Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic has announced his retirement from international football after his country reached the World Cup final for the first time.
Zlatko Dalic's side saw off Denmark, England and hosts Russia in the knockout stages of the tournament, though they were beaten 4-2 by France in the final in Moscow.
Mandzukic was on the scoresheet at both ends in the game, capitalising on an error from France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to find the right net having inadvertently opened the scoring with an own goal.
But the Juventus attacker, 32, confirmed he is stepping down from international duty in a lengthy social media post released on Tuesday.
"World Cup silver has given me new energy, but it has also made this incredibly difficult decision a bit easier," he wrote.
"We have made our dreams come true, achieved a historic success, and experienced an unbelievable fan support. That month, including the welcome in Zagreb, Slavonski Brod, and the entire Croatia, will remain the most important memory of my career. This has been the most beautiful national team journey, and my favourite return to my homeland.
"I am more than happy, fulfilled, and extremely proud of this silver, that has been forged through years, through pain, effort, work, disappointment, and difficult moments.
"There is no ideal moment to retire. If possible, we would all play for Croatia until we die, since there is no prouder feeling, but I feel this moment has come for me - now.
The only Croatian to score a #WorldCup semi-final winner— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) August 14, 2018
One of only two @HNS_CFF players to score in a #WorldCupFinal
With his legacy secured, @MarioMandzukic9 has decided the Final in Moscow was the last time he will wear the national shirt pic.twitter.com/jXZUE42Igd
"I've given my best for Croatia, I have contributed to the biggest success of Croatian football."
The former Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid player also declared his appreciation for Croatia's supporters, adding: "No one is perfect. I have missed opportunities, lost the ball, and made mistakes at passing.
"However, I have always given my best, playing my heart out. Thank you for recognising this, and standing by me and by Croatia.
"As of today, my place is alongside you - among the most loyal Croatia fans."
Dragi navijači, uvijek sam više volio govoriti na terenu nego izvan njega. Stoga mi i ove riječi dolaze malo teže nego što mi je bilo uklizati protivniku ili istrčati sprint u 120. minuti. Teže, jer znam koliko radosti mi donose sva okupljanja, utakmice i pobjede. Teže, jer znam da je slušanje Lijepe naše prije utakmice najveća emocija. Teže, jer znam kakva je čast obući hrvatski dres i predstavljati svoju zemlju. Teže, jer znam da je ovo konačno i da nakon ovih riječi više nema povratka. Pa ipak, znam da je vrijeme baš za te riječi... Opraštam se od hrvatske reprezentacije. Koliko god me srebro napunilo novom energijom, ujedno mi je olakšalo ovu nemoguće tešku odluku. Doživjeli smo svoj san, napravili povijesni uspjeh i pritom osjetili nevjerojatnu ljubav navijača. Tih mjesec dana, kao i dočeci u Zagrebu, Slavonskom Brodu i cijeloj Hrvatskoj, ostat će najvažnija uspomena moje karijere. Bilo je to najljepše putovanje s reprezentacijom i najdraži povratak kući. Presretan sam, ispunjen i do neba ponosan na to srebro koje smo kovali godinama, kroz puno muke, truda, rada, razočaranja i teških trenutaka. Nema idealnog trenutka za odlazak. Da možemo, vjerujem da bismo svi nastupali za Hrvatsku dok smo živi jer većeg ponosa nema. No, osjećam da je za mene taj trenutak sada. Da sam dao najbolje od sebe, da sam dao doprinos najvećem uspjehu hrvatskog nogometa. Prije 14 godina, prvi puta sam kao juniorski reprezentativac obukao sveti dres. Od tada sam upoznao, igrao i radio s puno odličnih suigrača, izbornika, trenera i ljudi oko reprezentacije. Svi smo imali isti cilj - dati sve za uspjeh Hrvatske. Zahvaljujem svima, jer je svatko na neki način ostavio trag u mojoj karijeri. Na tom putu sa mnom su uvijek bili moji najbliži, kojima zahvaljujem na velikoj podršci. I na kraju, hvala navijačima. Nitko od nas nije savršen. Promašivao sam prilike, gubio lopte ili krivo dodavao. No, uvijek sam dao sve od sebe i ostavio srce na terenu. Hvala vam što ste to prepoznali i bili uz mene i reprezentaciju. Od danas, moje je mjesto s vama - među najvjernijim navijačima Hrvatske. Voli vas Mandžo #mm17
26 de septiembre 2018
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