Deschamps warns France to be on guard for brilliance of Croatia's Modric
France boss Didier Deschamps warned his players they faced a tough battle in their Nations League match on Wednesday night against a Croatia side buoyed by the return of playmaker Luka Modric.
The 2018 Ballon d’Or winner was at the heart of the midfield scheming during his country’s 2-1 win over Sweden on 11 October. On the same night at the Stade de France, Deschamps’ men were being held to a goalless draw against Portugal.
"Luka Modric is a brilliant player,” said Deschamps on the eve of the clash in Zagreb. “The Croatia side is much stronger when he’s playing because of his influence.”
Modric, 35, who will make his 128th appearance for his country, missed the game between the countries at the Stade de France in September. The visitors took the lead through Dejan Lovren and were outplaying France who managed to go in at the pause with a 2-1 advantage.
Though Josip Brekalo levelled, France pulled away with goals from Dayot Upamenco and Olivier Giroud.
“Modric hasn’t won the Ballon d’Or for no good reason,” added Deschamps. “He is a leader technically and psychologically. He’s one of the reasons why they reached the final at the World Cup.”
France will field several of their own reasons for reaching the World Cup final in Moscow two years ago. Kylian Mbappé, who occupied a role on left against Portugal, is expected to move into the centre at the expense of Giroud.
Antoine Griezmann will continue to float behind the central strikers. And Paul Pogba, out through injury for a year, is likely to take the midfield battle with N’Golo Kanté to Modric and Mateo Kovacic.
“It’s going to be a real fight in the centre,” said France skipper Hugo Lloris. “But that’s what we need to go through to succeed. Croatia will be at full strength and they will give everything to get a chance to continue in this competition.”
Portugal and France lead League A Group 3 with seven points after three games.
Anything less than a win would effectively end Croatia’s hopes of claiming the pool and progressing to the next stage.
The hosts will be cheered on by 7,000 supporters at the Stadion Maksimir.
“It’s always good to have fans,” said Deschamps. “And if they’re all Croatian, well that’s even better for Croatia! I’m not going to get into whether there should be supporters or not. It’s simple. In France, it wasn’t allowed and here it is.”
Zlatko Dalic, Deschamps' Croatia counterpart, added: "The world champions are coming to visit us but there is no fear. Why would there be? We are at home. We are a little tired but so are they. Let's enjoy it."
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