As the mega event is all set to kick off in Russia, Croatia is one of the countries participating in this competition with high expectations on them from their fans. Croatia comes in with some big names in their roster and it is to be led by Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric from the middle. However, Croatia has Argentina in their group which will be a good contest and they are expected to finish behind the side from South America in their group.
This will be Croatia’s strongest side since 1998 participating in World Cup and hence the expectations are high on them. This side led by Modrić has both blend of youth and experience as well. With experience from Vedran Corluka and Mario Mandzukić can be vital and followed by youthful Marko Pjaća, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Rakitić. Perisić upfront will be crucial for Croats as linkup between Mandzukić will be deadly. Midfield will be mastered by players from Spanish giants, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
Croatia are drawn into Group D which is really tough with the likes of South American giants Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria. Croatia should be at their best to qualify as Iceland could surprise with their star player, Gylfi Sigurdsson leading from front.
● SQUAD ANALYSIS:
Danijel Subasić will the main shot-stopper for Croatia in Russia with his experience from Ligue 1 for AS Monaco. The 33-year-old goalie has lot of experience to his name his name with 215 caps for Monaco including a goal. Subasić had 37 international caps for Croatia and will also guard in Russia as the first choice goalie. Lovre Kalinic, who is plying his trade for Gent will be the second choice goalie who first represented Croatia in 2014 with 10 caps till now. Dominik Livakovic will be their third goalie in the roster for this grand event in Russia. Young Livakovic has a only single cap to his name for his senior side while he has represented Croatia in every age category.
Croatia has one of the best defences with lots of experience at the back which would help their attack up front. Vedran Corluka, 33, will be helpful at the back to lead his side as centre-back, who can also play as right-back as well. He has been in the Croatian defence since 2006 and will be making his 100th appearance for his side soon. Another experienced defender partnering with him his Domagoj Vida, who his plying his trade in Turkey for Beşiktas. Liverpool man, Dejan Lovren with Sime Vrsalijko will be crucial since they had a good season with their respective clubs. Josip Pivarić , 29, will be the left-back, who will be waiting for his opportunity in the bench. This roster will also consist of two young centre-backs Tin Jedvaj and Duje Caleta-Car, who can provide solid defence at the back with their physicality.
Midfield is to be noted as it will be the key for this Croatian side. This midfield will be led by experienced Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić, who are coming from the Spanish giants with loads of experience on big stage. Mateo Kovavić another player in this roster from Real Madrid will be vital in the midfield with his control. Milan Badelj will also be in the defensive midfield position with his vast experience in this position for AFC Fiorentina. Marcelo Brozović is a kind of box-to-box midfielder from Inter Milan in this Croatian side with 34 caps to his name and also played in FIFA World Cup, Brazil representing Croatia. Modrić and Rakitić are expected to deliver the goods for their nation.
Mario Mandzukić and Ivan Perisić will lead the attack from the front. These men from Italy have scored many for their clubs as well as their national side and hence link up play between these two players will be crucial. Having represented Croatia 82 times, Mandzukic will be looking to add more goals to his tally and a Cup to his career. Marko Pjaća, Winger from Schalke is in good touch with two goals in 7 appearances for his club and is expected to perform well for his Nation as well in wings. Nikola Kalinić (AC Milan) and Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim) are also in good form in front of goal which will be boost to the attack up front. Ante Rebić, 23, will bolster the attack with his crosses from the flanks as a winger. He has represented 15 times and scored once in his national colors. However, this attack will rely on the midfield likes of Rakitic and Modric.
○ WORLD CUP FIXTURES:
Croatia will kick off their campaign on 16th June against Nigeria, followed by 21st June against South American giants Argentina and 26th June against Iceland.
• Croatia vs Nigeria- 16th June, 2018
• Argentina vs Croatia- 21st June, 2018
• Iceland vs Croatia- 26th June, 2018
● TEAM RATINGS:
• Goalkeeping- 6/10
• Defence- 7/10
• Midfield- 7.5/10
• Forward- 7/10
• Overall – 6.8/10
Croatia National side qualified into this World Cup after an aggregate 4-1 win over Greece in play-off. This is their second successive appearance at the global finals. Croatia finished third during 1998 FIFA World Cup after which they have been struggling and never won a title. This side is expected to do better than the 1998 World Cup and this squad has the potential to lift the title as well.
● RECENT FORM:
In their last 6 games, Croatia has won three and lost two games and drawn one against Greece in the play-offs. Recent win came against Senegal where, Kramarić and Perisić scored which ended in score line 2-1 in favor of Croatia. Their losses came against Brazil and Peru. Active goal scorers for Croatia in recent games are Kramarić, Perisić, Modrić and Kalinić. With this form, Croatia can finish second behind Argentina without doubt.
● COACH’S QUOTES:
Zaltko Dalic is happy with his side and believes that this side can make an impact after 1998 World Cup in France finishing 3rd. “Croatia has a great generation of players,” says Zlatko Dalic. “I am very proud that Croatia has three players in Champions League final, which proves our quality,” said the 51-year-old. Dalic has experience as well as blend of youth which will be a key to qualify for the next stage of the tournament likes of Iceland and Nigeria who can surprise them. “I’ve always said I wanted tough matches and tough opponents, and we can only progress as a team by playing against top sides and our mistakes,” said Dalic.
● WRITER’S TAKE:
Croatia is the second-most talented side in the Group D behind Argentina. Nigeria and Iceland will look to give their best to qualify for the next stage and hence Croatia need to be careful while taking on Nigeria and Iceland by not taking them lightly. With talented midfielders in the middle this side can go through and expected to finish behind Argentina in the group stage.