Croatia had to beat Greece in the playoffs to qualify, but did so easily with a 4-1 win in the first leg.

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Croatia World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group Guide

Croatia are the 2018 World Cup runners-up.


Croatia vs France – World Cup Final 15th July – Luzhniki Stadium

Match preview here.

France Starting XI: 1 Hugo Lloris2 Benjamin Pavard4 Raphael Varane5 Samuel Umtiti, 6 Paul Pogba, 7 Antoine Griezmann9 Olivier Giroud, 10 Kylian Mbappe, 13 N’Golo Kante, 14 Blaise Matuidi, 21 Lucas Hernandez

Croatia Starting XI: 23 Danijel Subasic, 2 Sime Vrsaljko, 3 Ivan Strinic (20 Marko Pjaca 82), 4 Ivan Perisic, 6 Dejan Lovren, 7 Ivan Rakitic, 10 Luka Modric, 11 Marcelo Brozovic, 17 Mario Mandzukic, 18 Ante Rebic (9 Andrej Kramaric 71), 21 Domagoj Vida

Moscow Luzniki

FRANCE 4 CROATIA 2

Scorers

France: Mandzukic og 18, Griezmann pen 38, Pogba 59, Mbappe 65

Croatia: Perisic 28, Mandzukic 69

Match overview

France are crowned world champions for a second time after goals from Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba seal victory over an exhausted Croatia in Moscow.

There is a lively start by Croatia, with Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic causing problems on the flanks and Croatia’s midfield pressing Ngolo Kante into uncharacteristic errors. France’s opening goal comes against the run of play after Griezmann falls under the challenge of Marcelo Brozovic to win a free-kick which he then whips in. Mario Mandzukic heads into his own net but was Pogba offside?

But Croatia, the comeback kings, launch another recovery. After Kante is booked, Luka Modric supplies the free-kick from which Ivan Perisic equalises.

There is drama and controvery when, after a lengthy VAR review on the pitchside monitor, referee Nestor Pitana seems unsure whether Perisic has handled a France corner. There is no clear and obvious error, but it is a penalty by the letter of the law, if not the spirit of VAR. Griezmann dispatches the spot-kick.

Kante (on a booking) is subbed but France remain in control, extending their lead with brilliant goals from Mbappe and Pogba before a Hugo Lloris howler gives Croatia brief hope. But they are too tired to pursue another comeback and France are worthy champions.

Matter of fact

This was the highest scoring World Cup Final in 90 minutes since Brazil 5 Sweden 2 in 1958.

Talking point

A final with everything: tension, controversy, quality goals, own goals, shocking goalkeeping errors, and a thunderstorm during the medal presentation.

Stats

France/Croatia

Possession: 39/61

Goal attempts: 8/15

Attempts on target: 6/3

Corners: 2/6

Fouls: 14/13

Pass accuracy: 73/83

Distance covered: 99/100


Croatia vs England – Semi Final 11th July – Luzhniki Stadium Match Report

Match preview here. 

Croatia Starting XI: 23 Danijel Subasic, 2 Sime Vrsaljko, 3 Ivan Strinic (22 Josip Pivaric 95), 4 Ivan Perisic, 6 Dejan Lovren, 7 Ivan Rakitic, 10 Luka Modric (19 Milan Badelj), 11 Marcelo Brozovic, 17 Mario Mandzukic (5 Vedran Corluka 115), 18 Ante Rebic (9 Andrej Kramaric 101), 21 Domagoj Vida

England Starting XI: 1 Jordan Pickford, 2 Kyle Walker (11 Jamie Vardy 111), 5 John Stones, 6 Harry Maguire, 7 Jesse Lingard, 8 Jordan Henderson (4 Eric Dier 97), 9 Harry Kane, 10 Raheem Sterling (19 Marcus Rashford 74), 12 Kieran Trippier, 18 Ashley Young (3 Danny Rose 91), 20 Dele Alli

Moscow Luzniki

Croatia 2 England 1 (aet)

Scorers

England: Trippier 5

Croatia: Perisic 67, Mandzukic 109

Match overview

Croatia reached their first World Cup Final after coming from behind to beat England after extra-time. It was the third game in a row that they had recovered from a losing position to equalise and then ultimately triumph.

