Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia are set to head to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup with sights set on going one better than their best-ever tournament finish last time out.
The Vatreni enjoyed a summer to remember in Russia four years ago, defying the odds in marching all the way to the final, only to be put to the sword by Didier Deschamps’ all-conquering France outfit.
Unfortunately for those of a Croatian persuasion hopeful of witnessing a similarly deep run in the competition this time round, though, a whole host of the country’s long-time star performers are now either beyond their prime, or watching on from afar owing to retirement.
Luka Modric is 37, Ivan Perisic 33, whilst both Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic have long opted to call time on their respective international careers. Nevertheless, as showcased by their third-placed finish at the 1998 World Cup, and, to a lesser extent, impressive exploits en route to qualification for Qatar, the Croats have a penchant for stepping up to the plate when it matters most, and should therefore never be counted out ahead of time.
Turning attentions towards the road ahead, upon close examination of the World Cup Group F table, Dalic’s troops should be considered as second favourites to advance, just behind a Belgian outfit too looking somewhat over the hill.
Neither Canada nor Morocco boast the kind of talent or, crucially, experience present across Croatia’s squad, an advantage which should prove to be telling for the latter.
Croatia World Cup 2022 Tips
Read the latest Croatia odds ahead of the World Cup, including their odds to win the tournament, odds to claim the golden boot, 101 Great Goals’ top tip and more 2022 World Cup predictions and tips.
Croatia World Cup Predictions
Having finished as runners-up in 2018, Croatia are once again backed to go deep into the tournament. While a first World Cup title may be slightly out of reach, they are the 11th favourites to lift the trophy in Qatar and should not be underestimated.
Croatia Golden Boot Prediction
Kramaric has inherited the title as Croatia’s spearhead from Mario Mandzukic having been forced to play second fiddle at the last World Cup. He does have one tournament goal to his name, but with a record of 19 goals in over 70 matches for his country, would not appear to be clinical enough to challenge.
Despite recent calls for his resignation on the part of some of the more demanding sections of the country’s fanbase, Croatia’s charge in Qatar this winter is set to be led by the same tactician who masterminded their journey to a maiden World Cup final appearance last time out.
Zlatko Dalic has now been in charge of the Kockasti for a full five years, since being installed on the bench back in October of 2017.
And, boasting relative inexperience at the top level of the game on the back of spells in charge of the likes of Al-Hilal and Al Ain, Dalic has since proven himself more than up to the task on the continental stage.
The 50-year-old has made solid if at times unspectacular use of what can only be described as a generational crop of Croatian talent, headed by midfield icon Luka Modric.
World Cup endeavours aside, a dismal 2020/21 Nations League showing marks the only real blotch on Dalic’s otherwise impressive spell in the Vatreni dugout, with a hard-fought extra-time exit at the hands of Spain in the Last-16 exit at Euro 2020 nothing to be ashamed of.
Expect the 50-year-old to continue to make use of his favoured 4-3-3 formation, with a dangerous attacking contingent featuring the talents of Nikola Vlasic, Andrej Kramaric, Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic backed by a midfield setup packed with names from some of Europe’s top clubs.
Total appearances: 5
First qualification: 1998
Most recent: 2018
Best achievement: Runners-up (2018)
World Ranking: 12
Overall record: P23, W11, D4, L8
There is little debate to be had when it comes to the discussion surrounding Croatia’s most important player heading to Qatar this winter.
Luka Modric, despite his age and mileage, remains on his day one of world football’s best in his role, with the 37-year-old’s exploits en route to Real Madrid’s domestic and European double last season an apt testament to as much.
The ex-Tottenham Hotspur standout’s tournament showing in Russia four years ago proved nothing short of legendary, ultimately culminating in Modric breaking the long-standing hold of iconic duo Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the Ballon d’Or.
Croatia’s engine room will act as the key to their success (or lack thereof) at the World Cup, with Modric expected to be joined on the plane to the Middle East by the likes of Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic.
Technical gifts aside, his leadership will too prove crucial, amid hopes of clinching table-topping status in Group F, ahead of Real Madrid teammates Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois.
For the many Modric appreciators across the globe, be sure to enjoy every minute of the midfielder’s exploits in Qatar, for they will be his last on the grandest stage of international football.
101′s Croatia World Cup Tip
Of the 32 countries primed to take their place at the latest edition of international football’s biggest competition, Croatia are currently viewed as 11th favourites to go all the way.
The view at 101 is that such a scenario is highly unlikely to come to fruition, though. The Vatreni squad set to represent an expectant nation this winter - despite its vast experience across the board - is simply not up to scratch when compared to some of the true frontrunners to go all the way in Qatar.
Instead, an exit from the tournament at the quarter-final stage is viewed as being the most realistic outcome for Croatia ahead of time.
Croatia stats, fixtures and results
Follow our Croatia page for the latest statistics, live odds, fixtures, results and match facts of every game at the World Cup.