Euro 2016 Group D Preview: Croatia

Croatia have never progressed past the quarter-finals at the European Championships, but is this the year that Croatia finally make it to the final four or is that setting the standards too high for Ante Cacic’s team?

Croatia image: skysports.com

Croatia fell in the group stages at Euro 2012 behind finalists Spain and Italy
image: skysports.com

History

This is Croatia’s fifth appearance at the European Championships.

Their best result is having reached the quarter-finals twice in 1996 and 2008. Their other appearances in 2004 and 2012 both ended at the group stages.

Key Player

Luka Modric image: betdistrict.com

Luka Modric won a second Champions League medal with Real Madrid last month
image: betdistrict.com

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric will be a key man in the Croatian midfield as they look to his versatility from an attacking threat to helping out his defence to inspire them to success at Euro 2016.

He has been a key man in the Real Madrid with over 170 appearances in four seasons with the Spanish giants and also offers great experience to the Croatian line-up with nearly 100 caps for his country.

He can be the creative playmaker with great vision and top dribbling skills but since moving to Real Madrid, he can also be deployed as a defensive midfielder who can track back to win the ball for a side who will be a real threat on the counter attack.

One to Watch

Winger Marko Pjaca will hope Euro 2016 gives him the platform to show that he is one of Croatia’s aspiring stars, as the 21-year-old looks to his skill and speed to make an impact.

Marko Pjaca has been linked with a summer move to Benfica image: planetbenfica.co.uk

Marko Pjaca has been linked with a summer move to Benfica
image: planetbenfica.co.uk

He moved to Dinamo Zagreb from Lokomotiva Zagreb in 2014 and in two seasons, he has contributed 22 goals and won the Croatian League in 2015. He has already represented Croatia at youth level but this is the first chance to showcase his skill on the biggest stage.

Together with Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic ripping down the wings, they will look to cause their group D rivals headaches and will have the eye for a quick counter attack with Modric in the centre ready to pounce.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Hajduk Split), Ivan Vargic (Rijeka)

Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Sassuolo), Gordon Schildenfeld (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Strinic (Napoli), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marko Rog (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Coric (Dinamo Zagreb), Marko Pjaca (Dinamo Zagreb).

Strikers: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Nikola Kalinic (Fiorentina), Duje Cop (Dinamo Zagreb), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim)

Croatia reached the quarter-finals in 1996 and 2008 image: croatiaweek.com

Croatia reached the quarter-finals in 1996 and 2008
image: croatiaweek.com

Prediction: Last 16

Croatia have been a dangerous side for many years but have not always had the luck in major tournaments. They were unlucky not to make it out of their group in 2012 but this time around, they should reach the knock-out stages.

Modric and Ivan Rakitic are two world-class midfielders in the centre of the park while Mario Mandzukic will be a key figure up front to grab them a few goals. They also have a solid defence will only five goals conceded in qualifying.

They will reach the knock-out stages but they could be in for a tough draw in the last 16. Second or third place behind Spain will see them take the winners from group A or E with France and Belgium in line for those spots. I don’t think Croatia will be able to topple either side.

Croatia’s Fixtures

12 Jun v Turkey (1400)

17 Jun v Czech Republic (1700)

21 Jun v Spain (2000)

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