World Cup 2014: Croatia Preview - can Modric lead them to glory?

Croatia Football Team June 2013

Croatia haven't even been mentioned as dark horses by many for this year's World Cup, but they have some key stars who make them dangerous.

Matched up in a tricky group again Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon, few people are talking about Croatia's chances at the World Cup. They limped through qualifying in the playoffs against Iceland, and were generally disappointing under Igor Stimac. They do however possess great quality in certain areas of the pitch, so to understand their impending World Cup campaign, here is your in-depth preview on Croatia...

The perception

Having struggled through the qualifying phase under former boss Stimac, Croatia are deemed to have regressed since their impressive phase under Slaven Bilic. Many of the same players are still in place from their time as England's nemesis, but some are now ageing and could struggle to cope in Brazil. With a couple of star players in the team, they could pose teams problems though.

The reality

Stimac's replacement Niko Kovac has steadied the ship, guiding Croatia past underdogs Iceland in the qualifying playoffs. Kovac can now rely on stars like Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic to be the keys to their success, whilst Southampton defender Dejan Lovren and Inter Milan starlet Mateo Kovacic have also emerged as important players under Kovac. The revitalised Croats appear to be a much better side than their qualifying record suggested.


With the superb technical ability of Modric, Rakitic and Kovacic in the middle of the park, Croatia certainly have the personnel to pass teams off the park. Yet don't think that Kovac's men are all style and no substance - they have a number of powerful players who can mix it up as well, and no player embodies this more than Bayern Munich striker Mandzukic, who is arguably Europe's most deadly aerial threat.


A complete lack of wingers is a huge issue for Kovac. With Mandzukic relying so heavily on quality into the box, it's important that Croatia get service into the Bayern hitman. Yet Niko Kranjcar is out injured, leaving striker Ivica Olic to play out of position on the left, with Ivan Perisic on the right. Getafe's Sammir represents the only other player who could play out wide, which could starve Mandzukic of opportunities.

Key Player

The man who makes Croatia tick is Real Madrid midfielder Modric, who has had a superb season under Carlo Ancelotti in the Spanish capital. The former Spurs man has really developed into a player who can influence the game from his deep-lying playmaking role, and is coming off the back of winning the Champions League. The most experienced man in the Croatia midfield, Modric will be called upon to be their main man.

One to Watch

Long earmarked as the future star of Croatian football, Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic has bounced back from a poor first half of the season to establish himself in Walter Mazzarri's side. The 20-year-old possesses outstanding passing, vision and dribbling ability, and will be asked to play as the most attacking player of the midfield trio in Brazil this summer - where he should show the world what he can do.


Much like Group A rivals Mexico, Croatia's hopes depend on which side turn up - the one that struggled through qualifying or the one that has been revitalised since the appointment of a new manager. The big boost for Kovac's side is that many of their players are coming off impressive seasons; Lovren, Modric, Rakitic, Kovacic and Mandzukic have all been in great form of late and Kovac will be hoping that they continue that this summer.

Predicted line-up

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