ZAGREB: Luka Modrić, awarded the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup, and his midfield partner Ivan Rakitić have both been called up to the Croatia squad for matches against Portugal and Spain in September.
In his first squad announcement since Croatia lost 4-2 to France in the World Cup final on July 15, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić called up 25 players.
Croatia will play Portugal in a friendly at the Estadio do Algarve on Thursday, September 6, before taking on Spain away in Elche on September 11 in their first game in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.
The presence of Real Madrid playmaker Modrić, 33, and Barcelona star Rakitić, 30, comes after speculation in Croatia that the duo could retire from the national team following the remarkable run at the World Cup.
Earlier this month, goalkeeper Danijel Subašić, striker Mario Mandžukić, and defender Vedran Ćorluka announced the end of their international careers.
Defender Ivan Strinić, who started in the World Cup final, will also be absent after his new club AC Milan revealed at the weekend he had been diagnosed with a heart condition and would have to take a break from the game.
Croatia will also play England in Group 4 of the Nations League and are due to entertain Gareth Southgate’s side in Rijeka on October 12.