Real Madrid World Cup Spotlight: Modric bows out against Messi’s brilliance
Two of football’s greatest No. 10s faced off against each other in a high-voltage clash at Lusail Stadium in the first semi-final of the FIFA World Cup.
Luka Modric’s Croatia and Lionel Messi’s Argentina had both enjoyed starring campaigns to that point, eliminating some of football’s biggest names in the process. Yet, only one team could progress to the elusive final and it was the Albiceleste who proved superior.
Messi opened the scoring in the 34th minute with an unstoppable shot from the penalty spot to give his side the lead after Julian Alvarez was taken down in the box by Dominik Livakovic.
The lead was soon doubled by Alvarez himself as he made an unbelievable solo rum from behind the half-line into the Croatia box and slammed the ball past the goalkeeper.
Modric’s side put up a stern fight and created some chances, but Messi’s wizardry proved to be the final nail in the coffin. The PSG superstar dribbled beyond Josko Gvardiol to beautifully set up Alvarez in front of an open goal.
Argentina will now face the winner of France and Morocco on Sunday in the hope of lifting football’s ultimate trophy. As for Croatia, they will play the losers from the second semi-final in a third-place playoff match.
Madrid Universal brings you an overview of the performance of Luka Modric on the night.
Luka Modric (Croatia vs Argentina)
The 37-year-old ace did not have the best of games when Croatia faced off against Brazil in the quarterfinals last week. Yet, his mere involvement in the play elevated his team’s buildup quality significantly as every attack seemingly passed through him.
The difference on Tuesday was that Modric was less involved in the game as a whole. In contrast to the 105 passes he had against Brazil, albeit over 120 minutes, he recorded just 66 passes against the Albiceleste. He struggled to cope with the opponents’ high press and managed to complete just 85% of his attempted passes.
Only the opening minutes saw Modric at his blistering best as Argentina were put under immense pressure. However, the steam fizzled out by the 20th minute and the Croat was forced into a passive and defensive role for most of the following period.
The Real Madrid midfielder created a wonderful chance just past the hour mark when his well-weighted cross into the area fell for Dejan Lovren. However, the defender wasted the chance, denying Modric the assist and Croatia the hope of a comeback.
In 81 minutes on the field, Modric recorded two key passes and completed 66% of his attempted long balls. With four out of four attempted dribbles completed, he had the highest completion rate of any player on the field. Further, he had one shot blocked too.
After Argentina’s opener, however, the dynamics of the game changed drastically. All of a sudden, Croatia were on the back foot and chasing balls while Lionel Scaloni’s men dominated the proceedings.
Respect by all players and football fans in the planet.— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 13, 2022
World Cup finalist & semi-finalist.
Quality, leadership, pure class.
Symbol of his country.
Ballon d’Or winner.
Art in motion.
…last dance at the World Cup again as one of top players of tournament.
Luka Modrić 🎩🇭🇷 pic.twitter.com/SmoSnz1N0J
In this phase of the game, Modric reluctantly played a defence-based role, making two clearances, two tackles and winning nine duels. His resilient tracking back helped his side nullify Argentina’s counter-attacks and win back possession.
After his team’s win over Brazil, a second final in as many editions was seen as a real possibility for Modric. However, it was not meant to be and the legendary midfielder’s stellar run ended in heartbreak.
The Real Madrid player will be 41 by the time the next World Cup dawns on us. Taking that into consideration, the world might as well be seeing the last of the midfield great in the prestigious competition.
He deserved a better sendoff but should be proud of taking his nation so far for the second successive tournament and will hope to walk away with at least the bronze medal.
Modric is not expected to return to action for Real Madrid for the game against Real Valladolid but could be back for the Valencia game. Los Blancos’ only remaining candidates in Qatar are Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga who will be in action later today.
Goals, energy, leadership: Three things Bellingham can offer to Real Madrid
Real Madrid have been notoriously heavy spenders in the summer transfer market in the past but have not spent an awful lot over the last few seasons due to financial restrictions and their team finding its peak at the right time.
Real Madrid did shell out close to €100 million for Aurelien Tchouameni last year, and got Eduardo Camavinga in the summer of 2021 for around €400 million, too.
It does seem like they have a huge summer planned ahead of them, though. The club plans to splash some cash on multiple positions, including centre-forward, right-wing, central midfield, and across the defence.
Some targets are laid out for these positions, with Kylian Mbappe naturally being on the list.
However, one definite target for Madrid that’s been well-established already is Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. His price tag is set at around €100-140 million, and Los Blancos are among the teams leading the race for his signature, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool.
The Englishman has an obviously high ceiling and is already among the best players in his position in Europe. Moreover, he adds depth across various skillsets and attributes that Real Madrid currently lack or will lack as the clock marches on.
Madrid Universal explores three different things Bellingham can bring to the table for an already talented Galacticos side.
Goals from midfield
Despite not playing an advanced role, Bellingham is a rather experienced poacher in the box. This comes with his thorough understanding of offensive routines, and timing his runs to perfection in the box.
Being 6’1″ and physically gifted, the teenager can attack crosses and passes into the box with ease. He boasts of a rather impressive leap as well, which was more than visible during the World Cup, when he opened the scoring against Iran.
Goal – JUDE BELLINGHAM— masih miness (@WorldCup__id) November 21, 2022
England 1-0 Iran (34 mins) pic.twitter.com/CkCxl45mU1
The English midfielder has scored four goals in the league for Dortmund, and has accumulated an xG of 5.25 across the season. That is nearly two more than Madrid’s highest scoring midfielder – Luka Modric.
Currently, Madrid’s goals are rather lopsidedly dependent on the forward line, with Toni Kroos and Modric just chipping in with a combined six goals in the league out of a possible 51.
While both players, and Camavinga, are adept at shooting from range, neither quite provide the box threat or the third-man runs Madrid are currently craving for.
Once Karim Benzema or Vinicius Jr are boxed out of the game, Carlo Ancelotti’s side struggle with ideas, and are often stuck in a pattern of crossing and hoping for the best.
And even with that, Bellingham could prove to be an excellent solution to their problems, coming up with late runs into the box and attacking crosses and loose balls.
Far too many times this season, Ancelotti has been criticised for using Modric and Kroos in the same midfield. Especially when their bench holds the likes of Camavinga, Dani Ceballos, and sometimes even Federico Valverde.
However, it is clear that these players have been delegated to certain roles in midfield. Camavinga and Tchouameni shuffle as pivot options, while Ceballos is called upon add more creativity in the centre of the park.
Bellingham, while far from the best ball retainer, certainly has energy and lungs for days. He can run from box to box, receive and turn in a crowded midfield, and chase the ball till the 90.
While they have Valverde in a similar mould, the Uruguayan has been tasked with running the right-wing more often than not, at least under Ancelotti. It will be interesting to see how another coach would utilise both players to their respective strengths should the transfer go through.
Long-term captaincy candidate
At 19, Bellingham has already shown signs of becoming a captain for any side he plays for, for years to come. He has donned the armband for Dortmund several times this season already, and was first awarded with it in October, becoming the youngest captain in Bundesliga history.
Currently, he holds the position of third captain for Dortmund, behind Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, but has already held the armband multiple times, including twice in the UEFA Champions League.
While Madrid have a fair few leaders in their ranks, including and not limited to the likes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and David Alaba, Bellingham has clearly proved that he is not only capable of taking on a leadership role, but also spearheading any side for years to come.
If all works out, the price tag of €120+ million will soon start to pale in comparison to the attributes he brings to the table alongside his unbelievably high ceiling and longevity.