Croatia haven’t enjoyed much success recently, but they are still capable of competing with the world’s best with some of world football’s most creative talents at their disposal.
Nickname(s): Vatreni (The Blazers)
Best Finish: Third (1998)
How they qualified: Croatia booked their spot at Russia 2018 thanks to a 4-1 aggregate play-off win over Greece, having finished second in Group I to clinch their second-successive appearance at the World Cup. Croatia reached the playoff in a do or die group stage win over Ukraine where only victory was enough to stand a chance of competing in Russia 2018. Two goals from Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramaric secured a 2-0 win.
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Zlatko Dalic replaced Ante Cacic after their penultimate Group I match against Finland ended in a 1-1 draw, a result which left Vatreni’s qualification hopes in tatters. Dalic appointed Ivica Olic as his assistant and after dismissing Ukraine, thrashed Greece in the playoffs. He most recently coached UAE club Al-Ain, who he led to the AFC Champions League final last year. Upon securing qualification to Russia 2018, HNS President Davor Suker handed Dalic an extended contract.
Key Man: Luka Modric
Since his move from Tottenham Hotspur in 2012, the Croatia midfielder helped Real Madrid become the undisputed force in Europe by achieving la Decima and winning the Champions League three times. He may not appear to be a Galactico in stature, but his importance to both Real Madrid and Croatia cannot be underestimated.
16 June vs Nigeria
21 June vs Argentina
26 June vs Iceland