"I'm hoping for a great game of football between two fantastic teams - a much more exciting match than the last one in Elche”, the former Croatia international said.
Croatian Football Federation president Davor Suker took a few moments out to talk to AS ahead of tomorrow's crucial Nations League tie between his country and Spain. The former Real Madrid and Sevilla forward is the only person who was directly involved in the two moments considered the pinnacle of Croatia's football history - the third-place finish at 1998 World Cup France as a player, and finishing as runners-up at this year's World Cup finals in Russia as HNS president. Suker - always the first to defend Luka Modric, a self-confessed lover of Spain and all things Spanish as well as a authoritative voice on Real Madrid (where he spent two seasons at the tail end of the 90s), he's convinced that Croatia have learned their lesson from the 6-0 drubbing La Roja subjected them to back in September.
It's now four month since France and Croatia contested the World Cup final. Has life changed at all since then?
“What happened in Russia was the most beautiful thing we've seen in Croatian football. We were able to unite the whole of Croatia and I cannot remember anything quite as emotional as the homecoming celebration with more than Croatians taking to the streets. Football's my life and its moments like that that make me feel great happiness”.
Wonderful moment for Croatia
What did Croatia do differently to the rest in Russia?
“To keep it as brief as I can, I'd say we gave a lesson in talent, unity and national enthusiasm. We are working very hard so that the new Luka Modrics and Ivan Rakitics will emerge in the future”.
How much of Croatia's success at Russia 2018 was down to you?
“When a small country achieves something as big as that, it means that the system has worked well. I feel very proud to be at the head of a federation which represents our country with such success”.
Be honest - do you want revenge on Spain for the Matchday 2 tonking?
“Of course, we were very disappointed with the result in Elche, where a lot of things didn't go to plan and with one thing and another, it ended in a defeat. I'm sure that the coach and the players are motivated and keen to show that match was just an off day for us and nothing more. Especially as this game will be the first at home after the World Cup - we'll have our fans behind us and hopefully their support will help the team”.
Are you worried that Spain could serve Croatia another heavy defeat?
“Spain is one of the best sides in the world and Luis Enrique is a great coach so it wouldn't surprise me if Spain played well again. I'm hoping for a great game of football between two fantastic teams - a much more exciting match than the last one in Elche”
Modric deserves it
Do you think Cristiano and Messi were unfair with Luka Modric?
“I don't really like to comment on what Cristiano and Messi do or say, they're entitled to their own views like everyone is. They have deserved all of the awards they have received because they are exceptional players, among the best players in football history but their absence could not have spoiled Luka's night because it was the moment when we celebrated his success and his trajectory in football”.
Would it be a tragedy if Modric didn't win the Ballon d'Or?
“I do think Luka really deserves all of the awards this year for everything he has achieved with Real Madrid and especially with Croatia, and in saying that, I don't want in any way to belittle Cristiano and Messi's proven value”.