Following on from an impressive World cup campaign in 2018 and reaching the final where they were defeated by France, Croatia are looking to continue their form into Euro 2020 with a compelling squad.
Croatia may face a more challenging task to replicate their achievement from the World cup as a result of losses of their main striker Mario Mandžukić and starting goalkeeper Danijel Subasić due to retirement. However, they still have quality on the pitch from defence to attack. Their squad contains just a few household names, but manager, Zlatko Dalić has managed to get the best out of the entire squad and given his players the freedom to express their game on the pitch without tactical restraint.
Goalkeepers – Dominik Livaković (Dinamo Zagreb), Lovre Kalinić (Hajduk Split), Simon Sluga (Luton)
Defenders – Borna Barišić (Rangers), Domagoj Bradarić (LOSC Lille), Duje Ćaleta-Car (Marseille), Joško Gvardiol (Leipzig), Josip Juranović (Legia Warszawa), Dejan Lovren (Zenit), Mile Škorić (Osijek), Domagoj Vida (Beşiktaş), Šime Vrsaljko (Atlético Madrid)
Midfielders – Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Marcelo Brozović (Inter Milan), Milan Badelj (Genoa), Nikola Vlašić (CSKA Moskva), Mario Pašalić (Atalanta), Ivan Perišić (Inter Milan), Mislav Oršić (Dinamo Zagreb), Luka Ivanušec (Dinamo Zagreb)
Forwards – Josip Brekalo (Wolfsburg), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim), Bruno Petković (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Rebić (AC Milan)
Who else to start with other than the midfield magician, Luka Modrić, who continues to improve his game with age. The 2018 Balon D’or winner has recently renewed his contract with Real Madrid until next summer and has shown no sign of slowing down despite Real Madrid’s struggles and the first year without a trophy in 10 years. He has played a crucial role in Los Blancos’ season, appearing in 48 games in all competitions. Luka’s creativity and even defensive presence, when called upon doing so in the middle of the pitch, is something special and Croatia will be hoping he can lead them to further success in the Euros after claiming the World Cup Player of the Tournament in 2018.
Another main contributor to the Croatia side is versatile Central defender Domagoj Vida. The Besiktas defender can play a role anywhere on the defensive line but mainly contributes as a Centre back and at times a right-back for Croatia. Both Vida and his fellow centre-half, Dejan Lovren were crucial in their World Cup run to the final forming an incredibly solid partnership. Vida was one of the heroes in the Quarter-final vs Russia, scoring in extra time which, despite being cancelled out by an equaliser, sent the game to penalties which Croatia went on to win.
His strengths consist of his ability to play the ball and composure is an impressive part of his game, which stems from formerly being a defensive midfielder. He will be looking to maintain his form into this summer’s Euros.
Another player looking to impress again is experienced forward, Ivan Perišić. The Inter Milan left winger played a key role in helping Inter Milan record their first Scudetto title in over 10 years, appearing in 32 matches in the league. He began to play a more defensive role for Internazionale this season as a wing back.
It is assumed that Dalić will continue to utilize him as a left-winger/forward in the Euros as he managed to record 3 goals and an assist in the 2018 World Cup campaign over 7 matches. The former Bayern man scored the all-important goal in the Semi-Final vs England in extra time to send Croatia to their first-ever World Cup final, which he will be looking to repeat this summer and will no doubt be a part of their starting eleven.
Ones to watch:
Mislav Oršić is the first name on this list and the 28-year-old has impressed both domestically and in Europe this season. The Dinamo Zagreb winger and attacking midfielder without a doubt made a name for himself in the Europa League round of 16 with an incredible hattrick to shock Tottenham to turn around a 2 goal deficit. Oršić did not make it to the World Cup in 2018 and made his international debut for Croatia in 2019. He was called up by Dalić for his first major tournament this year, being selected for Croatia’s EURO 2020 final squad for this summer’s tournament where he will offer something unique to Dalić’s squad.
In all competitions, he managed an impressive 24 goals and 9 assists in 51 games including 6 goals in the Europa League. With his main strengths being long shots and taking on players, the explosive winger is looking to establish himself in the Croatia starting eleven and continue his fine goalscoring form to help get Croatia into the knockout stage.
Another player to look out for is former Chelsea central midfielder, Mario Pašalić, who has become an important player for Atalanta and has been crucial to their recent top 4 finishes in the Serie A.
After being loaned out to Atalanta from Chelsea for two seasons, Pašalić signed permanently for the Italian side for 15 million euros and played a key role in Atalanta’s success in reaching the Champions League quarter-final. He is naturally a central midfielder but is comfortable playing further up the pitch as a more attacking midfielder and the main parts of his game lie in his passing and long balls. Despite making his international debut for Croatia in 2014, this is the first time Pašalić has been called up for a major tournament and is hoping to show what he is capable of at the Euros.
How will Croatia fare at the Euros?
Croatia will definitely be affected by losses of both former starting striker, Mario Mandžukić and goalkeeper, Danijel Subašić. As a result of this, I have predicted Croatia to come second in Group D. I expect them to exit EURO 2020 in the Quarter-finals, likely facing Portugal, France or Germany, assuming they knock out the 3rd place team that one of these three teams will face.
It is evident that they have enough quality to get past the likes of Scotland and the Czech Republic in the Group stage. Barring any sort of upset, this will see them through to the knockouts with players like Luka Modrić and Ivan Perisic causing all sorts of problems for these teams. However, I see them coming up short to England in the Group, who have arguably a top 3 squad in terms of quality and will seek their revenge on Croatia from the World Cup to beat them to the top spot.
In my opinion, getting past the Quarter-Finals for Croatia would be an unlikely outcome with Teams like France and Portugal being almost inevitable opponents for them in this round and these teams will just have too much quality for Dalić’s side.
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