Luka Modric’s Croatian Legacy Marked by Rivalry with Spain

Luka Modric, the legendary Croatian midfielder, has had a storied career, both with his club Real Madrid and his national team. Modric’s journey has been defined by his move to Spain 12 years ago, a decision that has yielded unprecedented success, including a record-equalling six Champions League titles.

However, Modric’s relationship with Spain’s national team has been a complex one, marked by both triumph and heartbreak. Despite becoming his nation’s greatest player, with a record 175 caps and 25 goals, Modric has had to endure numerous disappointments at the hands of Spain.

The two nations’ rivalry first flared up at Euro 2012, when Spain emerged victorious in a crucial group stage match. Croatia would get their revenge at Euro 2016, but it was the 2018 and 2020 encounters that truly defined the modern-day clash between these two European powerhouses.

In the 2018 UEFA Nations League, Spain inflicted Croatia’s biggest-ever defeat, a 6-0 thrashing that included goals from Modric’s Real Madrid teammates Sergio Ramos and Isco. But Croatia swiftly bounced back, winning 3-2 in the reverse fixture and denying Spain’s progression to the Nations League finals.

The most recent chapter in this rivalry came at Euro 2020, where the two sides engaged in an eight-goal thriller in the Round of 16. Despite a valiant comeback from Croatia, Spain prevailed 5-3, once again sending Modric and his team-mates home empty-handed.

As Modric approaches the twilight of his international career, the 38-year-old will have one final chance to lift a major trophy with Croatia at Euro 2024. Drawn in the same group as Spain and Italy, the opening match against La Roja on June 15 in Berlin promises to be a captivating encounter, with Croatia aiming to redress the balance of their modern rivalry.

With six straight wins in the build-up to the tournament, Croatia enter the Euros as the form team, and a victory over Spain could set them on the path to glory. For Modric, it will be a chance to finally exorcise the demons of past heartbreaks and cement his legacy as one of the greatest players in Croatian football history.

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