Croatia qualified for the World Cup in the most unspectacular fashion, they came second in the group Belgium topped, and eventually drew Iceland in the play-off’s.
Many were initially excited to see national minnows Iceland qualify for the first time in their history after a boring goalless draw in Reykjavik, but Mandzukic and Srna ensured that didn’t happen in the return leg in Zagreb.
Bayern Munich’s front man, Mario Mandzukic had a strong game until he was sent off for his ridiculous challenge on Johann Gudmundsson and will subsequently miss the opening game against Brazil.
Croatia’s coach, Niko Kovač, took over last year after being promoted from the Under 21’s, his style of football has been described as defensive over the last year, but his formation, 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1, is intended to bring the best out of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, both who had excellent seasons at Real Madrid and Sevilla respectively.
Croatia have previously struggled to impress on the big stage since 1998, where they were semi-finalists, but Croatian players have spoken highly about Kovač’s mentality, hard work, and discipline and hope to make the most of this tournament with it.
Both veterans in comparison to the rest of the squad, one of Ivica Olic and Eduardo Da Silva are expected to take the place of Mandzukic in the opening game.
Player to watch out for:
I’m unsure of whether he’ll start because of the sheer quality and experience of Modric and Rakitic, but if there’s anyone primed to shine and surprise at the World Cup for Croatia, its Kovacic, the young Inter Milan midfielder.
Kovavic is almost five years younger than most of the starters on this Croatian team and has really broken into explosive form over the last 2 months. His best performance yet was Javier Zanetti’s final game where he destroyed Lazio’s defence with three surgical assists.
Players who may disappoint you:
He’s going to disappoint you because he once played for Tottenham, but also because he has Dejan Lovren as a partner.
Dejan Lovren has impressed many in England due to his commandeering defending at Southampton, which may have earned him a move to Liverpool, but he has not impressed at international level, many Croatians still question his level after sub par performances and lapses in concentration for them.
Kovač himself was an excellent defender for several giants in the Bundesliga, and hopefully he can inspire them to create a good partnership in this World Cup.
Croatia’s 23-man squad for the World Cup Finals:
Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Oliver Zelenika (Dinamo Zagreb).
Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld, Danijel Pranjic (both Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa).
Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Perisic (Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Sammir (Getafe), Ivan Mocinic (Rijeka).
Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull City), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina).
By Alexander Beck