Croatia’s Luka Modric to play on after ‘brutal’ Italy game

Croatia captain Luka Modric said he would continue playing on despite his country’s likely elimination from the European Championship after conceding a last-gasp goal in a 1-1 draw with Italy in their final Group B game on Monday.

Modric, the Ballon d’Or winner in 2018 when Croatia reached the World Cup final in Moscow, put his team ahead seconds after having a penalty saved, but then watched in shock after being taken off as Italy’s Mattia Zaccagni curled home the equaliser with the last kick of the game deep in stoppage time.

The draw put Italy into the round of 16 and left Croatia third in Group B with two points — unlikely to be enough to take one of the spots reserved for the four best third-placed finishers.

Despite the disappointment, Modric suggested he wanted to carry on even after 178 internationals since his debut in 2006 and with his goal making him the oldest scorer ever at a Euro.

“I’d like to keep playing forever, but there probably will come a time when I must hang up my boots. I’ll keep playing on, but I don’t know for how much longer,” the 38-year-old midfielder told reporters.

Modric, the long-time Real Madrid star, was resigned in his analysis of the game.

“That was very stressful,” he said. “We kept battling right until the end but, unfortunately, football was merciless with us tonight. It was cruel above all today, but also in our last match [a 2-2 draw with Albania] when we also conceded a late goal.

“But that’s part and parcel of football. Often it gives you plenty of smiles, but on other occasions it makes you very sad as it did today, losing in the manner we did.

“It’s hard when you lose like this to find the words to describe how you feel. Of course we need to bounce back. But that’s the way it is.

“And as I said earlier, perhaps it’s unfair because we all really fought for Croatia right from the first whistle [until] the last and the result is what it is.

“The footballing gods don’t necessarily always smile on us but we should be proud of the way that we represented our country tonight.”

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic suggested the eight minutes of time added the led to Italy’s goal was unnecessary and that his players became nervy in the closing stages.

“There were not many breaks in play or fouls. But you cannot concede a goal like that in the 98th minute,” Dalic said. “Defeat is part and parcel of football. That’s the way it is.”

Information from Reuters was used in this story.