England had dominated the first half after taking an early-lead through Kieran Trippier’s excellent free-kick. The pace of Raheem Sterling troubled Croatia’s backline, while Luka Modric found himself boxed in by England’s midfield. England should have gone further ahead but Harry Kane was adjudged offside when shooting first at the keeper and then against a post and then Jesse Lingard, set up cleverly by Dele Alli, shot meekly wide.

Some sloppy defensive play by England at the end of the first half hinted at the trouble to come. Croatia returned with far more purpose after the break. Their pressing was more intense, their passing crisper. England switched off a number of times before they were punished by Ivan Perisic who attacked a cross, while Kyle Walker stood still.

The equaliser stunned England, who lost their main attacking outlet when Sterling was replaced by Marcus Rashford. Perisic almost added a winner in normal time but his shot struck a post. In extra time Jordan Pickford kept them in the game when he saved Mario Mandzukic’s shot with his foot. But with thoughts turning to penalties, Mandzukic punished another lax piece of defending, turning his shot past Pickford and sparking wild touchline celebrations with Croatia’s bench. England ended up chasing the game with 10 after Trippier was injured and all four subs had been used.

Talking point

Luka Modric conceded a silly free-kick from which Trippier put England ahead after five minutes, but his influence grew through the 120 minutes, even if he could barely walk by the end of extra-time. 

Stats

Croatia/England

Possession (%): 54/46

Goal attempts: 22/11

Attempts on target: 7/1

Corners: 8/4

Fouls: 23/14

Pass accuracy (%): 79/78

Distance covered (km): 143/148


Croatia vs Russia – Quarter Final 7th July, Sochi Match Report

Match Preview here. 

Croatia Starting XI: 23 Danijel Subasic, 2 Sime Vrsaljko (5 Vedran Corluka 97), 3 Ivan Strinic (22 Josip Pivaric 74), 4 Ivan Perisic (11 Marcelo Brozovic 63), 6 Dejan Lovren, 7 Ivan Rakitic, 9 Andrej Kramaric (8 Mateo Kovacic 88), 10 Luka Modric, 17 Mario Mandzukic, 18 Ante Rebic, 21 Domagoj Vida

Russia Starting XI: 1 Igor Akinfeev, 2 Mario Fernandes, 3 Ilya Kutepov, 4 Sergei Ignashevich, 6 Denis Cheryshev (10 Fyodor Smolov 67), 7 Daler Kuzyayev, 11 Roman Zobnin, 13 Fyodor Kudriashov, 17 Aleksandr Golovin (9 Alan Dzagoev 102), 19 Aleksandr Samedov (21 Aleksandr Yerokhin 54), 22 Artem Dzyuba (8 Yury Gazinsky 80)

Sochi Novgorod

Russia 2 Croatia 2

Croatia 4-3 on pens

Scorers:

Russia: Cheryshev 32, Fernandes 115

Croatia: Kramaric 40, Vida 101

Match overview

Croatia reached the semi-finals by overcoming Russia on penalties after a draining 2-2 draw over 120 minutes in Sochi.

It was the end of the road for the tournament hosts who had gone futrher than most people had expected.

An uneventful first half exploded into life when Denis Cheryshev scored another spectacular goal. But Russia’s advantage lasted for just eight minutes, with Mario Mandzukic setting up Andrej Kramaric for the equaliser.

Croatia dominated possession but could not make their superior quality count. Ivan Perisic went closest in the second half when his shot hit a post and flashed across the goalmouth.

In extra time, Russia tired for the first time in the tournament and Croatia took advanatge from a corner to take the lead and

Brazil-born Mario Fernandes, the last South American left in the tournament, dragged Russia back into the game with a late equaliser. But after Fyodor Smolov had fluffed his opening spot-kick, Fernandes blasted his shot wide to hand the initiative to Croatia, leaving Iave Rakitic to calmly convert the winning penalty.

Matter of fact

Denis Cheryshev finished as Russia’s top scorer in the tournament with four goals.

Talking point

With minutes of normal time remaining, Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic appeared to have injured a hamstring and looked set to be substituted. But he stayed on for extra time and saved Fyodor Smolov’s penalty in the shoot-out.

