Croatia captain Luka Modric believes his side were the better team in the World Cup final against France, but admitted: “Sometimes the better teams don’t win.”
Like Oliver Kahn, Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi before him, Modric lost the game but was then awarded the Golden Ball for being the tournament’s best player.
The 32-year-old midfield magician told reporters he was “proud to have received the award for myself” but wanted “to win a trophy with Croatia”.
France were comfortable 4-2 winners in the end, but were very fortunate to have a 2-1 lead at the interval and did not get on top of Croatia until Paul Pogba added a superb third in the 59th minute.
Asked if he thought Croatia had been unlucky, Modric said: “Yeah, I think so. Everyone has the same feeling that we played well.
“I think we were the better team but sometimes better teams don’t win.”
The Real Madrid star thought France’s controversial second goal in the 38th minute was “the turning point”, as they were in the ascendancy after Ivan Perisic’s fine strike had cancelled out Mario Mandzukic’s own goal.
France regained their lead when referee Nestor Pitana used an on-field video review to give them a penalty for a Perisic handball. The ball clearly struck his hand, and was stopped from crossing Croatia’s goalmouth, but he had no time to react when Blaise Matuidi missed an attempted flick-on from an Antoine Griezmann corner.
It looked harsh and Croatia’s players were incensed, with their moods not improved by Griezmann’s cool penalty.
“We were surprised when it was given, especially because the foul he gave for the first goal (which came when Mandzukic flicked Griezmann’s free-kick into his own net) wasn’t a foul in my opinion and then we recovered from that,” said Modric.
“We played well and played the best football and he gives a penalty to them. It kills you. It’s not easy to keep coming back.
“But we tried, we fought until the end and we have to be proud of what we did and how we played. But in the end it wasn’t enough to win it.”
While Modric was given the Golden Ball, Griezmann got a winners’ medal and his third man-of-the-match award at this tournament.
The 27-year-old said: “I don’t really realise what is happened yet – the World Cup is a lot.
“But I’m so proud of this team, the players, the staff. We were really united as a group. We did something incredible, we made history and we are going to enjoy it.”
The Atletico Madrid striker admitted that he did not initially know why the referee had gone to VAR for the Perisic incident, which was initially given as a goal-kick.
“I tried to stay to the side a bit and then I did my normal routine,” said Griezmann.
“I pretended it was a normal league match, stayed calm, concentrated. I did the same trick I normally do for a penalty and it’s working.”
Asked about the diverse nature of France’s World Cup squad, which draws on talent from throughout the French-speaking world, Griezmann said: “That’s the France we love, that’s it. There are different origins but we’re all united.
“It’s the same in our team, there are many players who come from different backgrounds but we all feel the same, we all play for the same jersey, the cockerel, we give everything we have for our country and it’s beautiful.”