Euro 2020: Experienced Croatia hope to go one step further than 2018 finale

Zlatko Dalic’s men shocked the footballing world when they reached the World Cup final in 2018.

Three years on Dalic is still in charge and has a very strong squad, despite the international retirements of Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic and Danijel Subasic. They are placed in Group D alongside favourites England, but are expected to progress and cannot be written off in the knockout stages with tournament-proven experience.

Group D: CROATIA, England, Czech Republic, Scotland
Manager:  Zlatko Dalic
Odds (PP): 30/1
Recent Tournaments: World Cup 2018 (runners-up), Euro 2016 (round of 16)
FIFA World Ranking: 14th

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Key Man

Luka Modric. Three years on from the World Cup, where he won player of the tournament and that year’s Ballon D’or, the 35-year-old is still Croatia’s key man. He did suffer a decline since then and found himself in and out of the Madrid team but has rediscovered his form in the latter half of this season. He was central to injury-ravaged Real Madrid’s run to the Champions League semi-finals.

The Squad

Croatia were one of the first nations to announce their 26-man squad.

In goals, the impressive Dominik Livakovic replaces veteran Subasic, with Luton Town’s Simon Sluba as back-up.

Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovern and Domagoj Vida, all starters in the World Cup final three years ago, are selected and could start, although the latter face tough competition in Marseille’s Duje Caleta-Car.

Left back sees a change as Rangers Borna Barisic and Lille’s Domagoj Bradaric, both part of title winning campaigns are selected replacing Ivan Strinic, who is now a free agent at 33.

The midfield has a similar feel to it. Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic and Milan Badelj are all selected as they were three years ago. Joining them are CSKA Moscow’s Nikola Vlasic and Mario Pasalic, who is thriving at Atalanta after finally leaving Chelsea.

Up front Dalic has a wealth of options despite the retirement of Mario Mandzukic. Andrej Kramaric is fresh from a 25-goal season at Hoffenheim, including 20 in just 28 games in the Bundesliga. Fellow strikers Ante Budimir and Bruno Petkovic are also included after strong club campaigns at Osasuna and Zagreb.

2018 wide men Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic, now rivals at club level in Milan, are again selected and should start but face heavy competition from Wolfsburg’s Josip Brekalo and Zagreb’s Mislav Orsic, who is 22 goal campaign included a hattrick against Tottenham to dump them out of Europe.

One to Watch

Josip Brekalo.

The 22-year-old winger was key in a resurgent Wolfsburg side this season, helping them achieve Champions League football next season for the first time since 2015. At 5’9 his willing running, pace and trickery make him a handful for defenders. He is a younger, Croatian version of Frank Ribery.  His strong finish to the season, including a hattrick against Union Berlin in early May make his case for a start in Croatia’s side a strong one.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Lovre Kalinic (Hajduk Split), Simon Sluga (Luton Town)

Defenders: Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Josip Juranovic (Legia Warsaw), Dejan Lovren (Zenit St Petersburg), Duje Caleta-Car (Olympique Marseille), Borna Barisic (Rangers), Mile Skoric (Osijek), Josko Gvardiol (Dinamo Zagreb), Domagoj Bradaric (Lille)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Milan Badelj (Genoa), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea), Nikola Vlasic (CSKA Moscow), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta), Luka Ivanusec (Dinamo Zagreb)

Forwards: Bruno Petkovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Josip Brekalo (Wolfsburg), Ante Rebic (AC Milan), Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Budimir (Osasuna)

The Author

Daragh Searing

Student and sports fanatic, aged 19. I availed of the extra time on my hands during the pandemic to get into sportswriting, something I've always had strong interest in. Man United fan but also a keen follower of Serie A & European football. Hoping to pursue a career in sportswriting, with Soccer and Rugby my areas of expertise. email: searingdaragh9@gmail.com

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