In the end, Dejan Lovren and Croatia may not have won the World Cup, but they can hold their heads high. Croatia, the small nation of just over four million people, went further than they ever have before—and further than any had expected them to go.
For Lovren, he caps a strong showing at the tournament with a runners-up medal and can say he’s been in the form of his life for the past eight months for both club and country. The result on Sunday may have been tough, but it wasn’t down to poor performances.
“I think we played one of our best games of the tournament but in the end you look at the result and it was not enough,” he said after the match. “Of course we are disappointed in some moments about the referee’s decisions, but we have nothing to look back about.
“It is over and we should accept it. We should be proud—proud of our country, our players, and what we achieved in such difficult times. I feel grateful about everything we achieved. We’re going home with a smile and this is the most important thing.”
He’s going home with a smile and, if he can continue his World Cup and second half club form from last season over the entirety of the 2018-19 campaign, he might just have a point when it comes to his claims to being one of the game’s best defenders.
Because for Lovren, clearly, the talent is there. It’s been consistency and mental lapses that have too often let him down. Over the second half of last season with Liverpool and then in Russia with the national team, he appeared to put those issues behind him.
So now he returns to Liverpool—though not, it should be pointed out, until after his post-World Cup break, which means he won’t be back in training until a week before the season opener against West Ham—and he can certainly hold his head high.
“Everyone is proud,” he added. “We should never forget this for the rest of our lives. Second place is something big for us.”