- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

LENS, France (AP) - Croatia’s creative midfield pairing of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic has failed to live up to its billing at a major tournament again.

Croatia was one of the standout teams in the early exchanges at the European Championship, even coming from behind to beat two-time defending champion Spain 2-1 to guarantee top spot in Group D.

But the team’s tournament is over a match later after an agonizing extra time 1-0 loss to Portugal on Saturday.

Modric and Rakitic are standout players for their clubs - Modric for Real Madrid and Rakitic for Barcelona. But neither has really replicated their club form for their country at a major tournament - Croatia has yet to win a knockout match involving the two.

Both Modric and Rakitic have been central players for Croatia for around a decade. Modric has 92 international caps while Rakitic has played 79 times for his country.

Before Euro 2016, their best achievement with the national team was reaching the quarterfinal stage at Euro 2008, where they suffered a heart-breaking loss on penalties to Turkey.

The disappointment of the Portugal defeat surpassed even that, according to Rakitic.

“I’ve never seen more tears in the Croatian locker room,” Rakitic said.

Given their ages - Modric is 30 and Rakitic is 28 - they may not get too many more chances.

“We have to look in the future and start to think about the FIFA World Cup in Russia (in 2018) and prepare this team,” Croatia coach Ante Cacic said.

It might be the last chance for Modric and Rakitic to live up to their star billing at a major tournament.

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