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Croatia’s Squad for FIFA World Cup 2022 & Team Profile

Zlatko Dalic announced Croatia’s 26-man squad list for the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosted by Qatar. In this article, check out the Croatia FIFA World Cup 2022 squad, fixtures, lineups and team analysis.

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Last updated: 17.11.2022
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Zlatko Dalic announced Croatia’s 26-man squad list for the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosted by Qatar as they try to replicate their season run to the final in the tournament four years ago. Real Madrid midfielder Luke Modric will play in his fourth World Cup and probably his last as is Ivan Perisic of Tottenham Forest who is in his third. With a far more talented squad than the previous class, Croatia wants to bring more fireworks to Qatar and recover from the slump they had after the 2018 tournament.

 

History

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Croatia’s exploits in the World Cup have been much more recent than most other nations as they gain independence in 1991 from being a part of Yugoslavia. Croatia as a part of the republic competed from 1930 to 1990. As a free nation, they stepped onto the pitch in the competition in 1998 achieving the remarkable feat of finishing third with five wins from seven matches. They could not better that result in the next four editions even failing to get out of the group until a class of top-class players put them in the final of the 2018 World Cup. Paired with Argentina, Nigeria and newcomers Iceland, Croatia showed the mantle of a true tournament team. They defeated Nigeria 2-0 in the opening game and then a lacklustre Argentina 3-0 before making a clean sweep of the group by winning 2-1 against Iceland. Zlatko Dalic’s men showed a monster mentality in winning close penalty shootouts against Denmark and the host Russia to pull them to the semi-finals facing England. A Kieran Trippier worldie free-kick in the fifth minute threatened elimination after all their good work but Croatia turned up scoring through Ivan Perisic, who struck the post later, to force extra time. There he turned provider for Mario Mandzukic’s stunning winner. The final against a hugely talented France team became too difficult to overtake despite twice getting the equaliser. Croatia went on to lose 4-2 but won more hearts in a hero’s reception back in their country.                  

 

Qualification

Croatia’s World Cup qualification was not a smash-and-grab occasion with a close fight for the automatic spot transpiring against Russia, who later were suspended due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Zlatko Dalic’s men started with a surprise loss away at Slovenia even after carrying 70% possession although they manage to turn back with a 1-0 against Cyprus and a 3-0 win against Malta. Then carrying their poor form from the Euros drew 0-0 with Russia and then 2-2 against Slovakia three games after. The 7-1 thrashing of Malta next made a showdown in the last against Russia in the reverse fixture for the automatic spot which they had to win to go through. The Croats ultimately scrapped through only because of an 81st-minute own goal from Fedor Kudryashov that finally breached Russia’s resistance.  

 

Preparation for World Cup

A rich vein of form is helping Croatia to be on a positive outlook ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The Blazers did struggle in two sets of friendlies played after the qualifiers organised in Qatar itself. They drew with Slovenia, losing to them in the first match of the qualifiers, followed by a nervy 2-1 comeback win over Bulgaria trailing after the 69th minute. The game could have easily gone down another path with Caleta-Car getting sent off. The underperformance continued in the first game of the 2022/23 Nations League campaign getting battered by Austria 3-0 in their home. However, Croatia fought back after that not losing any more games in the preceding five. They defeated France and Denmark twice during this period not handsomely but getting the job done anyway. The top place was secured with a 3-1 victory against Austria to name themselves among the last four in the competition. Croatia also faces Saudi Arabia in a Pre-World Cup friendly.    

 

Croatia 2022 World Cup Squad

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivica Ivusic (Osijek), Ivo Grbic (Atletico Madrid)

Defenders: Domagoj Vida (AEK Athens), Dejan Lovren (Zenit), Borna Barisic (Rangers), Josip Juranovic (Celtic), Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig), Borna Sosa (Stuttgart), Josip Stanisic (Bayern Munich), Martin Erlic (Sassuolo), Josip Sutalo (Dinamo Zagreb)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta), Nikola Vlasic (Torino), Lovro Majer (Stade Rennes), Kristijan Jakic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Luka Sucic (FC Salzburg)

Forwards: Ivan Perisic (Tottenham Hotspurs), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffeinheim), Bruno Petkovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Marko Livaja (Hajduk Split)

 

Coach: Zlatko Dalic


Dalic have selected all the familiar names associated with the team presently but has made some notable omission. Duje Caleta-Car’s dream move to Premier League albeit a struggling Southampton team has not gone down well not making the cut as a result. Despite scoring in a steady form for the Rangers, Antonio Colak has not made the final cut either and is arguably the most surprising omission from the list. Another notable omission from the squad is AC Milan forward Ante Rebic who was a mainstay of that 2018 run in Russia, however, not on the radar of the manager this time around.

