MOSCOW, July 16: Croatia captain Luka Modric said being awarded the Golden Ball for the World Cup�s best player was �bittersweet� after losing the final 4-2 to France on Sunday.
�Obviously I liked the recognition and thanks to those who chose me, but clearly I would have preferred to have won the World Cup,� said the Real Madrid midfielder.
�It wasn�t to be and now we will rest and in the coming days celebrate this because it is still a huge thing for Croatia, but right now the feeling is bittersweet.
�We are proud of what we have done, but a bit sad at losing the final.� Despite being forced into extra-time in all three of their knockout rounds before the final, Croatia dominated the opening period and were desperately unlucky to trail 2-1 at half-time through Mario Mandzukic�s own goal and a controversial Antoine Griezmann penalty.
The smallest country to make a World Cup final in 68 years, with a population of just over four million, finally wilted after the break as Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe added to France�s lead before Mandzukic pulled a goal back.
�Although I think we deserved more, we can�t change anything,� added Modric.
�We can only be proud of what we did � we never gave up and fought until the end.�
With the score at 1-1, France were awarded a penalty after Argentine referee Nestor Pitana reviewed video footage of an Ivan Perisic handball.
Croatia were doubly frustrated by Pitana�s decision as France�s opener also came from a dubious free-kick.
�The small details went in favour of France. It is a shame because I think we were very, very good and deserved to win,� said Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic.
�It is a shame that they didn�t review the foul before the first goal and only the one that went against us.
�The foul for the first goal is clearly not a foul, the penalty is very, very dubious... It hurts a lot to lose like this.� Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic insisted VAR was a �good thing� for football despite Pitana�s call going against his side.
But Rakitic believes improvements can still be made to the system that was being used in the World Cup for the first time.
�I understand they want to improve things with VAR, but there is still margin for improvement,� he added. �It has helped a lot but it is still not perfect.� � AFP