Croatia: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Oliver Zelenika (Dinamo Zagreb).
Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld, Danijel Pranjic (both Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa).
Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Perisic (Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Sammir (Getafe), Ivan Mocinic (Rijeka).
Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull City), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina).
Best Ever Finish: Third (1998)
Captain: Darijo Srna
Manager: Niko Kovač
When looking at the indisputable amount of talent that’s in this Croatian group, you’d have to say that their overall performance in qualifying was rather disappointing.
They eventually finished second in their qualifying group, in a campaign that was punctured with frustrating performances. They were able to notch a commendable 1-1 draw away at Belgium earlier in the group, but followed up with a dreary tie against Scotland.
Nonetheless, Croatia gained a playoff spot where they went on to beat european minnows Iceland 2-0 on aggregate.
The Vatreni are a very well balanced team with several top-class talents within their ranks. The midfield trio of Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic are especially tough to handle and their technical abilities should Croatia have plenty of possession in Brazil. Up front Mario Mandzukic is a proven goalscorer and phenomenally hard worker, whilst at the back, Dejan Lovren has emerged as an excellent central defender this season at Southampton.
They are flexible too and Kovac is not afraid to send this team out in a variety of different systems.
However, despite the obvious quality the Croatians can call upon, they have developed a frustrating inability to get results against what you might call lesser opponents. Because of this, it makes it very hard to predict how they will get on in Brazil.
They will be tricky opposition for the hosts in the tournament opener—although they will be without Mandzukic, who misses out through suspension—and if it all clicks into place, they are a side capable of matching anyone.
Key Player – Luka Modric
The ex Spurs and current Real Madrid star is the cornerstone upon which the rest of the Croatian team is built around. A skillfull ball player, Modric will look to pose an attacking threat through many outlets.
He plays as an orthodox central midfielder for Croatia and is a genuine world class player. Vision, touch, composure and incisiveness, Modric has got it all. He is a hugely talented dead ball specialist too, though this isn’t demonstrated at club level due to the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Gareth Bale.
Under Carlo Ancelotti, Modric has added an industrious side to his game too. So not only is he silky smooth whilst in possession, he is terrier-like in his attempts to regain the ball.
Modric has that much sought ability to dictate the pace of the game to how he sees fit, accentuating the strengths of his team mates and allowing them to thrive in the process.