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By now you’ll have heard the stories of Luka Modric’s childhood, of his grandfather executed by the Serbian militia while tending livestock and of the Modric family expelled from their town during the Balkans War. As if emerging from the embers of warfare to become one of the most brilliant midfielders of his generation wasn’t enough, Luka Modric can also call it exactly how it is.
As Modric said after Croatia’s 2-1 victory over England in the 2018 World Cup semi-final, the English “should be more humble and respect more opponents.” I share Modric’s righteous indignation. This is my chief bone of contention with English sporting teams. Many people all over the world feel the same way. They carry this veneer of supremacy everywhere they go & it inevitably morphs into disrespect of others.
You can see it in the behaviour of their conceited and boorish fans, wrecking an IKEA and jumping on ambulances just after winning a quarter-final. They’re the only fans warned in advance not to cross the line with their behaviour. Imagine what they’d do if they won it. Luckily they’re nowhere near as good as their semi-final finish suggests and that was never a likely scenario.
England put six past a Panama team so delighted just to take part that they wildly celebrated their one consolation goal, and that’s where the delusions of grandeur began. As well as that, they needed a last-minute goal to beat Tunisia; they needed penalties to put out a dismal Colombia side missing their best player; and Sweden don’t even have Zlatan Ibrahimovic anymore.
What were they even getting excited about?
Roy Keane, like Modric, was spot-on: what were they even getting excited about? They got a lucky draw and beat a couple of mediocre teams and thought they had the World Cup won. They saw the unstoried name of Croatia and thought they were just a stepping stone to the final. Where does this arrogance even come from? It’s completely misplaced as the English team has achieved nothing of note in this century and hadn’t even won a knockout game in the World Cup since limping past Ecuador in 2006.
Ironically, with a lot more humility from England, maybe Croatia wouldn’t have had the fire in the belly and extra motivation needed to stomach another extra-time and put England out. We’ve seen this story a million times: England get carried away, they lose, and we all laugh our heads off. It’s a movie that never gets old. Getting to the semi-finals in this World Cup should not fool anyone- England still aren’t very good at football and it isn’t ‘coming home’ any time soon.