Despite seeing his team bested in the World Cup final in a 4-2 loss to France, Croatia’s Luka Modric was awarded the Golden Ball trophy for best player at the tournament. Modric was the key cog in a Croatian midfield what was arguably the best we saw in Russia. In seven matches at the 2018 World Cup, the Real Madrid midfield orchestrator registered two goals and one assist while completing 368 passes.
Unfortunately even Modric’s excellent form in the center of the park wasn’t enough to see Croatia over the line against a France team that simply outmatched it for quality during the 90 minutes plus stoppage time of the final.
adidas Golden Ball Award:
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 15, 2018
While awarding the tournament MVP to a player on the losing team in the final may seem counterintuitive, there’s actually a surprisingly long history of players who fail to lift the World Cup, garnering best player honors.
The first time it happened was at the 1938 World Cup when Brazilian striker Leonidas received the honors, despite not even appearing in the final, in which Italy beat Hungary. It happened again at the 1950 World Cup when Brazil’s Zizinho got the Golden Ball in a tournament that saw Brazil bested by Uruguay in the final.
At 1954 World Cup, Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas received the honor, despite his team losing the final to Germany.
In the 1974 World Cup Dutch great Johan Cruyff was awarded the Golden Ball after captaining the celebrated “Clockwork Orange” Netherlands side of the early Seventies to a final in which it lost to Germany. Germany won the World Cup again in 1990, although Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci nabbed the Golden Boot, even though his team finished third.
The last time France won the World Cup, back in 1998, the Golden Ball also went to a member of the side that lost the final, with Brazil great Ronaldo taking the honor. It happened again in 2002 with Germany’s Oliver Kahn taking the honor after his team lost that final to Brazil.
In 2006, French great Zinedine Zidane overcame a notorious head-butt on Marco Materazzi and a losing final to Italy to claim the award. Uruguay’s Diego Forlane was on the third-place team in South Africa four years later but nonetheless went home with the Golden Ball.
Even four years ago in Brazil, we saw a dejected Lionel Messi awarded the Golden Ball, despite Argentina having lost the final to Germany.
And it’s not just soccer. In the 1969 NBA Finals, Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Jerry West was named MVP, despite the Lakers being upset by the Boston Celtics in the series.
More World Cup on Yahoo Sports:
• Here are the top 18 moments of the 2018 World Cup
• Belgium beats England to claim third place
• Why England is here to stay despite disappointing finish
• Slideshow: France, Croatia fans go wild during World Cup final