Luka Modric issued a withering rebuke to English journalists and pundits who had “underestimated” Croatia after his team’s World Cup semi-final victory over the Three Lions.
The skipper said detractors “should be more humble” and show greater respect after his side’s 2-1 extra-time win shattered England’s dreams of glory in Russia.
Modric, who will on Sunday lead Croatia into their first ever World Cup final, suggested his team had set out to prove a point after noting unfavourable views aired by critics prior to Wednesday’s match.
“Especially English journalists, pundits from television, they underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake,” Modric told ITV Sport.
“All these words from them we take, we were reading and we were saying, ‘OK, today we will see who will be tired’.
“And like I said they should be more humble and respect more opponents.
“But we showed again that we were not tired, we dominated the game physically, mentally, in all aspects.”
The Real Madrid midfielder, 32, has dazzled in Russia and is now just a victory over France away from lifting the biggest prize in world football.
It would be a momentous occasion for Croatia, whose previous best performance was a semi-final loss to France in 1998.
“This is an amazing achievement for us,” he said. “It’s a dream come true after such a long time.
“We are in the final. It is the biggest success in Croatian history in sport and we have to be proud.”