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LONDON, Sept 25, 2018 (News Wires) - Luka Modric ended Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s decade-long domination of football’s individual awards by being crowned FIFA’s best player of the year Monday night.

The Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder starred for both club and country as Madrid won a third straight Champions League, and he inspired Croatia to reach the World Cup final for the first time.

He beat Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah to the prize.

Modric’s success means Ronaldo remains tied with Messi having won Fifa’s award in different guises five times each.

At 33, Croatia’s run to the final was the culmination of a brilliant career for Modric that had often been overshadowed by Ronaldo’s goalscoring in their time together in the Spanish capital, before the Portuguese left for Juventus in July.

Modric scored twice and also netted in penalty shootout wins over Denmark and Russia, but it was his playmaking ability that caught the eye in winning the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup.

 

LONDON, Sept 24, 2018 (News Wires) - Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s decade-long domination of football’s individual awards is under threat from Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah when FIFA’s player of the year is announced today.

For the first time in 12 years Messi is not even nominated among the three finalists for the award after early exits for Argentina at the World Cup and Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Both Messi and Ronaldo have won Fifa’s award in different guises five times each, and the Portuguese can move out on his own after winning a third straight Champions League title with Real Madrid before heading for pastures new with Juventus in July.

For a sixth straight season, Ronaldo was the Champions League’s top scorer with 15 goals and also scored four times at the World Cup, including a hat-trick against Spain in a thrilling 3-3 draw to open Portugal’s campaign.

However, Portugal’s last 16 exit to Uruguay in Russia and Ronaldo’s failure to score in the semi-finals or final of the Champions League has opened the door for Modric.

Croatia’s captain was an inspirational figure as they surpassed all expectations to reach the World Cup final and also played a big role in Madrid’s Champions League and Club World Cup wins.

“I hope that Luka will be the best player in the world,” Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic told AFP.

“He deserves it because he was the best player in the Club World Cup and the best player in the World Cup.

“Messi and Ronaldo are fantastic players, but this year is the year of Luka.”

Salah also makes the podium for the first time after an incredible 44-goal debut season for Liverpool that carried the Reds to the Champions League final.

However, a shoulder injury suffered early on in the final robbed him of the chance to help Liverpool lift the trophy and also meant he wasn’t in peak condition to lead Egypt’s World Cup bid.

Despite scoring in each of his two appearances in Russia, The Pharaohs bowed out at the group stage with three defeats.

France’s World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps is favourite to win the best coach award ahead of Dalic and former Real coach Zinedine Zidane, who stepped down in June after overseeing three Champions League triumphs in just two and a half years in charge.

Even if they lose out on the best player award, Messi and Ronaldo could walk away with a prize as they are both nominated for the Puskas award for best goal.

Messi’s solitary World Cup goal against Nigeria and Ronaldo’s spectacular overhead kick against his future employers in the Champions League quarter-finals are two of 10 goals on the shortlist, also including Gareth Bale’s acrobatic strike for Real in the Champions League final.

The best goalkeeper prize is to be contested by France captain Hugo Lloris, Denmark’s Kasper Schmeichel and Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois, whose World Cup heroics earned him a move to Madrid from Chelsea.

Lyon’s Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg and German midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan are joined by Brazilian five-time winner Marta of Orlando Pride in the running for the best women’s player after winning the Champions League with the French giants.

Reynold Pedros of Lyon, Japan boss Asako Takakura and Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman are in the running for best women’s coach.

MOSCOW, July 16, 2018 (News Wires) - Croatia captain Luka Modric said being awarded the Golden Ball for the World Cup’s best player was “bittersweet” after losing the final 4-2 to France Sunday night.

“Obviously I liked the recognition and thanks to those who chose me, but clearly I would have preferred to have won the World Cup,” said the Real Madrid midfielder.

“It wasn’t to be and now we will rest and in the coming days celebrate this because it is still a huge thing for Croatia, but right now the feeling is bittersweet.

“We are proud of what we have done, but a bit sad at losing the final.”

