Croatia were undoubtedly the story of the tournament as they reached the finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They were well equipped with some world class players, but France were just too strong on the day. The only way should have been up after their fantastic showing in Russia, but their star players have aged and their squad doesn’t have the same spark anymore.
Probable Lineup: Dominik Livakovic; Josip Juranovic/Sime Vrsaljko, Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Borna Barisic; Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic; Mario Pasalic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic; Ante Budimir.
Defence: Croatia’s Achilles heel during the last major tournament was their defence and the problems at the back still persists. Both Domagoj Vida and Dejan Lovren are not as quick as they used to be and there is a lot of uncertainty regarding their first-choice full backs. Sime Vrsaljko should be a no-brainer at right back but he hasn’t featured a lot for Atletico Madrid which has put his role in the national side in doubt. Moreover, veteran shot stopper Daniel Subasic, who was impressive at the World Cup has retired.
Midfield: There has been an Ivan Rakitic-size void in the Croatian midfield since a couple of years, but the team are well stacked in this department. Luka Modric will be the obvious danger man for the opposition teams. Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic will operate in a double pivot. The likes of Mario Pasalic, Ivan Perisic and Mislav Orsic will vie for the two wide midfielder roles. There is also a case to made for all three of them to feature in the lineup, in which case Perisic will be the centre forward.
Attack: Croatia’s attack no longer has the bankable Mario Mandzukic anymore. What they do have is a few players who have shown sparks of brilliance in the past. Ante Budimir has been prolific for Osasuna recently. Ante Rebic of AC Milan and Andrej Kramaric are the other two players who have a good record of finding the back of the net for their clubs in the last few seasons.