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World Cup 2018: Analysing Croatia's ability to go all the way in Russia

265   //    23 Jun 2018, 20:58 IST

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Croatia celebrating their first goal against Nigeria

The six points amassed by Croatia over their first two games mean they are through to the knock out stages of the 2018 World Cup. A point against Iceland would mean they finish top of the group and potentially avoid a big team in the last sixteen.

For a country with a population of around four million, the array of talent in their team is incredible, with many of the starting eleven playing at Europe’s top clubs. Many of the players have played an important role in the success of their club sides.

Luka Modric’s ability to control the midfield has proven invaluable for Real Madrid, who have won four Champions League titles and one Spanish league title during the Croat’s time at the club.

Ivan Rakitic has had an equally significant role to play at FC Barcelona, with three Spanish league titles and one Champions League to his name.

Modric - Maestro

Subasic and Mario Mandzukic also have experience of winning league titles, with Monaco and Juventus respectively. Subasic’s league victory is particularly impressive, given PSG’s dominance over the French league in recent years.

The team possesses every attribute required to opposition teams problems. The creativity of Modric and Rakitic, allied with the pace and power of Perisic and Mandzukic make Croatia a dangerous outfit.

The Croats are also solid defensively and showed this against Argentina, as Dejan Lovren and Vida put in several last-ditch interceptions. This makes Croatia a very complete team and one that has all the requirements of a World Cup winning team.

Whilst the Croatian team is certainly well-drilled, they have match-winners and players capable of changing a game on their own. Luka Modric’s second goal against Argentina is an example of the individual talent at Croatia’s disposal.

Argentina v Croatia: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Ivan Rakitic - solid

Mario Mandzukic’s over-head kick in last year’s Champions League final proves that he has the technique and coordination to go with the power and physicality.

Even though Croatia’s first goal against Argentina will be remembered as a Willy Caballero mistake, the way Ante Rebic punished him was spectacular.

Ivan Rakitic scored the opener in Barcelona's 2015 Champion’s League final victory, which proves that Croatia have players capable of scoring spectacular goals at crucial times.

The Croats are not without their faults however. With the score at 0-0, a mix-up between Lovren and Subasic left the ball on a plate for Enzo Perez to finish. Luckily for Croatia, Perez failed to put the ball into the empty net and the rest they say is history.

Lovren during his time at Liverpool had a reputation of making defensive mistakes at crucial moments in matches, with particularly poor performances against Tottenham and Sevilla. However, over the course of last season the Liverpool centre-half reduced the number of errors he makes.

Argentina v Croatia: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Mandzukic - target man

Croatia’s performances in the last few major tournaments have been very underwhelming. In the last World Cup, the Croat’s went out in the group stage with two defeats to their name, including a 3-1 loss to Mexico.

The team also failed to progress from their group at Euro 2012, and at Euro 2016 made it to the first knock-out round, where they lost to the eventual champions Portugal. These failures in previous international tournaments raise doubts about Croatia’s ability to go all the way.

The Croats certainly have the personnel and winning experience to go the distance in this tournament. The midfield pairing of Rakitic and Modric is up there with any pairing on display, with Perisic and Mandzukic also forming a formidable front-line.

The recent disappointments in major tournaments however do leave doubts about their capability in the knock rounds.

The expected favourites such as France, Germany, Brazil and Spain have not been completely convincing, this could leave the door open for an outsider to win the competition. Could Croatia be the team to upset the odds? Have your say in the comments.

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