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Luka Modric is the best Croatian player ever says Ivan Rakitic

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic agrees with former Croatia great Robert Prosinecki, that his team-mate Luka Modric could be the best Croatian player of all time.

Modric and Rakitic will line up against Denmark in the last 16 of the World Cup on Sunday after guiding Croatia to a 100 percent start to the tournament, winning all three of their matches in Group D thanks to their stylish midfield play.

That prompted Prosinecki to say Modric was the best Croatian player ever and Rakitic added his voice in support. “I totally agree, but Luka isn’t just a great player, he’s a great person. He is our leader and we have a lot of confidence in him. It is always a challenge when we face each other in Spain and I am delighted we play alongside each other for Croatia,” Rakitic said in a press conference.

Only three sides (Croatia, Uruguay and Belgium) go into the knockout stage with a 100 percent record, but Rakitic insisted that that means nothing now.

“Denmark are a very solid side and they haven’t lost any of their matches here. They are compact and they know what to do to stop their rivals playing. Then they are quick and dangerous in attack,” he warned, highlighting the talents of Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen. “He is one of the best creative players in Europe and he has been excellent,” Rakitic said.

He also spoke about the Croatia side that finished third in the 1998 World Cup, saying players such as Prosinecki and Davor Suker were “idols” but he added that the current side “wants to make their own history” in Russia. “I hope we can do as well as they did, or even better,” the Barcelona midfielder said.


Rakitic backs Neymar to regain peak form at World Cup

ROSCHINO Russia (Xinhua) -- Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic believes Brazil talisman Neymar is on the verge of recapturing his best form after an inauspicious start to the World Cup in Russia.

Neymar has scored just once in Brazil’s first three matches: a stoppage-time strike in a 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

The 26-year-old missed three months with a fractured bone in his foot before the tournament and Rakitic believes his former Barcelona teammate is improving every day. “He is among the best in the world and he is getting better during this tournament,” Rakitic told a press conference.

“You can tell he is thinking less and less about the injury and I am sure we are all going to enjoy his football during this tournament.” In addition to his lacklustre form, Neymar has been accused by sections of Brazil’s media of “playing for himself” and of seeking attention by crying on the pitch after the match against Costa Rica. Rakitic defended Neymar and said the Paris Saint-Germain forward should not change the way he plays to please critics. “Neymar is among my favourite players in the world,” he said.

“I would always want to have him in my team. He has a special way of playing which doesn’t necessarily suit everybody, but that’s him. That’s his style and he is enjoying playing football, so he takes a lot of risks.”

Croatia will meet Denmark in the round of 16 on Sunday after topping Group D with three wins from as many matches. Victory against the Danes would set up a potential quarterfinal against Spain, who Rakitic rates as the World Cup favorites.

“To be honest, I see Spain above everyone else,” he said. “I think they are the main favourites of this tournament. It’s tough, they had three difficult games in the group, [but] the confidence they are playing with is one level above everyone else.

“I know them very well, I wish them all the best. But hopefully the quarter-finals will be enough for them. Then they are a little bit tired and can use some rest, especially if they are playing against Croatia,” he added.


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