LONDON (Reuters) - Croatia punched above their weight to finish as the 2018 World Cup runners-up and should not be expected to go all the way in every tournament, captain Luka Modric said ahead of their Euro 2020 Group D opener against England on Sunday.
The Croatians sent shockwaves around the world when they beat England 2-1 in the semi-finals in Russia before losing the showpiece match 4-2 to France and Modric said their fans needed to lower their expectations ahead of the clash at Wembley.
"All the pieces of the puzzle came together in Russia but we can't reach the final every time even though we have raised the bar for ourselves," midfielder Modric told a news conference.
"We have to be much more realistic now, no matter how confident we are. We still believe we are a very good team of course and the first thing we must do is keep believing."
Asked to comment on media reports that underdogs Croatia had accused England of arrogance ahead of their epic clash in Moscow, Modric said they were aggrieved by the English media.
"We didn't maintain so much that the England team and the players were arrogant ahead of that game but rather the people around them, some of the journalists and the commentators." he said on Saturday.
"I haven’t been reading their press much lately. I am focused on tomorrow's match and not really paying much attention to what people are saying."
The 35-year-old dyanmo said he expected an aggressive and motivated England to take the game to Croatia on Sudnay and also heaped superlatives on Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount.
"He is a very talented player with a lot of ability and he's got a big future ahead of him. He will soon become a key player for England," said Modric.
"The English will no doubt be roared on by the home crowd and we'll have to be on top of our game to stand our ground."
Coach Zlatko Dalic dismissed suggestions Croatia will want to sit back and soak up pressure.
"We are aware this a big game against a top team and one of the tournament favourites, meaning that we have to be compact and determined in order to get a result," he said.
"Hence we won't be defensive and we'll be ready to adapt to whatever formation England come up with. It doesn't matter whether it's three or four at the back because they are full of quality any way you look at it.
"We expect Phil Foden to start as he's got pace and ability while Jack Grealish is also likely to play a part as a top quality playmaker."
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)