The best in the World Cup? The area where Croatia can hurt Brazil

Luka Modric Croatia

Brazil are widely expected to comfortably see off Croatia in Sao Paulo tonight, but Niko Kovac does have a particular calling card.

On home turf, Luiz Felipe Scolari's Brazil are expected to win handsomely in their opening Group A match against Croatia, who struggled through qualifying and had to fight through a playoff against underdogs Iceland in order to reach the 2014 World Cup.

The Igor Stimac era is now over and Kovac has now steadied the Croatian ship, and they are now considered a dark horse for the tournament with a number of impressive players at their disposal. The likes of Darijo Srna, Dejan Lovren, Vedran Corluka and Mario Mandzukic will be familiar faces to most fans, but their key trio play in midfield.

With makeshift wingers in Ivica Olic and Ivan Perisic, much of Croatia's success will be dictated by the three-man midfield of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic.

Former Spurs star Modric is no doubt the most recognisable face of the midfield, with the Real Madrid man coming off arguably his best season to date. The 28-year-old can influence the game from his deep-lying-playmaker role, possessing the passing range and vision to create chances for the attack.

However, Modric probably wasn't even the best Croatian midfielder in Spain this season, as Sevilla's Rakitic racked up 13 goals and 12 assists in a stunning season which culminated in winning the Europa League. Now one of the hottest properties in Europe, Rakitic is poised to sign for Barcelona in a €20m deal - and his goalscoring ability could be a danger to the Brazil defence.

The two are relatively experienced in comparison to chief playmaker Kovacic, who is still only 20. The Inter Milan midfielder came into the form of his career at the back end of the season, and will be looking to take that into the World Cup. With driving runs from midfield and creativity in possession, Kovacic is Croatia's secret weapon on the counter attack.

Brazilian midfield trio Luis Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar will have their work cut out to stop the three Croatian midfielders, and with Mandzukic out suspended, Kovac will need strong performances from Modric, Rakitic and Kovacic - which could be the best midfield in the World Cup - in order to get anything out of tonight's game.

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