England didn't match pregame hype vs. Croatia - Ivan Rakitic
Ivan Rakitic said England were wrong to believe they had the edge over Croatia in Wednesday's World Cup semifinal and that Gareth Southgate's side didn't live up to fans' expectations.
Emphasis was placed before the game on the fact Croatia had needed extra time to see off Denmark and Russia and that England, who beat Sweden 2-0 in the quarterfinal, were considered fresher -- and were younger -- going into the game.
However, that didn't prove to be the case, with more-experienced Croatia getting stronger as the match progressed and coming from behind to win 2-1 after extra time.
"All I can say is that they asserted that they were going to be much better physically, that they were superior in that aspect," Rakitic told Mundo Deportivo when asked if England talked too much before the game.
"But, in the end, it was the opposite. It was we who imposed ourselves and played better in the second half and in extra time. We deserved to win. We imposed ourselves because we were the better team."
As well as playing 120 minutes twice in the week before the game, Rakitic had a fever on the eve of the England clash.
The Barcelona midfielder, who has coeliac disease, managed to shake it off just in time to help his country reach their first World Cup final.
"The day before the game my temperature was 39 degrees," he said. "I was in bed and I was thinking I wasn't going to be able to take part in a game as important as a [World Cup] semifinal.
"I lost four kilograms during the game because of the effort I then put in. I ran 14 kilometres. I don't know where the strength came from, but you do it. It comes from inside you."
Rakitic's partnership with Luka Modric has been key to Croatia's progress in Russia, with the duo putting the Barca-Real Madrid rivalry to the side.
The two could have ended up as teammates at club level, too, if Modric, who Rakitic said was a Barca fan when he was younger, had joined the club when he had the chance.
"We all had our favourite team when we were kids and it's no secret that Luka pulled for Barca," Rakitic told MD. "But I can say now, the great professional that he is, that we have 'lost' him. He's 100 percent Madrid. You just have to see how he plays in Clasicos. It's difficult to find someone more Madrid than him.
"Sometimes, when we're playing against each other, I joke when we change shirts at full-time: 'Now you have the shirt you always wanted to take home.' It's a shame he never ended up at Camp Nou, but it's also an honour to play against him in La Liga and the Champions League. It's really special for Croatia to be able to enjoy a player of his level."