Croatian star Luka Modric says ‘Wales have to rely on each other as a team now’ after Bale retirement
Luka Modric says every Wales player “will have to give more” on Saturday to compensate for the loss of Gareth Bale.
Wales captain Bale ended his distinguished career in January at the age of 33, having scored a record number of goals and won the most caps for his national team.
Modric, a former Tottenham and Real Madrid teammate of Bale, is four years older than the Welshman and admits Croatia face a far different team to the one they have regularly met in European Championship and World Cup qualifying over the last decade.
“Of course it is a blow to the Welsh team not having Gareth Bale anymore,” Modric said ahead of Croatia’s opening Euro 2024 qualifier against Wales in Split.
“They will have a different approach to before and every individual will need to give more.
“That can sometimes be a positive, but they can’t rely on Gareth doing something on his own.
“I’m sure he is proud of everything he has done in his career, but Wales have to rely on each other as a team now.”
Croatia, who finished third at the 2022 World Cup having reached the final four years earlier, are overwhelming favourites to top Group D with Wales the second-ranked team.
Armenia, Latvia and Turkey complete the group line-up with the top two teams qualifying for the 2024 finals in Germany.
Modric said: “Of course our focus is completely on Wales.
“It is very important to start the qualifiers with a good result in front of our home fans.
“We want to perform as well as we can because we always want to qualify as early as possible.
“We feel Wales and Turkey are our biggest competitors for a place at the Euros.
“The group is small, only five teams in the groups, so we want to start well.
“We are firstly thinking about Wales – to win this game – and then we will think about Turkey (on Tuesday).
“We won’t run away from the fact we are favourites in this game. But football is unpredictable and if you don’t give 100 per cent in each game you can have problems.”
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