A big game in Group F — with a lot at stake for both teams — took place at Khalifa International Stadium tonight between Canada and Croatia. Both teams were desperate for a win as they failed to pick up a win in their opening games respectively.
Real Madrid’s ageless midfielder Luka Modric started as right central midfielder in a 4-3-3 for the Croatians. That’s his nominal role for both Real Madrid and Croatia, though, of course, Modric is far from a static midfielder, and was active in multiple channels throughout the game.
Croatia relied heavily on Modric’s press-resistancy (especially in the face of an aggressive Canadian press and counter-press), passing between the lines, and creative ruses from the right hand side. While it could be argued that Mateo Kovacic was Croatia’s most important driving force as a ball-carrier, tracker, and vertical passer, Modric’s composure and leadership was key in settling the team amidst a wave of momentum from Canada in the opening 20 minutes — particularly after the Canadians went up 1 - 0 in the second minute through an Alphonso Davies header.
Modric, who was also important in organizing Croatia’s structure behind the ball, cover-shadowed and pressed efficiently. One of his two key passes nearly resulted in an excellent assist, but his great run and cut-back from the right was missed by Kramaric:
Modric had 67 touches on the ball, and completed 84.5% of his passes. He also received a yellow card for this mini melee with Kamal Miller in the 83rd minute: