Dejan Lovren has accused his critics of talking "nonsense" after Croatia beat England 2-1 on Wednesday to reach the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup against France.
The Liverpool defender demanded that he be shown the respect he deserves after also reaching the UEFA Champions League final with the Reds back in May, per beIN Sports (via Robin Bairner of Goal):
"People said I had a difficult season but I don't agree with that. I showed why I took Liverpool to the final of the Champions League and now with the national team, and now I'm in the World Cup final. I think people should recognise that I'm one of the best defenders in the world."
Lovren, 29, had been irked before the clash against England by questions of how he would deal with Harry Kane after the Tottenham Hotspur forward gave him the runaround in a 4-1 win for the north London side against Liverpool last October.
Per Glenn Price of ESPN.co.uk, he labelled the performance "irrelevant."
And, despite early struggles against an energetic Raheem Sterling on Wednesday in Moscow, he was largely proved correct as Croatia limited England's chances and nullified Kane.
They went down early to a Kieran Trippier free-kick and arguably could have been further behind at half-time.
But after the break, Croatia took control, equalised through Ivan Perisic and then won the game with Mario Mandzukic's extra-time strike.
Captain Luka Modric was again crucial for Croatia, and Lovren said the Real Madrid midfielder should win the Ballon d'Or if he leads his country to World Cup glory, per beIN Sports (via Bairner): "Modric is the best middle three player in the world, and if we win this World Cup, he deserves the Ballon d'Or."
Croatia face a tough task against France in their first World Cup final on Sunday.
Les Bleus have quality all over the pitch, and Kylian Mbappe's pace will provide Lovren and his fellow defenders with their toughest test of the tournament yet.
If Lovren and his team-mates can control Mbappe and manage the alternative threats of Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann on Sunday in Moscow, Croatia will have a genuine chance of pulling off a victory.