World Cup team preview: Croatia

Vedran Corluka Croatia

Croatia will be relying on experience during their World Cup campaign as they prepare for their second successive appearance in the finals.

Zlatko Dalic has named one of the oldest squads for the tournament, with Real Madrid talisman Luka Modric set to lead the charge.

The Blazers’ qualification route saw them earn a spot in the play-off round as they beat Ukraine 2-0 before securing qualification with a 4-1 aggregate triumph against Greece.

Their road in the World Cup does not get any easier after being drawn in a tricky Group D which includes two-time winners Argentina as well as Nigeria and Iceland.

Besides Modric, other big stars named in Dalic’s squad include Ivan Rakitic as well as Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic.

Dejan Lovren is the Premier League’s sole representative and could prove to play an important role in defence with experienced campaigner Vedran Corluka coming off an injury-ridden season.

Another player to watch out for is Andrej Kramaric, who will possess a potent threat down the right flank, having notched 13 goals and eight assists for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga this term.

Dalic is going to have to find a way to balance the skillsets of a stacked midfield if the Balkan outfit are to negotiate their way through the group stages and into the latter part of the tournament.

Their campaign will depend a lot on the performance of Modric, who has been playing further up the pitch since the appointment of Dalic to accommodate the similar style of play Rakitic brings.

Dalic’s side are in many ways a dark horse, despite their poor form in the lead-up to Russia 2018 which has seen them go down to Peru and Brazil (both 2-0 defeats), although they did manage to beat Mexico 1-0 in-between.

If their stars can gel, Croatia could well make it past the group stages and even go beyond the last 16. However, their depth could prove to be a problem and they’ll struggle once they come up against the stronger nations.

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Gent), Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb).

Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Ivan Strinic (Sampdoria), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg).

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka).

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Nikola Kalinic (AC Milan), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Marko Pjaca (Schalke), Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt).