Current Fifa Ranking : 16th with 971 points
World Cup Appearances : 1998, 2002 and 2006
Best Achievement : Third Place in 1998
Head Coach : Niko Kovac
Captain : Darijo Srna
Having begun their qualifiers in good fashion and levelling with Belgium after six fixtures, Croatia went through a slump in form after getting only one point from the remaining four matches. Their play-off victory over Iceland ensured that their bright start to the campaign didn’t go to waste. Head coach Niko Kovac is quite the newbie in camp as he has only been appointed in October, yet he’s a veteran when it comes to international football, having appeared for his country at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
Though their squad includes rare gems which could harm any team, drawing the hosts of a tournament is never easy, whilst also having Mexico and Cameroon to contend with. Even though Croatia has lost the spark which made them a fearful enemy in the last 90s and early noughties, they are still capable of beating any side should they be in form.
The Blazers’ defence is led by team captain Darijo Srna, currently plying his trade for Ukrainian outfit Shaktar Donetsk. Dinamo Zagreb’s Josip Simunic and Lokomotiv Moscow’s Vedran Corluka are other favoured options at the back. In midfield, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric provides the team with the necessary flair and finesse required at these tournaments, whilst Inter Milan’s Mateo Kovacic and Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic also work wonders. Wolfsburg’s Ivica Olic and Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic should be expected to lead the frontline, though the latter may find limited playing time having been sent off during the play-off against Iceland.
With progression a concrete possibility but not a certainty, Croatia will need to rely on their top players to guide them through as far as they could in this tournament. Betting on them advancing past the group stages would be wise, however betting on them advancing past the quarter finals would be an improbability, as they are not as well equipped as the tournament’s big dogs.