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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Ivan Rakitic confident Croatia will have the 'energy' to defeat France in World Cup final

The Barcelona midfielder not worried by tiredness in squad after gruelling run through the knockout stages

Ivan Rakitic, centre, trained with his Croatia teammates on Friday ahead of the World Cup final. AFP
Ivan Rakitic, centre, trained with his Croatia teammates on Friday ahead of the World Cup final. AFP

Ivan Rakitic insists fatigue will not be a factor in Sunday’s World Cup final against France, when Croatia will have “4.5 million players on the pitch” as their seek an historic first global crown.

Croatia, comfortably the smallest country to contest a final since Uruguay in 1950, have endured a much more arduous route to the showpiece than France, with their past three matches going to extra-time.

Wednesday’s come-from-behind victory against England means they have played 90 minutes more this past month, while France have had an additional day’s rest having come through their semi-final against Belgium on Tuesday.

The last-four clash with England was Rakitic’s 70th appearance in total this past season - more than any other player at the World Cup - where he featured 55 times for Barcelona and 15 for Croatia.

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However, speaking on Friday at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow - the venue for the final - the midfielder played down suggestions his team will be too tired to compete.

"There will be excess power and energy, no worries about that," Rakitic said. "This is a historic game for not just us, but for everybody who is a Croat. There are 4.5 million players on the pitch.

"We will carry one another, we will have the energy. We know this is the biggest game of our lives. We want to leave the pitch with our heads held high. We just need a little bit of luck to get the result."

Croatia’s run to the final has surpassed their previous best performance at a World Cup, when they reached the semi-finals in 1998. There, they lost to hosts France in a tight encounter, when they took the lead through Davor Suker but Lilian Thuram scored twice for the French to progress. France went on to lift a first world title.

"We have to put that game behind us,” Rakitic said. “History is history and the past is the past. We dreamt about Thuram and his two goals for many years, but we have to put that past us. They won that tournament. We want to win on Sunday."

During his time in Spain, a period spanning Sevilla and Barcelona, Rakitic has won a collection of major trophies, including the Uefa Champions League, the Europa League and the Primera Liga three times.

"I would exchange all titles," Rakitic said, adding he would happily retire a world champion. “I would definitely leave my boots at home if that were the price I would have to pay. I would pay any price for the success of my country. Individuals don't matter. It is all about us."

Rakitic also praised Argentine referee Nestor Pitana, who officiated Croatia’s last-16 win against Denmark and has been chosen as the man in the middle for Sunday’s final.

"I was very glad to see he will be refereeing,” Rakitic said. “We had the luck to see him perform in the game against Demark. Not only did we win the game, but he had a perfect attitude. His linesmen were also fantastic.

"This is probably his greatest game of his career... I hope after the game we can shake hands and, God willing, he will congratulate me on our victory."