As revealed by the Netflix documentary Captains, Croatia captain Luka Modrić confronted goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic about his form with the national team at the end of last year.
At the time, Livakovic was under pressure from Atlético Madrid stopper, Ivo Grbić, then on loan at Lille, but Modrić insisted Livakovic was a “great goalkeeper” that need to stop being “afraid of making mistakes” after some average displays. However, in the last week, Livakovic twice became Croatia’s hero in World Cup knockout wins over Japan and Brazil, making four penalty saves in total across two penalty shootouts in the last 16 and quarter-finals.
Modrić told the 27-year-old Livakovic: “The most important thing is that our teammates feel that someone is behind them and that they have support. The goalkeeper’s situation is very specific, you are alone. I wouldn’t be telling you this if I didn’t care about you but I see that you are not progressing with the national team. Maybe it’s the pressure you’re under, maybe it’s not… but you’re radiating uncertainty and that rubs off on the team. Do you understand?… Why can’t you make a mistake? We all make mistakes. I feel that your problem is that you’re afraid of making them… name one person who doesn’t make mistakes. I didn’t get to where I am by being scared, it only makes things worse. Look, you’re a great goalkeeper. You know that, right?”
Modrić’s faith in Livakovic has paid off as Croatia now face Argentina in the World Cup semi-finals this week.