Here’s why Croatia can surprise again at the World Cup

By ballprogression
7 Min Read

Croatia did the unthinkable when they almost went all the way in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They beat Denmark, Russia, and England in the knockouts before eventually coming up short against France in the final.

It was a historic achievement for a side that’s never won the World Cup. Before that feat, Croatia’s best-ever finish at the tournament was a third-place showing at the 1998 World Cup held in France.

Modric among others marched his side to the final which eventually massively contributed to his Ballon D’or victory.

Croatia announced their 26-man shortlist for the World Cup 2022 a week or so ago and believe me when I say that that’s a STRONG squad.

Croatia 2022 World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livaković, Ivica Ivušić, Ivo Grbić.

Defenders: Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Borna Barišić, Josip Juranović, Joško Gvardiol, Borna Sosa, Josip Stanišić, Martin Erlić, Josip Šutalo.

Midfielders: Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić, Marcelo Brozović, Mario Pašalić, Nikola Vlašić, Lovro Majer, Kristijan Jakić, Luka Sučić.

Forwards: Ivan Perišić, Andrej Kramarić, Bruno Petković, Mislav Oršić, Ante Budimir, Marko Livaja.

They have just the right amount of veterans mixed with young potential superstars in the making. A core of Modrić, Perišić, Brozović, and Kovačić among a few others intertwined with youngsters like Gvardiol, Sosa, Majer, Sučić, Vlašić, and co.

Dalic has experimented plenty with the young core and his seasoned players in the Nations League and they delivered by breaking into the final four of the tournament alongside Italy, Netherlands, and France.

Croatia can do it again!

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Croatia have kept the core of the team around since the last World Cup with the notable absentees being Ante Rebić, Ivan Rakitić, and Mario Mandžukić. If I was to put the two sides up against each other, the former would prevail but the level of the team is still quite high.

If you were to look at where most of these Croatia players play across top European clubs, you’d realize how much quality this side has.

Luka Modrić is not what he once was but he’s still going strong at 37. He is basically Dalić’s right-hand man and the two have great chemistry.


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This is the part of the team where there could be surprises and the definitive back four is not clear yet. Joško Gvardiol is the clear choice when it comes to the left centre-back spot but the right centre-back spot remains open between Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Josip Šutalo, and Martin Erlić.

Between the posts, Dominik Livaković is the number one for now but Atletico Madrid’s Ivo Grbić is lurking in the shadows waiting for his shot.

The right-back spot is covered by Juranović and Bayern’s Stanišić with the former expected to keep his spot in the eleven.

The left-back spot is up for debate between Sosa and Barišić with both providing very strong output for their respective clubs going forward. Borna Barišić is currently on 5 assists in 15 while Sosa is on 5 assists in 12. Expect Croatia to look for crossing opportunities off the left this World Cup.


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Brozović, Kovačić, and Modrić look like nailed-on starters but Pašalić’s profile is valuable to have in the squad and he could grab a start here and there, depending on the opposition. Vlasić might find himself in a wider position in the eleven while Sučić and Jakić should act as cover. Sučić is a particularly interesting project player from Salzburg.

Oh. and how could I forget the midfielder the whole Europe has been talking about this season. Majer has been a revelation at Rennes but he might just find himself out of the starting eleven for now. Wonderful tricky left footer who can even do a job out wide, he’ll 100 percent get minutes this World Cup, one way or another.


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Dalić today confirmed that the striker for this World Cup will be Andrej Kramarić. The Hoffenheim all-time leading goalscorer knows this is very likely to be his last World Cup and that he has to take this chance, his season so far hasn’t been as productive as previous ones but his goal record for Croatia remains good. In 39 starts for Croatia, he’s got 20 goals and 8 assists. However, he’s had a lot of sub appearances with a total of 74 caps overall.

Other than him, Dalić has a bunch of different profiles for his backup with Budimir and Petković as the big men and Livaja as the floating virtuoso up top.

For the wing options, other than Nikola Vlašić and possibly Lovro Majer the choice is clear for at least one wing. Ivan Perišić has been deployed as a left wing-back in his respective clubs for a few years now but remains his energetic, dribbling self when he’s playing on the wings for Croatia.

One man who has been on fire this year and the past few seasons is the only one left I didn’t mention. Mislav Orsić‘s resume speaks for itself with names like Chelsea, Tottenham and Milan all on his grim reaper list of the clubs he scored against. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a starting role but Dalić has to find a compromise between him and Perišić because they’re both at their best when cutting in from the left.


This squad possesses unity and has real chemistry with each other. Big names and promising up-and-comers are their plans going forward. People acknowledge them as a good national team but they could rise above expectations again. This isn’t a team you count out early, they have shown that multiple times and they’ll most likely show it again, in one way or another.

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