his homeland, where he’s been charged with perjury after allegedly lying at the trial of former Dinamo Zagreb director Zdravko Mamic. Some Croatian fans expected Modric to speak out against the country’s unpopular football association, but he did not and needs a stunning tournament to regain the backing of those who voiced disdain toward the federation by disrupting a Euro 2016 game against Czech Republic,” writes ESPN analyst Michael Yokhin.
Ivan Rakitić didn’t even make this elite list four years ago, but for the World Cup in Russia, he is ranked the 32nd best. The Rakitić and Modrić combination was even considered the ‘Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard of Croatia’.
“While undoubtedly a magnificent player, Rakitic has missed becoming a superstar. He never surpassed Xavi Hernandez at Barcelona; with the national team, Luka Modric has always been a couple of steps ahead. In fact, Croatian pundits still discuss finding balance between the duo — think of them as the Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard of Croatia — even though both are into their 30s and have played together for more than a decade. Rakitic has never disappointed, but rarely stands out,” added Michael Yokhin.
In the top five is Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Kevin De Bruyne and Harry Kane.
The World Cup begins tomorrow with the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at 17:00. Croatia kicks off their World Cup on Saturday against Nigeria at 21:00.