Luka Modric says it would be a “beautiful fairytale” to lead Croatia to glory in Russia over the next week.
Modric and co take on the hosts on Saturday night, looking to book the first World Cup semi-final place for 20 years.
The stylish former Tottenham midfielder has won four Champions Leagues with Real Madrid, including the last three in a row, but said lifting the World Cup would top everything.
“To be at this World Cup is a great privilege,” said Modric. “Playing for my team is a great honour and a pleasure, but to win the World Cup with Croatia is almost unthinkable, like the most beautiful fairytale.
“It would be incredible to lift the trophy as captain.”
Croatia won a knockout game at a major tournament for the first time since that run to the final four of France 98 with their penalty shootout triumph over Denmark, and Modric is determined they build on that by defeating the hosts.
“Since 2008 [when they lost on penalties to Turkey in the first knockout round — despite scoring first in the 119th minute] we have never gone beyond this first knockout game and it was very important for us to get that monkey off our back,” he said.
“We secured a great result after many years of trying and that means a lot to me.
“I’ve been in this team since 2008 and we have experienced several unlucky defeats in that time, particularly against Turkey and Portugal at Euro 2016.
(Image: Getty Images Europe)
“We needed some luck this time and I think we deserved it.”
Modric missed a penalty five minutes from the end of extra-time against the Danes that would surely have put Croatia through, but bravely stepped forward again when the tie went to spot-kicks to help secure their quarter-final spot.
Reflecting on that shoot-out, Modric said: “I was calm and focused. I embraced the responsibility as a captain and I had to do it. As a result I was very emotional after the game.
“I wanted this Croatia to confirm their talent, to take that step further. The game was not an enjoyable one, but our goal was achieved.”