All of Scotland could only gasp in amazement and disbelief – mouths agape with broken-hearted admiration – as the nation’s dreams were being crushed by one iconic wizard who spun his devastating spell on the pitch in delivering a solitary goal that sounded the death knell for the Scots.
Luka Modric was, unsurprisingly, of course, the said wizard who held the wand and delivered the bewitching goal, stepping on to the ball outside Scotland’s box to score one of the best strikes of this or any other European Championship.
All considered, pretty amazing for a 35-year-old murmured to be way past his prime, with his stellar performance a slap in the face of his detractors.
Scotland had of course known that the midfielder was the danger man and the decisive lynchpin. Knowing it and being able to stop the detonation were two different things, unfortunately for the Scots.
Whilst lesser footballing mortals would have been tempted to “leather it” – borrowing from the Glasgow vernacular – to put the laces through the ball and hope it hits the target, Modric the wizard chose instead precision over power.
Goalkeeper David Marshall and the entire nation of Scotland were helpless as the 35-year-old Croat took a decisive step and coolly caressed an outrageous outside-of-the-boot strike into the top left-hand corner, leaving aall and sundry watching totally mesmerized and bewildered.
The home nation, having fought back with a superb Callum McGregor equalizer shortly before half-time, were crestfallen and heading out of the tournament.
Still setting records at 35, Modric has seen it, done it, and won it at the top level. In March, he became Croatia’s record cap holder, a total that now stands at 141 appearances with his iconic status having now gone stratospheric in his homeland. The captain had yet again led by example in Croatia’s crucial hour of need.
Modric completely ran the the show in the first half as Croatia surged into the lead through Nikola Vlasic, only for their momentum to falter when a totally forgotten and unnoticed McGregor thundered home his first international goal on his 35th cap as the majority of the Hampden crowd raucously erupted in blissful joy.
Then came Modric’s moment of genius. Yet outrageous though the strike was, it was merely only one part of his mesmerizing repertoire. Weighing in also with an assist, he delivered the corner for Ivan Perisic to glance home Croatia’s third and put the result beyond any doubt.
Every which way you slice it, Modric was an absolute standout, with 115 touches and 98 passes – almost two thirds of them in Scotland’s half and the most of any player on the pitch.
His performance – Man of the Match by a long country mile in the BBC Sport player rater – comes with some chart-topping facts too. Luka Modric is now the oldest and youngest player to score for Croatia at the Euros. Having netted against Austria at Euro 2008 (at a sprightly (22 years and 73 days) he has set another record, this time aged 35 years and 286 days.
As Scotland captain Andy Robertson succinctly put it at full-time: “Modric ran the game and scored a wonderful goal – that’s why we fell short.”
Credit: Football Tribe Malaysia