Croatia finished second in their qualifying group to make the tournament this summer, only finishing behind Italy. Their squad includes some brilliant young prospects, who will be looking to make the most of the big stage they will be playing on in France. Four years ago, they were eliminated from the group phase despite picking up four points so they will want to make amends.
In defence, Croatia have been weakened by the absence of Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren after he fell out with the manager. They will be calling upon the experience of Darijo Srna, who has also taken some set pieces for Shakhtar this season in Ukraine, with over 120 caps. Ex-Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka also makes the cut.
The midfield of Croatia is littered with talent wherever you look. La Liga stars Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will be almost definite names on the team sheet, but emerging Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic scored six goals in qualifying (more than any Croatian) and seven goals in the Serie A season under Roberto Mancini. Furthermore, his six assists for the San Siro outfit show his creative ability, so he is a clear contender to make our starting elevens. There are also high hopes for Alen Halilovic, who could be a punt.
Mario Mandzukic is the only bright spark for Croatia up front, but this could be his international tournament farewell at 30 years old, with Leicester reject Andrej Kramaric hoping to obtain the number nine jersey in future competitions. Nikola Kalinic has done himself no harm in the season that he has had at Fiorentina, but it is unlikely that he will start in a group against some tough teams.
Written by Dean Ammi (@footywriterdean)
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