After a heroic and valiant performance in the Champions League final, Liverpool’s own Dejan Lovren joins up with his Croatian team-mates as they take on Group D at this year’s World Cup. Here’s Anthony (@anthonymarkmcav) with a preview of the Croats’ chances.
After making their first appearance at a World Cup at France ’98 and somehow finishing third. Croatia haven’t made it past the group stages of any of the three competitions they’ve taken part in since.
Their success in ’98 was in large part down to the heroics of Davor Suker, who finished the competition as the top scorer with six goals.
The last four games Croatia have played at World Cups have seen four goals scored. A 2-2 draw with Australia in 2006. A 3-1 loss to Brazil, a 4-0 win over Cameroon and a 3-1 loss to Mexico at the 2014 iteration.
Key Player – Luka Modric
One of the premier midfielders in world football, Luka Modric has the capability to change the outcome of any football game with just his mere presence in the midfield.
Croatia are extremely lucky to have not only Luka but Ivan Rakitic to play through the centre of their midfield, although their styles of play may clash at times.
Winning everything there is to win at Real Madrid, Modric is no stranger to success and taking into account the lack of strength throughout the Croatian team, success may well be counted as escaping the group for the former Tottenham midfielder.
Head Coach – Zlatko Dalic
The largely unknown Croat manager, Zlatko Dalic is a former defensive midfielder. His playing career never reached any recognisable heights, with the biggest side on his resume being Hajduk Split.
The Croatian job is undoubtedly the biggest of his career, with his management career being based in the Saudi Arabian league, with teams like Al Ain using his services.
After just three competitive games in charge, the Bosnian-born manager hasn’t had much time for his way of playing to be shown to the a global audience so it’s right to expect some mystery from his Croatian side.
Group D isn’t exactly filled to the brim with quality. A disappointing Argentina side that is nowhere near as good as the parts they are made out of indicate. Nigeria, who Croatia take on first, who look like one of the dark horses for this group, have much more talent than it would seem at a glance. Plus an Iceland side that is fresh off a historic Euro 2016 campaign.
Like I said, not filled with quality but definitely filled to the brim with grit and determination. It’ll be a tough ask to escape this group but if results go their way, squeezing into the last 16 behind Argentina sounds more than plausible.
Finishing second in the group will give Croatia a likely date with France in the last 16 of the World Cup, which would be the biggest task of any in the entire tournament.
France are expected to go very deep in the competition and they’d have to beat a side like Croatia with ease to prove that. However, I’d never put anything past the plucky Croats.
June 16: Croatia vs Nigeria
June 21: Argentina vs Croatia
June 26: Iceland vs Croatia
Despite not having the best prospect of going deep in the world cup, it still wouldn’t be the same without being able to see all of the best players in the world playing their best football and that is what Croatia have. Some of the best midfielders in the world and it will be interesting to see how they get on in their group.