World Cup 2018: Nikola Kalinic excluded from Croatia squad after arguing he was unable to play against Nigeria

Manager Zlatko Dalic has chosen to dismiss the 30-year-old

Samuel Lovett
Monday 18 June 2018 09:57 BST
Croatia World Cup profile

Forward Nikola Kalinic has been kicked out of Croatia's squad after refusing to play in the side’s 2-0 win over Nigeria on Saturday.

Kalinic, a substitute for the match, declined to come on during the closing stages of the Group D clash in Kaliningrad, arguing he was unable to play due to a "back issue".

Manager Zlatko Dalic has since dismissed the 30-year-old, who now returns home to Croatia.

Speaking in the wake of Saturday’s win, Dalic told reporters that the team had finished the game without injuries but “with a problem”.

In a statement on Monday, he explained his decision to exclude Kalinic in a press conference: "During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinic was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half.

"However, he then stated that he wasn't ready to come on due to a back issue. The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday.

"I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision."

Kalinic’s departure will leave Croatia with just one natural No 9 in their squad in the form of Mario Manduzkic.

The forward, who scored six goals in 41 games for AC Milan this season, has not started any of Croatia’s last four games.

Croatia currently top Group D, being the only team to have won their opening fixture.

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