Despite being forced into extra-time in all three of their knockout rounds before the final, Croatia dominated the opening period and were desperately unlucky to trail 2-1 at half-time through Mario Mandzukic’s own goal and a controversial Antoine Griezmann penalty.

The smallest country to make a World Cup final in 68 years, with a population of just over four million, finally wilted after the break as Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe added to France’s lead before Mandzukic pulled a goal back.

“Although I think we deserved more, we can’t change anything,” added Modric. “We can only be proud of what we did — we never gave up and fought until the end.”

With the score at 1-1, France were awarded a penalty after Argentine referee Nestor Pitana reviewed video footage of an Ivan Perisic handball.

Croatia were doubly frustrated by Pitana’s decision as France’s opener also came from a dubious free-kick.

“The small details went in favour of France. It is a shame because I think we were very, very good and deserved to win,” said Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

“It is a shame that they didn’t review the foul before the first goal and only the one that went against us.

“The foul for the first goal is clearly not a foul, the penalty is very, very dubious... it hurts a lot to lose like this.”

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic insisted VAR was a “good thing” for football despite Pitana’s call going against his side.

But Rakitic believes improvements can still be made to the system that was being used in the World Cup for the first time.

“I understand they want to improve things with VAR, but there is still margin for improvement,” he added. “It has helped a lot but it is still not perfect.”

 

MOSCOW, July 16, 2018 (News Wires) - Croatia captain Luka Modric won the Golden Ball award for the World Cup’s best player despite being on the losing side to France in a thrilling final in Moscow Sunday night.

Modric was named man-of-the-match three times in Croatia’s seven games in Russia, but even the Real Madrid midfielder was powerless to stop France’s firepower and the rise of 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward won the young player of the tournament award after scoring his fourth goal of the competition in the final, which France won 4-2.

Belgium captain Eden Hazard finished second in the running for the Golden Ball, with France’s Antoine Griezmann, who also scored his fourth goal of the tournament in the final, coming third.

Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois won the Golden Glove award for the best goalkeeper.

Despite Griezmann and Mbappe getting on the scoresheet, England’s Harry Kane claimed the Golden Boot for his six goals.

 

MOSCOW, July 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Croatia captain Luka Modric believes the toughness of his World Cup squad has some roots in the war that broke up the former Yugoslavia.

On the eve of the World Cup final against France, Modric has been reluctant to go too deeply into answering a question from a reporter who identified himself as a war correspondent from the 1990s, when Croatia became an independent state.

The question was about "how this war forged the spirit of yourself and of the team."

The 32-year-old Modric was a child when his grandfather was killed and his family forced from its home. He replied by saying "I don't like to go back to these things. It's all in the past."

He adds "Of course, everything influences you. It's made us resilient as people, as the nation."

Croatia has spent the maximum amount of time on the field at this World Cup. The team playing extra-time in all three knockout games, and trailed to the first goal scored each time.

Modric has covered more yards than any player at the World Cup, registering 63.03 kilometers (39 miles) in six games, according to FIFA.

 

 

 

MOSCOW, July 12, 2018 (News Wires) - Croatia midfielder Luka Modric has slammed the English media, who he said underestimated his side ahead of their World Cup semi-final against the Three Lions on Wednesday.

Modric, whose team initially went 1-0 down to England thanks to a sublime free kick by Kieran Trippier in the fifth minute, accused the English press of showing a lack of respect to Croatia.

Modric told ITV after the match: "People were talking … English journalists, pundits from television. They underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake."

Having gone into extra time and penalties in their previous two games ahead of Wednesday's semi-final, Modric said there was an assumption that the Croatian team would be tired, giving England the advantage.

He said: "All these words from them we take, we were reading and we were saying: ‘OK, today we will see who will be tired.’ They should be more humble and respect their opponents more.

"We showed again that we were not tired – we dominated the game mentally and physically."

Modric said: “We should have killed the game even before extra time. This is an amazing achievement for us – it’s a dream come true after such a long time. We are in the final and that is the biggest success in Croatia history. We have to be proud.”

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