‘They didn’t play football’: Lovren’s salty France dig
THE RAIN hid Croatia's tears.
After Luka Modric collected his Golden Ball award in a downpour, he shared an emotional embrace with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, both wearing the country's red-and-white check jersey.
The Croatians know the 4-2 loss to France in the World Cup final on Monday (AEST) was a chance that may not come again anytime soon.
"Overall, we've been better," Croatia defender Dejan Lovren said in the aftermath, critical of the way France played.
"They did it the other way. They didn't play football. They waited for their chances and they scored.
"They had their own tactic and you need to respect that. They played the tournament like that every game."
Modric, who at 32 may have played in his last World Cup match, added: "We were so close and we played the best soccer. We deserved more."
Croatia's first golden generation lost to France in the 1998 World Cup semi-finals, and its second went one better.
Besides Modric, goalkeeper Danijel Subasic will be 38 at the next World Cup in Qatar, midfielder Ivan Rakitic will be 34 and forward Mario Mandzukic will be 36.
"I wish we are now 24, everyone and Luka especially," 29-year-old Lovren said.
"There is a time when something needs to end."
Among a crowd of men in dark suits on the World Cup podium, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Grabar-Kitarovic's team shirt showed her passion for Croatia, a country of barely four million people.
While some of the players shed tears on the field, fans at home celebrated in the thousands despite the loss.
Croatia went down with the same grit that had taken it through three extra-time matches, all won after conceding the opening goal.
When Ivan Perisic scored in the 28th minute after Mandzukic's own-goal had given France the lead, Croatia looked ready to do it again.
Then came a penalty, called after a video review, which Antoine Griezmann converted.
Trailing 2-1, Croatia conceded two more goals but kept fighting.
Mandzukic then took advantage of a goalkeeping error to make it 4-2, becoming the first player to score for both teams in a World Cup final. "When you want to be the best then you need to win, simple as that," Lovren said.
"It's not easy to accept that. It's something that I will carry for my life."