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Croatia World Cup Team Guide: It could be a case of incredible highs or embarassing lows for Modric and Co


Croatia World Cup Team Guide: It could be a case of incredible highs or embarassing lows for Modric and Co

A team with so much potential but also one that could easily implode are hard to assess this summer.

Team strengths

The individual quality in the centre of the midfield is nothing short of staggering. Not many teams in the World Cup have the luxury to field Real Madrid and Barcelona stars in the middle of the park. Of course, those two are Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic but it doesn’t end with just them. With the likes of Milan Badelj, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, Croatia has both the quality and the depth where it matters most - in the heart of the field.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. At almost every position, with a small exception of the left back, Croatia has exceptional players that are all playing for the best European clubs: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Mandzukic, Kramaric, Perisic, just to name a few. Considering the amount of sheer individual talent, this team is a true powerhouse.

Team weaknesses

Despite all their individual quality, the team barely got to the World Cup, and the national coach Ante Cacic lost his job before the final game against Ukraine. Considering that, it is difficult to assess any weaknesses, as this team has a different coach than for most of the qualifying period.

But some issues remain. Almost paradoxically, the biggest Croatian problem is ball distribution, especially in the first phase. Securing good distribution lines from defence to midfield seems to be the problem that cannot be solved. Croatia always seem to playe better when the opponent dominates the possession.

With Luka Modric playing in a more advanced role, he isn’t the one to do it and both Ivan Rakitic and Milan Badelj don’t get enough help from the defence. These problems were heavily exposed in both preparation matches, against Brazil and Senegal.

Star Player

One of the best central midfielders of his generation, Luka Modric is both the captain and the most important player for this team. Since Zlatko Dalic took chage, Modric has been deployed further up the field, playing almost as an attacking midfielder, in front of Rakitic and Badelj.

He is expected to make the difference with both his individual and team skills. He is the one to provide the necessary dribbling potential in the final third of the field but also has to be the one who provides key passes to players like Perisic, Rebic or Kramaric.

If Croatia are going to perform well, one can easily expect Modric to be at least one of the best players on the field. Without him, they lack a game changer.

Modric to provide most assists in competition - 51.00

The Manager

It’s extremely difficult to assess Dalic’s managerial skills, as he has worked primarily in the Middle East, where the football culture just can’t be compared to the one in Europe. Also, the required coaching skills are far behind anything needed to succeed in the big European leagues. But, so far, one can also say: so far, so good…

He was brought in during an extremely difficult period, having had to defeat Ukraine (2-0) in an away game and go through the playoffs to beat Greece (4-1 agg.). Considering the poor form and morale in the team at the time, it was not an easy thing to do.

There were no surprises with the 23-man selection and the core of the team remained the same. It is up to Dalic to do what his predecessor Ante Cacic couldn’t - to make a team out of great individual players. So far it seems he could just be the right man for the job.

How far can they go?

The group is far from the easiest one, but at their peak, Croats can repeat the success of the 98 generation, when Croatia played in the semi-final and were 1-0 ahead in the game against France.

This is a high ceiling-low floor team, one that can fly very high but also fall very low. With the volatile nature of both the nation and the team, pretty much anything is possible, but the squad does possess enough talent to go very far.

 At the same time, that same squad is capable of not winning a single game in the tournament.

Croatia to make the semis - 8.00

 

 


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Ivan Ivkovic
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