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FIFA World Cup 2018: Luka Modric Once Again Crucial as Croatia Look to Upset the Applecart| SWOT Analysis

While Croatia lack world class abilities in areas that Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic don’t cover, they have the potential to deliver the killer blow, routed through the aforementioned pair. Even though they have a difficult group to deal with, anything less than the round of 16 will be considered a failure for one of the more experienced sides in the competition.

Abhimanyu Sen |

Updated:June 13, 2018, 9:10 AM IST
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FIFA World Cup 2018: Luka Modric Once Again Crucial as Croatia Look to Upset the Applecart| SWOT Analysis
A file photo of Croatia's Luka Modric. (Getty Images)
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Among Croatia’s happiest footballing memories would be a convincing 3-0 win against Germany in the quarter-final of the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. Led by a prolific Davor Sukur, the eventual golden boot winner, the Croats’ journey came to an end in the semi-finals against the hosts and the eventual champions.

Two decades later, Croatia’s most talented bunch in recent history, after almost missing the bus to Russia, will be looking to leave their mark on the international stage. Some of their leading players have already, for a few seasons now, left a lasting impression at the domestic level.

Coached by the little known Zlatko Dalic, the Vatreni is a destructive and tough opponent on their day. One of their biggest scalps was Spain at the 2016 Euros in France.

Croatia survived the qualifying stages by the skin of their teeth after their camp was hit with chaos when Ante Cacic was fired. With only 15 goals to their name in 10 qualifiers, that included defeats to Turkey and Iceland, Dalic and squad had their backs to the wall and could think of celebrating only after they had overcome Greece in the playoffs.

While Croatia lack world class abilities in areas that Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic don’t cover, they have the potential to deliver the killer blow, routed through the aforementioned pair. Even though they have a difficult group to deal with, anything less than the round of 16 will be considered a failure for one of the more experienced sides in the competition.

STRENGTHS

Often football matches are won are lost in midfield, and herein lies Croatia’s biggest strength as they have three serial winners in Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Rakitic. Along with them Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic make it a set of players that most managers and coaches would be very happy to have.

Whilst, Dalic’s system has not seen that much of Kovacic, it has given Modric more freedom in attack and requires Rakitic to fall back in support. The duo will have the luxury of a holding midfielder behind them as they push forward with Perisic and Mario Mandzukic.

Croatia will expect Modric to be more incisive as he moves closer to the opposition box, a position he has rarely been able to occupy in recent years.

The Modric led attack is by far the most potent weapon for the Croats, and the aspect that will provide optimism is that both Modric and Rakitic are excellent at delivering killer passes. The Real Madrid man is more adept considering his role at the Santiago Bernabeu.

WEAKNESS

Croatia’s biggest problems lie in defense at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with the likes of Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida and Sime Vrsaljko being very error-prone. Vedran Corluka on the other hand is returning from a long term injury.

An out of form defensive line will be a big worry not only for Dalic, but Danijel Subasic in goal. While it is unlikely that they will opt to play a high line in Russia, one of the other worries defensively will be the left back position behind Perisic who does not offer much defensively.

Once Dalic can figure out his defensive problems, he will surely be a very relieved man, but the coach will have to wary of the attitude of senior pros in the team. Dalic’s biggest worry of the field will be the attitude of his players and how he can ensure everyone works as a team. The star quotient could play a big factor, even though it will likely be hard to disagree with playmakers of the quality of Modric.

OPPORTUNITIES

After a tumultuous qualification to the World Cup, Croatia has been placed in the same group as Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria. Lionel Messi’s Argentina are undoubtedly going to be the toughest opposition, but Iceland are no pushovers and no one knows it better than Croatia, while Nigeria are tricky and can cause heartbreak. Modric’s side will need to dig deep from the word go and make it out of the group stages, because anything other than that for a side with so much talent will be considered failure. Once that bit can be worked out Dalic will hope the romance of a Cup will hopefully for them, take over.

It is unlikely that there will be a Davor Sukur kind of character and role played by someone in Dalic’s side but, for that to take shape Croatia’s must overcome their biggest hurdle, the group stage.

THREATS

The fact that Croatia failed to do well against Iceland and will be facing them in the group stages, possibly in a tight battle for the final spot for the next round could play on their minds. The Modric-led team will have to be careful of being complacent against a team that is weaker than them, because one slip will lead them to their downfall.

There will also be the factor wherein there is an overreliance on Modric and given that it is their most basic plan, the Croats must leave no stone unturned to have backup plans in place. The midfield will be heavily marked by the oppositions and cowing down to that pressure will be detrimental to their chances.

Croatia Squad:

Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Gent), Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb)

Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Ivan Strinic (Sampdoria), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka)

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Nikola Kalinic (AC Milan), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Marko Pjaca (Schalke), Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt)

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| Edited by: Arjit Dabas
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