 

Strength

The strength of Croatia is their key contributor those who rarely fail to shine in a national shirt. More specifically, the star midfield trio that the team could rely on all day. Kovacic, Brozovic and their star man Modric make their position more effective both with their individual craft and sharing the responsivity. All of them are doing well for their club and although Kovacic and Brozovic are still getting their fitness back, the class remain intact. Modric will continue to swing his wand of unreal stamina even at his age. The massive experience in this sector will be beneficiary. Croatia also have more talents to count and their long-standing headache in selecting the rightful striker to replace Mario Mandzukic hung up his boots has finally healed with two able contenders for the spot.        

 

Weakness

The weakness of the squad is shouldering expectations. At a moment when everyone expects Croatia to be a noteworthy proportion for a competition, they fall a little short. The 2018 World cup achievements were not led out in a grand manner in the inaugural Nations League campaign or in the European Championship last year with the team often looking out of ideas. Coach Zlatko Dalic has impressive managerial skills although he can cut a stubborn figure of not tweaking around to change or refresh things. Earlier, some of his choices for the starting eleven have also come into question. Dalic will hope to be more flexible this time around.   

 

Star Player: Luka Modric

 

At the last World Cup of his illustrious career and in some ways his last major competition for Croatia, Luka Modric will like to give the last shine of the gold in the 2022 World Cup. He still pulls the plug for the team and after a season of excellence at Real Madrid will bring out the best to set Croatia’s dominance in this tournament again. It was his enormous contribution in the run-up to the final of the 2018 World Cup that gave him the Balon d’Or that year breaking a decade-long streak of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo sharing the award. The midfield orchestrator Modric have not dropped a level even at the age of 37, sustaining all the juice of his prime and will be bringing in all sorts of magic to Qatar. His work rate, incredible vision and creativity are a match for none. 


How will Croatia line up at the World Cup?

Zlatko Dalic has almost always stuck with his trusted 4-3-3 formation in a major tournament and the World Cup in Qatar will be no different. Dominik Livakovic has taken the stage once held by Danijel Subasic and has been a mainstay over the last couple of years. He wears the number one for this event as well. Croatia will need the experience and leadership of Domagoj Vida at some point in the tournament although he can provide it in the dressing room without taking onto the field. 20-year-old Josko Gvardiol will partner Dejan Lovren instead in the back four following his rise at Leipzig. Gvardiol will like to make the World Cup a grand one to accelerate his chances to seal a move to a top club by January or next summer. Josip Juranovic has the nod over Josip Stanisic on the right flank but there is stiff competition on the opposite side between national team regular Borna Barisic and Stuttgart’s expert crosser Borna Sosa. The midfield trio of Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and evergreen captain Luka Modric is unchangeable. In case of a more attacking edge, Lovro Majer could join the party. Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic could also drop in the pocket behind the striker although he will presumably make the right of the team. Despite Orsic bringing in more pace and whizz, the class of Ivan Perisic is undisputed with the Dinamo Zagreb man waiting to make an impact as a substitute. Bruno Petkovic is scoring all sorts of goals for Dinamo Zagreb, a heavy contingent of the club in the squad, looking like a worthy candidate to lead the frontline. Yet, he will be beaten by the excellent scoring number Marko Livaja is sporting for Hajduk Split, 11 goals and 7 assists, making him a probable starter.    

    

Opponents and Fixtures

Morocco vs Croatia - 23 November 2022, Al Bayt Stadium (3:30 PM)

Croatia vs Canada - 27 November 2022, Khalifa International Stadium (9:30 PM)

Croatia vs Belgium - 1 December 2022, Ahmed bin Ali Stadium (8:30 PM)

 

Croatia’s group won’t be easy yet the one they would have dreamed of. Having a better World Cup experience last time out will benefit them and are in good momentum from their recent Nations League campaign. The Blazers will start their 2022 World Cup campaign against Morocco who can make life difficult on a given day. After crossing them, Croatia will face an adequately talented Canadian team but inexperience could put a halt to them in this fixture. The last group stage game against Belgium will go down as a fight for the top place.   

 

Prediction

Zlatko Dalic’s men are capable enough to deliver the same aura shown in 2018 yet there is a stark difference between the two tournaments. Four years ago, Croatia arrived at the World Cup without expectations of the marvellous run they had. Now, they have to battle the pressure of delivering like in the past which took a toll on the team in the last European Championship. The team has improved this year having an excellent Nations League campaign and this may serve as a reminder of their potential. Croatia might well go deep into the tournament but another run to the showpiece final again is a muted chance only a few nations have managed earlier in the competition history. 

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