Croatia have been one of the most impressive performers at World Cup 2018. Not only did Zlatko Dalic’s side win all three group games against Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland, but they also won the final group game with a much-changed starting line-up.
In short, they have all the attributes to match their best finish at a World Cup, which came in France ’98, when the Croats finish in third place. That performance was even more of an achievement as it was their World Cup as an independent nation.
A brilliant central midfield
We waxed lyrical about Croatia’s central midfield pairing of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric after the 3-0 defeat of Argentina. However, it is hard to express just how good the pair are and how vital they are to their team.
You would go a long way to find a better midfield pairing than the Real Madrid and Barcelona stars in the competition. Ironically, in club football, they are bitter enemies, but when it comes to their national side, they are entirely in sync.
Modric is an underrated footballer. Since his time at Tottenham, people have undervalued his ability. He is beautiful to watch at times. If you were to be picky, then the fact he does score enough goals could be one of the reasons for the lack of acknowledgement of his ability.
Rakitic has played a crucial part in the Barcelona midfielder for the last few years. He keeps the game ticking over and helps dictate play from the centre of the park along with his partner in crime Modric.
A fantastic chance to reach the last eight
Croatia has always been a hotbed of football producing so many talents players down the years. The class of ’98 were no doubt one of the most talented. The current crop has the experience and ability to match their achievements.
A last 16 meeting with Denmark is not an easy one. The Danes have a tighter defence than Fort Knox, having conceded just one goal in their previous seven outing.
However, Croatia has more quality than the Danes do, and everybody connected with the country will be disappointed to exit the competition at first knockout stage.
Could win a very open World Cup
This summer’s World Cup is one of the most open in recent years. None of the big boys have impressed in Russia, so that may mean another team producing a shock by lifting the trophy.
With a bit of luck, Croatia could well be the team that surprises everybody in Russia. Dalic’s team is one of the most experienced teams left in the competition.
A number of the Croatian players are accustomed to playing big games on big stages. They are unlikely to freeze on the big occasion. They were tipped to achieve big things at Euro 2016 but produced a disappointing performance in the knockout stages.
However, maybe World Cup 2018 is the tournament that genuinely announces Croatia on the top table of international football, just as World Cup 1998 introduced them to the football world.
Can Croatia go further than they did at World Cup 1998 in this summer?