Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has trimmed his provisional World Cup squad to 24 players from 32 for next month’s World Cup in Russia. However, World Cup squads must be reduced to 23 players by June 4.
Croatia are appearing at the World Cup for the 5th time and have been drawn alongside Nigeria, Iceland and two-time champions Argentina in a tricky Group D.
Dalic, an experienced manager with a keen eye for small details would hope his team performs better in the mega event compared to what they did in the qualifiers.
Let us have a look at the strongest line-up that Croatia could field at the World Cup.
Probable Croatia XI
Manager: Zlatko Dalic
Danijel Subasic (GK)
Subasic is Croatia’s trusted man between the sticks and that won’t change in the World Cup.
Sime Vrsaljko (RB)
Vrsaljko has established himself as a first-choice right-back at Atletico Madrid. He is an attacking full-back also capable of playing on the left-hand side of the defence. He would be a definite starter for Croatia in the glitz and glamour tournament.
Domagoj Vida (CB)
As assured presence in central defence, Vida is a hard-tackling centre-half with ball-playing abilities.
Dejan Lovren (CB)
It would be a shame to lose a warrior in Vedran Corluka before the World Cup due to his injury problems but coach Dalic would need to prepare well and expect Dejan Lovren to step up in Russia. Defensively fragile and careless at times, Lovren would love to silence his naysayers in the big competition next month.
Ivan Strinic (LB)
Reliable and composed, Strinic is the man to be deployed at left-back. The Sampdoria man will have a huge task cut out in the World Cup.
Mateo Kovacic (CM)
Primarily an attacking player, Kovacic should be deployed in a deeper midfield role for Croatia. He is a gifted player but unlucky to have received very little game time at Real Madrid this season. Well, the World Cup could be the ideal platform for Kovacic to showcase his talent.
Ivan Rakitic (CM)
Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic should partner with Kovacic in central midfield. Rakitic would bring a lot of energy and bite to the midfield. His presence would give the attackers the freedom to express themselves freely.
Marcelo Brozovic (RW)
Capable of playing in the midfield or in the attack, Brozovic should start on the right-wing. Brozovic has elusive abilities but is guilty of not playing to his potential.
Luka Modric (CAM)
Modric has been the heartbeat of the Croatian team for years. He has exceptional playmaking abilities and given that he would start in an advanced role, there would be higher expectations from the Real Madrid star. His influence would be vital if Croatia are to shock everyone at the World Cup.
Ivan Perisic (LW)
Another star who can turn around the game in a blink of an eye is Ivan Perisic. A work-horse with top dribbling and crossing abilities, Perisic would need to be consistent for the national team.
Mario Mandzukic (ST)
Leading Croatia’s attack would be none other than Mario Mandzukic. He has played on the left-wing over the last couple of years at Juventus but he is a natural centre-forward and will need to deliver on the biggest stage.