World Cup 2018 Iceland team profile: How they qualified, star man, World Cup record, fixtures
Croatia stumbled through qualification for the World Cup, but can they make their undoubted talent pay?
- Honours: N/A
- FIFA Ranking: 18
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Croatia stumbled a bit through a qualifying phase in a group they were favourites to win, and it wasn’t until the final game they clinched the play-off spot, by beating Ukraine in the decider when they both were locked on 17 points. They eliminated Greece comfortably over two games, winning the opener at home 4-1. Croatia have a capable team that is edging toward the end of its cycle, so if this generation is going to put their mark down, it’s now.
STAR MAN - Luka Modric
There are a couple of star names in this team, but Luka Modric would undoubtedly be the number one pick by just about any of the opposing managers. An integral part of the Real Madrid side who has won four of the five latest Champions League titles, Modric is the battery that makes it tick.
Ronaldo, Modric, RamosGetty Images
NEXT BIG THING - Ante Rebic
Ante Rebic was a part of this team in Brazil and is turning 25 in September. This World Cup could be his breakthrough. A fast and technical winger who bloomed in Frankfurt under Niko Kovac, he also has a suspect temperament at times, as evidenced by his red against Mexico four years ago. A talent who has the ability to open up defences.
THE COACH - Zlatko Dalic
The biggest reason to believe that Croatia might be a team to look out for despite their rocky qualification, is their coach Zlatko Dalic. Dalic came in at the end of the qualification campaign and led the team to the crucial victory against Ukraine and the play-off triumph against Greece.
Al Ain Manager Zlatko Dalic (Getty)Getty Images
He mostly opts for the 4-2-3-1 formation, a style that the team is well suited for in terms of personnel.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
They have flattered to deceive following a hugely impressive debut to World Cup football, where they made it all the way to the semi-finals in 1998 – eventually losing to winners France.
Since then they have qualified for all but the 2010 finals in South Africa but have failed to get out of any of their groups. At the 2014 World Cup, they finished third in a group that also had Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
Any side that can select a midfield three that contains Luka Modric, Mateo Kovavcic and Ivan Rakitic has a hope.
- June 16th: Nigeria
- June 21st: Argentina
- June 26th: Iceland