Croatia star Luka Modric is the oldest to ever score at a European Championship. He's not done yet.

LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) — A standing ovation, a man-of-the-match award and a record.

But Croatia star Luka Modric was in no mood to celebrate, regardless of the accolades, after what could have been his last appearance at a major tournament.

Modric scored against Italy on Monday to become the oldest goal-scorer ever at a European Championship.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough to ensure his team stays in the competition. Mattia Zaccagni scored in the eighth minute of stoppage time for Italy to draw 1-1 and advance to the knockout stage.

Croatia needs an improbable series of other results going its way to remain at Euro 2024.

Modric, who is 38 years and 289 days old, claimed the opening goal on a rebound in the 55th minute, within a minute of having a penalty saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The previous record was held by Ivica Vastic, who was 38 years, 257 days old when he scored for Austria against Poland at Euro 2008.

Modric received standing ovations from fans when he went off in the 80th, and he was applauded again when he showed up for the post-game news conference.

One Italian journalist started by telling Modric he was one of the most magnificent players he had ever seen. He said he had no question to ask, just a request for him never to retire from playing.

Modric seemed genuinely moved by the kind words.

“I’d also like to keep playing forever but there probably will come a time when I’ll have to hang up my boots,” he replied. “I’ll keep playing. I’ll continue, so I’m not sure when, we’ll see.”

Modric earlier this month extended his contract by another year at Real Madrid, where he has amassed an impressive haul of trophies since joining from Tottenham in 2012, including another Champions League and Spanish league title last season.

Modric has played 178 games for Croatia since making his debut at age 20 under Zlatko Kranjcar in 2006. The 2018 Ballon d’Or winner is playing in his fifth European Championship. His goal against Italy took his tally to four goals in 16 games at the tournament.

But Modric has enjoyed greater success with the national team at the World Cup, leading Croatia to the final in 2018, and third place in 2022.

The draw against Italy on Monday, and the manner in which it came with the last kick of the game, means Croatia is almost certain to be eliminated in the next days.

“It was very stressful. We kept fighting like lions right to the end. But football is cruel,” Modric said. “That’s part and parcel of football. Sometimes it brings a lot of happiness, but sometimes it makes you very sad as well.

"Losing like this is very difficult. It’s hard to find words to describe how my teammates and probably the fans feel as well. Of course, we need to bounce back.”

Modric, who is the team captain, took comfort from the performance.

“We gave everything for Croatia, and this is how Croatia presents itself, regardless of the cruelty of this result. We deserved more, but it’s football," he said. “We can be proud of how we represented Croatia.”


AP Euro 2024:

Ciarán Fahey, The Associated Press