Luka Modric says Croatia must play the "best match of our lives" to overcome Lionel Messi's Argentina in Tuesday's World Cup semi-final.
The 2018 runners-up Croatia have reached the World Cup's last four in remarkable fashion once again, beating Japan and pre-tournament favourites Brazil in dramatic penalty shoot-outs.
Croatia could become just the second team to win knockout ties against both Brazil and Argentina at a single World Cup next time out, after Germany did so in 2014.
Their hopes of reaching the final may depend on their ability to contain Albiceleste great Messi, who has recorded six goal contributions at the tournament – a tally only bettered by Kylian Mbappe (seven).
While Modric knows stopping Messi will be crucial, he warned Zlatko Dalic's men against focusing all their energies on one player.
"I have the desire to play, but not only to play against one player," Modric said in an interview with RTVE.
"Of course, Messi is an excellent player, we will have big problems to stop him, but we are ready and we will do our best.
"Argentina is a big team. We will try to play the best match of the tournament, the best match of our lives. I hope that it will be enough to enter the final."
A thread of some fresh-faced Croatian stars pic.twitter.com/lzRKOWxMhr— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 11, 2022
Few expected Croatia to repeat their 2018 heroics in Qatar, and while Modric thinks that has suited Dalic's side, he revealed he warned his Real Madrid team-mates of their quality ahead of time.
"It's normal that everyone is looking at the big countries," Modric said. "Given that we are small, no one counted on us.
"But we don't mind that others are favourites and we are in the shadows. We can only do our best, try hard, and that is exactly our strength.
"Before I left for the World Cup, we talked a lot in the [Madrid] dressing room, during which I told them: 'Watch out for Croatia'."
If, as expected, Modric starts Tuesday's game, he will become just the fourth player to start six matches at a single World Cup when aged 37 or above, after Brazil's Nilton Santos in 1962, Italy's Dino Zoff in 1982 and England's Peter Shilton in 1990.
While several veterans of the 2018 tournament remain key for Dalic's side, Modric has been delighted by the impact of Croatia's younger players – including goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
"I saw maturity in our national team with young players who brought new quality and energy," he added.
"It's incredible what our national team is doing. I believed that we could do something. It is a big thing that after four years we are in the semi-finals again. We showed great mental strength.
"In those moments, someone always jumps out, like our goalkeeper, especially in the last two games. I am happy for him, he showed that he is a great goalkeeper."