Jose Mourinho says France will have a difficult task on their hands controlling Croatian playmaker Luka Modric when the two teams meet in the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday.
Real Madrid man Modric has been one of the stars of the tournament and has been at the heart of his team’s stunning run to the final. Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho was asked about his thoughts on the game in his role as a special RT guest pundit.
He highlighted Croatia’s “identity” as one of the team’s key assets heading into today’s final against a heavily-favored France team.
“I’m not [the head coach of Croatia], and I never put myself in that position [of other coaches], but I think they have an identity, they have a style of play, I think the best way to face the final is to not go against your nature, against your identity, against your DNA,” Mourinho said.
“The most important thing is to be what they are, then of course analyze France, see where France can hurt you and try to be protected against that, and try to feel where France have fragilities, and try to be ready to use these fragilities, but the most important thing is to keep an identity.”
When asked how to stop Croatian playmaker Luka Modric – whom Mourinho managed while at Real Madrid – the Portuguese said it would not be an easy task for France, but that they must not allow him space.
“You know I think it’s not easy to stop Modric, because Modric is such a clever player, he can read the game so well and he can play in many different zones.
“Unless you have one man chasing him all around, which I don’t think in football is something that is so easy to do because the space is huge, I think it’s difficult to control Modric.
“But as an example of almost every team is to win, the teams when they lose the ball they [become] compact immediately, they return to spaces, you could see that for example against Messi, every team that played against Argentina was very, very compact, and instead of thinking more about Messi individually they were thinking more about to close the zones, reduce the spaces… this zonal way of defending is the best way to play against the best teams.”
Mourinho also had praise for Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic, who guided the team through the closing stages of qualification – including a playoff to book their spot in the finals – and has now taken them to their first-ever World Cup final.
“[Dalic is] a success for sure, it doesn’t matter what happens in the final, to finish world champions or second in a World Cup for a country like Croatia is an amazing achievement. Everybody knows [Miroslav] Blažević in in ‘98, everyone will remember Dalic was manager of this generation.”
Mourinho was less certain when asked whether Dalic would be able to replicate his success with Croatia at one of Europe’s top clubs, noting the difference between international and club management.
“Is he going to make it at the highest level in a top club? I don’t know because it’s a completely different job. To be a national team coach and to be a club coach is a completely different job.
“I think it’s easier for a club manager to become a national team manager than for a national team manager to become a club manager, because it’s a different profile of work… because in the club you work every day, you train every day, you play every week, you play two-three times a week, you see the players every day, you have to think about preparation, organization, economical side of the job too, relations with all the departments in the club… so honestly, I don’t know.”
France and Croatia meet in the World Cup final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday, with France looking to claim their second title after victory on home soil in 1998, while Croatia – a nation of around 4.2 million – will be aiming to win the title for the first time.