Luka Modric proved to us yet again why he is the star man of the Croatian midfield. He starts for Real Madrid, dictating the midfield play as almost every play runs by him before hitting Angel di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. Knowing this, he wears the number 10 for Croatia with the same goal in mind.
Croatia head coach, Niko Kovac, placed Modric and Ivan Rakitic — another attacking midfielder — together as the two-man defensive midfield in front of the back four. He made them responsible for cleaning up the messes and pushing up the field, but to do both from that position is asking a bit too much.
Modric plays in a central role at Real Madrid in a 4-3-3, which enables him to push up and pull back as one of only three central guys. For Croatia, he plays as one of the two in the 4-2-3-1 which means he has to get the other four guys in front of him involved. He is an attack-minded individual, which means he needs to play as either the left attacking midfielder, central attacking midfielder or the right attacking midfielder. If he needs to drag himself wide in order to hold the ball up, then so be it. But he should not be responsible for mostly defending as a number 10.
Rakitic can play in this defensive role as he can tackle, hold the ball up and get others involved with ease. He does not make as many runs with the ball as Modric, but he certainly can pass the ball equally as well. His vision is superb and his ability to find others is uncanny. He needs more freedom from his coach at the international level if he is going to blossom in this tournament. At Sevilla, he scored 12 goals and added 10 assists in 34 La Liga games this past season. Enough said.
If these two are disallowed to play as two of the three attacking trio behind the lone striker, the team will struggle to play defense in the midfield while also lacking the ability to create in the final third. This is easy mathematics for the coach to solve. Put Rakitic on the left and Modric on the right with Mateo Kovaceic in between them. This way they will not get in one another’s way when making some magic.