Dejan Lovren believes his Croatia team-mate Luka Modric should be in Ballon d'Or contention.
Real Madrid midfielder Modric has been at his sublime best so far at Russia 2018, steering Croatia to qualification for the knockout stages with a game to spare.
His superb second goal during the 3-0 demolition of Argentina in Nizhny Novgorod provided the champagne moment within one of the tournament's statement victories.
Modric also converted a penalty during the opening 2-0 Group D victory against Nigeria and Lovren feels the 32-year-old would be pushing for top individual honours if he was from a more traditionally glamorous footballing nation.
"It is a real pleasure to play with Luka Modric, who is one of the best players in the world right now," he said during a Sunday news conference at Croatia's Roschino training base.
"Modric would probably be getting more attention than he is right now if he was a German or Spanish player. He would maybe even be a Ballon d’Or winner.
"Because we are a smaller country, he does get less attention than he deserves.
"All football lovers know Modric is an incredible player. He is one of the best in the world right now."
Who will prove the best in the world collectively when the World Cup concludes in Moscow next month remains a fiercely debated subject, with matters clouded by an opening 10 days that have often veered from the form guide.
Holders Germany were staring at the prospect of an early exit until Toni Kroos sensationally snatched a 2-1 win over Sweden for Joachim Low's 10 men deep into stoppage time on Saturday in Sochi.
Brazil also required a late show for their first win of the tournament – Philippe Coutinho and Neymar downing Costa Rica in St Petersburg after the regulation 90 minutes.
Lovren proudly claimed to have watched every game of Russia 2018 so far and he spies a wide-open field that may play into the hands of an accomplished and experienced Croatian generation.
"It has been a surprising tournament and there are no favourites right now, or no teams that are likely to be easy winners," he added.
"We must respect teams like Germany, Brazil, Spain and Belgium, who are all incredible teams.
"Right now, no one is showing on the pitch that they are far superior than any other team.
"Croatia is a dark horse, a bit of an underdog, but we have to show we play well and we hope to continue to play well."
|Magnificent Molinari named European Golfer of the Year|
|Barcelona best option for Frenkie de Jong, insists midfielder´s father|
|Gronkowski on Miami Miracle: ´Got to make that tackle´|
|Tottenham youngster Walker-Peters signs on until 2023|
|Juventus ´more of a family´ than Real Madrid - Ronaldo|
|Kingsley Coman contemplates retirement if injury nightmare continues|
|McVay ´sick´ over offensive failings as Rams coach takes blame for loss|
|Calleja axed as Villarreal coach|
|Kenyan Drake on Miami Miracle: I couldn´t let Gronk tackle me!|
|Ronaldo: I deserved Ballon d´Or, the numbers don´t lie|
|Rugby Australia to make Cheika decision this month|
|England defender Gomez signs new Liverpool deal|
|Ronaldo wants to see Messi follow him to Italy|
|Neymar happy to play in any position for PSG - Draxler|
|Paine insists he is ´fine´ after taking blow to finger|
|Ponzio: River players will be ´idolised´ for Libertadores success|
|Champions League permutations: How Inter, PSG and Liverpool can progress|
|Kohli: India were better and deserved to win|
|Bears shut down Goff, Rams|
|India survive dramatic finish against Australia|
|Klopp calls for electric Anfield atmosphere against Napoli|
|Saints clinch back-to-back NFC South titles, Bears trump Rams|
|Bucks improve to 2-0 against Raptors with win in Toronto|
|Black Caps include Patel for Sri Lanka Tests|
|Maidana: River want Real Madrid clash|
|Cowboys top Eagles in OT behind stellar Cooper display|
|AC Milan evaluating Fabregas signing – Leonardo|
|WATCH: Steelers´ chance at game-tying field goal slips away|
|Hayne will plead not guilty to charges, says lawyer|
|Boca boss Schelotto: The only thing I feel is sadness|
|Cardinals´ Fitzgerald makes NFL history with most receptions for one team|
|River Plate´s Copa Libertadores star Gonzalo Martinez confirms January departure|
|Klopp: I was never worried about Salah´s form|
|Packers QB Rodgers sets NFL record for most passes without an interception|
|World Cup bulking hampered Man United form – Lukaku|
|Leonardo rules out Ibrahimovic Milan return|
|Warriors´ Green to return against Timberwolves|
|I feel for him… we´ll make it work – Butler responds to Embiid´s frustration|
|Torino draw no missed opportunity for misfiring AC Milan, claims Gattuso|
|We´ll always be linked together forever - Wade reflects on playing with James before final match-up|
|O´Sullivan wins record seventh UK title|
|Chiefs secure playoff berth, Saints win NFC South|
|River Plate 3 Boca Juniors 1 (aet, 5-3 agg): Quintero and Martinez clinch Libertadores title in extr|
|WATCH: Chiefs QB Mahomes throws no-look pass|
|Dolphins defeat Patriots on miraculous final play|
|Kizzire eagle snatches QBE Shootout victory|
|AC Milan 0 Torino 0: Donnarumma shines, Cutrone misses late chance|
|Back to the drawing board for West Indies - Chase|
|Copa Libertadores: Messi and Griezmann among stars in Madrid for River-Boca Superclasico|
|Brady sets NFL record for most career TD passes|
|Copa Libertadores: Tevez named on Boca bench for Superclasico final|
|Premier League needs VAR, right now! - Benitez fumes over Dean´s decisions|
|McCall expects Itoje to fit for the Six Nations|
|Solari salutes Real Madrid character after ´ugly´ Huesca win|
|Berbatov defends under-fire Lukaku|
|Sarries crush Blues to maintain unbeaten start|
|Newcastle United 1 Wolves 2: Doherty punishes Yedlin red with late winner|
|Deeney jokes he´ll ´smash´ former Watford star Richarlison|
|Huesca 0 Real Madrid 1: Bale ends drought as Solari´s men edge to victory|
|Ponting: Umpires not looking at no-balls|
|Bale ends longest LaLiga goal drought|
|Porter backs Brees for MVP, Saints for Super Bowl|
|Verstappen eyeing 2019 title fight|
|Wall ´shouldn´t have played´ against Cavaliers after scoring just one point|
|Hazard: Man City the best team in the Premier League despite Chelsea win|
|LeBron explains why he gave a Grizzlies employee his game-worn shoes|
|Bangladesh cruise to ODI victory as seamers punish Windies|
|Football will win over violence, claims CONMEBOL president|
|Alcorcon support Reus Deportiu over unpaid players|
|Saponara explains cheeky celebration after last-gasp leveller|