We’ve written this Croatia Preview: World Cup 2018 to share our insight about the Vatreni – Their strengths and weaknesses, likely starting lineup, the 23 man-squad and much more.

Croatia Preview: World Cup 2018

Full Squad

Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic, Lovre Kalinic, Dominik Livakovic

Defenders: Vedran Corluka, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic, Dejan Lovren, Sime Vrsaljko, Josip Pivaric, Tin Jedvaj, Duje Caleta-Car

Midfielders: Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic, Milan Badelj, Marcelo Brozovic, Filip Bradaric

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic, Nikola Kalinic, Andrej Kramaric, Marko Pjaca, Ante Rebic

  • Manager: Zlatko Dalic
  • Captain: Luka Modric
  • Best Finish: Third (1998)

Likely starting lineup

Croatia Preview: World Cup 2018

Analysis

Ever since their World Cup debut in 1998, an appearance that culminated in a third place finish, Croatia have been consistently tipped as dark horses for the title. But in all the editions they’ve been involved in since, they’ve underwhelmed.

As has so frequently been the case, for Zltako Dalic there is swathes of Valtreni talent to call upon in the squad. Finding a way of putting it all together does remain something of a conundrum, though.

Croatia needed a playoff to get to Russia, although there was never any real danger of them being eliminated in it. They were excellent in the first of two legs against Greece, winning it 4-1 to put the match beyond any sort of doubt. It was a 90-minute glimpse into what this team can do when they find their rhythm.

Finding a groove on the biggest stage has proved to be an issue for this team. In their three appearances since 1998 they’ve only won two World Cup games, but the coach will hope this Croatia team, one that is more experienced and more talented than in recent years, can cope with the expectations in Russia.

It’s in midfield where they are blessed with such class. The imperious Luka Modric and irrepressible Ivan Rakitic will line up ahead of Milan Badelj; if things do need changing Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic can do so from the bench.

Up top Mario Mandzukic is a battering ram and he’ll have fine support through Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric, who are both productive operators in the final third.

Centre-back Dejan Lovren had a strong finish to the season with Liverpool, although he has a lot on his mind heading to the tournament, as well as Modric. Both are currently being investigated in relation to perjury charges following transfers from former club Dinamo Zagreb.

 

Key Man – Luka Modric

Croatia Preview: World Cup 2018

Photo credit: AFP

 

Over the last few seasons, in which Real Madrid have dominated European football by winning the Champions League four our of five times, it’s become widely accepted that Modric is the standout midfielder in world football.

At Madrid he brings all facets of the team together. Modric can dictate from deep, carry possession into spaces and opens up gaps for the team’s attackers to exploit. He’s the conductor behind one of the finest sides the sport has ever seen.

With Croatia he’s also vital, albeit his role is a little bit different to that which he occupies at club level. For the Valtreni, he’ll be the player closest to Mandzukic, as Dalic seeks to get him on the ball more often in dangerous areas of the field.

While this means playmaking responsibilities have been detailed to Badelj and particularly Rakitic and that Modric is on the ball less, the touches of the ball Modric does get are more decisive. There’s also extra stability in a midfield that has previously been unbalanced, despite its ability.

So we may not see Modric caressing the ball around in midfield as he has done in trademark fashion for Madrid down the years. But the tweak in his role as of late should make the 32-year-old a more productive option for his country.

 

Croatia’s Group Stage fixtures

Saturday, June 16

Croatia vs. Nigeria, 3pm, FS1, Telemundo, Sling Blue and fubo (7-day free trial)

Thursday, June 21

Argentina vs. Croatia, 2pm, FOX, Telemundo, Sling Blue and fubo (7-day free trial)

Tuesday, June 26

Iceland vs. Croatia, 2pm, FS1, Universo, Sling Blue and fubo (7-day free trial)

 

Croatia’s path to the final

If Croatia wins Group D, their Round of 16 game will be against the country that finishes second from Group C which will either be France, Australia, Denmark or Peru. If Croatia wins that Round of 16 game, Croatia will enter the quarterfinal stage with a game against the team that is victorious between the winner of Group B (Spain, Portugal, Morocco or Iran) and the team that finishes second in Group A (either Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Uruguay). If Croatia advances to the semi-final stage, it’ll play the winner of the quarterfinal that comes out of the F1 vs. E2 versus H1 vs. G2 series.

If Croatia finishes second in Group D, Croatia will play the team that finishes first in Group C (either France, Australia, Denmark or Peru). If Croatia wins that game, it would be in the quarterfinal against the team that is victorious between the winner of Group A (either Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay or Egypt) and the team that finishes second in Group B (either Morocco, Iran, Spain or Portugal). If Croatia advances to the semi-final stage, it’ll play the winner of the quarterfinal that comes out of the E1 vs. F2 versus G1 vs. H2 series.

 

SEE MORE:

• Previews for all 32 World Cup teams
• World Cup Bracket (free download)
• World Cup groups
• World Cup TV schedule

 

Croatia World Cup shirt (home)

In four previous trips to the World Cup, Croatia has made it out of the group stage just once, during its first appearance in 1998. 2018 will be another challenge, with a group that includes Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria.

For an updated take on the famous checker design, the new home jersey has a pattern of large checkers covering the front panel. Sleeves and shoulders are red with a white back.

See more details about Croatia World Cup shirt

 

Croatia World Cup shirt (away)

In four previous trips to the World Cup, Croatia has made it out of the group stage just once, during its first appearance in 1998. 2018 will be another challenge, with a group that includes Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria.

For an updated take on the famous checker design, the latest jersey has a pattern of large checkers covering the front panel. Alternating squares in away colors black and blue cover the front panel. Sleeves and shoulders are solid black.

See more details about Croatia World Cup shirt

 

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