Croatia World Cup squad guide: Full fixtures, group, ones to watch, odds and more

PROFILE: With the tournament only days away we take an in-depth look at all 32 teams in Russia

Liam Twomey
Monday 11 June 2018 15:55 BST
Comments
2018 Russia World Cup in numbers

The finest generation of talent Croatia has produced since the World Cup semi-finalists of 1998 is yet to fulfill its potential on the international stage, and time is running out.

Few teams in Russia will be able to boast a better midfield; Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are both world-class playmakers in their primes, ably supported by the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and Milan Badelj. The presence of Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic should also ensure sufficient firepower in the final third.

Yet the sum has never equalled Croatia’s individual parts at a major tournament. In 2014 they exited limply at the group stage, finishing third behind Brazil and Mexico. Two years later they served notice of their strength by beating Spain, only to lose to Portugal after extra time in the round of 16.

The road to this World Cup has been bumpy, too; current coach Zlatko Dalic was parachuted in for a tense final round of qualifying matches and playoffs. With a core of senior players who have reached the pinnacle of the club game, Croatia are capable of beating anyone in Russia – but their margin for error in a difficult group is thin.

Who do they play?

Croatia vs Nigeria – 20:00, Saturday 16 June
​Croatia vs Argentina – 19:00, Thursday 21 June
​Croatia vs Iceland – 19:00, Thursday 26 June

Key players

Luka Modric: Croatia’s captain has established himself as one of the greatest playmakers of his generation since joining Real Madrid from Tottenham in 2012, elegantly controlling some of the very biggest matches with silky smooth passing and intelligent positioning. Expect him to operate slightly further forward than he does at club level, supplying Mandzukic as a more conventional No10.

Modric remains key to Croatia's hopes (Getty)

Ivan Rakitic: Barcelona’s continued dominance of Spanish football despite the loss of Xavi Hernandez is due in no small part to Rakitic. He has evolved into a complete midfielder at Camp Nou, capable of breaking up opposition attacks, building in possession and darting into the penalty area to score goals. Croatia may need him to showcase the full range of his skills if they are to succeed in Russia.

Ivan Perisic: Possession counts for little without penetration, and Perisic is the man charged with providing it in this Croatia team. The Inter star’s pace, skill and direct running stretches opponents, giving the likes of Modric and Rakitic more space in which to operate. He is also decisive in the final third, a fact underlined by 11 goals and nine assists in Serie A this season.

One to watch

Andrej Kramaric: Leicester City fans will remember him as an expensive flop, but Kramaric has blossomed into a formidable goal threat at Hoffenheim, scoring 28 goals in the last two Bundesliga seasons. Operating on the right of Croatia’s attack, he will look to exploit the space Mandzukic creates, as well as supplying the Juventus striker with inviting crosses.

How did they get here?

Croatia made much harder work of qualifying for the World Cup than expected, finishing second after defeats away against eventual group winners Iceland and Turkey and a shock draw at home to Finland. The latter setback saw the dismissal of coach Ante Cacic, with his replacement Dalic presiding over a 2-0 away win over Ukraine and a convincing two-legged triumph over Greece.

How will they do?

Croatia should fear no one in Group D, which looks wide open in light of Argentina’s struggles. Even if Jorge Sampaoli’s men do prove good enough to take top spot, Croatia are well placed to progress as runners up ahead of less talented Nigeria and Iceland teams. If they do reach the knockout stage, they will be clear but dangerous underdogs.

Odds of winning the tournament: 33/1

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.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in