Croatia, who came in second at the World Cup four years ago, is still at the top of the world. They did have to swallow a tough loss against Spain in the round of 16 at the last European Championship but they won their group in the World Cup qualifiers and reached the Nations League finals. So, all is still well and Luka Modric remains evergreen.
How do they play?
The Croatian game is of course centred around Luka Modric. However, their cornerstone is not only the Real Madrid superstar but the entire midfield trio of Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic. Croatia is not so much looking for long balls behind the line or through passes, but rather tries to move the game to the opponent’s side with short passes and play for a shot there. Head coach Zlatko Dalic has been able to develop a 4-3-3 formation over the past year, which will most likely also be their go-to at the World Cup.
Why they can win?
Head coach Dalic has recently been able to bring in fresh blood around the experienced midfield and thus ensured the sustainability of the team. Since there is a good symbiosis of young and experienced players, Croatia can fly high again. Especially when 37-year-old Luka Modric hasn’t given up a single gram in his level and can still decide games on his own.
Why they can lose?
The defensive line and the goalkeeper may become the team’s Achilles heel. Danijel Subašic used to be the number one. Fast forward 4 years and Dalic has not entrusted the gloves to anyone for good. Apparently, it will be Dominik Livakovic who will be standing between the posts in Qatar. Croatian fans are also worried about the central defenders, because despite 20-year-old Joško Gvardiol showing himself to be exceptionally reliable, the same can’t be said about his partners.
The leading stars
Of course, Croatia’s biggest star is and forever will be Luka Modric. Four years ago, the wonderous World Cup ended with him being named the best soccer player in the world. Of course, a team like Croatia has more than just one ace up their sleeve – Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Perišic are just a few examples of men who did stellar things four years ago and are still in the lineup now.
The fresh faces
Joško Gvardiol, who celebrates his 21st birthday in January, already played in the starting lineup of the Croatian national team at last year’s Euros and has not let up in his level in the meantime. On the contrary – Gvardiol is a mainstay in Leipzig’s starting 11 and his market value is in the tens and tens of millions. Josip Stanišic is another young Croatian defender who plays for the one and only Bayern Munich. He hasn’t quite been able to make it to a starter there, but nonetheless, Julian Nagelsmann still trusts him on the field from time to time.