Stats

Russia/Croatia

Possession (%): 36/64

Goal attempts: 13/17

Attempts on target: 4/10

Corners: 6/8

Fouls: 25/18

Pass accuracy (%): 69/81

Distance covered (km): 148/139


Croatia vs Denmark Round of 16 (1st July) Match Report

Croatia Starting XI: 23 Danijel Subasic, 2 Sime Vrsaljko, 3 Ivan Strinic (22 Josip Pivaric 81), 4 Ivan Perisic (9 Andrej Kramaric 97), 6 Dejan Lovren, 7 Ivan Rakitic10 Luka Modric, 11 Marcelo Brozovic (8 Mateo Kovacic 71), 17 Mario Mandzukic (19 Milan Badelj 108), 18 Ante Rebic, 21 Domagoj Vida

Denmark Starting XI: 1 Kasper Schmeichel, 4 Simon Kjaer, 5 Jonas Knudsen, 6 Andreas Christensen (19 Lasse Schone 46), 8 Thomas Delaney (2 Michael Krohn-Dehli 98), 10 Christian Eriksen11 Martin Braithwaite (23 Pione Sisto 105), 13 Mathias Jorgensen, 14 Henrik Dalsgaard, 20 Youssef Poulsen, 21 Andreas Cornelius (9 Nicolai Jorgensen 66)

Nizhny Novgorod

Croatia 1 Denmark 1

Croatia 3-2 on pens 

Scorers

Croatia: Mandzukic 4

Denmark:  M Jorgensen 1 

Match overview

Croatia held their nerve in a penalty shoot-out to overcome Denmark and set up a quarter-final meeting with hosts Russia.

Two early goals – Denmark’s after just 57 seconds – suggested a goalfest might be on the cards. But two evenly matched teams cancelled each other out for large chunks of the game.

A half-time change gave Denmark the edge in midfield but Croatia came back into things and Luka Modric’s growing influence almost told in extra time. With five minutes remaining, Croatia’s captain played in Andrej Kramaric, who was fouled by Mathias Jorgensen for a penalty which Modric took but which Kasper Schmeichel saved. Schmeichel also stopped two of Croatia’s spot-kicks in the shoot-out but Croatia’s Danijel Subasic proved to be the hero, saving three of Denmark’s five kicks, leaving Ivan Rakitic to dispatch the crucial penalty.

Talking point

A curious game for Luke Modric. For much of the match he was deployed very deep and was unable to control the midfield. He missed a penalty that would have won the game in extra time but held his nerve in the shoot-out to help send Croatia into the quarter-finals.  

Stats

Possession (%): 53/47

Goal attempts: 22/15

Attempts on target: 8/10

Corners: 5/4

Fouls: 5/19

Pass accuracy (%):81/79

Distance covered (km): 132/135


Croatia vs Iceland – 26th June Match Report

Match preview here

Croatia Starting XI: 12 Lovre Kalinic, 4 Ivan Perisic, 5 Vedran Corluka, 8 Mateo Kovacic (7 Ivan Rakitic 82), 9 Andrej Kramaric, 10 Luka Modric (14 Filip Bradaric 65), 13 Tin Jedvaj, 15 Duje Caleta-Car, 19 Milan Badelj, 20 Marko Pjaca (6 Dejan Lovren 70), 22 Josip Pivaric

Iceland Starting XI: 1 Hannes Halldorsson, 2 Birkir Saevarsson, 5 Sverir Ingason, 6 Ragnar Sigurdsson (9 Bjorn Sigurdarson 71), 7 Johan Gudmundsson, 8 Birkir Bjarnason (21 Amor Traustason 90), 10 Gylfi Sigurdsson, 11 Alfred Finnbogason (4 Albert Gudmundsson 85), 17 Aron Gunnarsson, 18 Hordor Magnusson, 20 Emil Hallfredsson

Rostov-on-Don 

Iceland 1 Croatia 2

Scorers

Iceland: G Sigurdsson 76pen

Croatia: Badelj 53, Perisic 90

Match overview

Ivan Perisic scored a last-minute winner for a much-changed Croatia side who topped their group and won three World Cup games in a row for the first time.

After a cautious start, Iceland grew in confidence and went close through Albert Finnbogason, Birkir Bjarnason and Aron Gunnarsson in the first half.

Croatia struggled to find their stride but they eventually made the most of greater second-half possession and took the lead through Milan Badelj, in for rested Ivan Rakitic. 

Gylfi Sigurdsson made amends for his penalty miss against Nigeria by dispatching the spot-kick that brought Iceland back into game. But as Iceland pushed for a late goal that might keep them in the tournament, space opened up for Perisic to grab the last-gasp winner.

Matter of fact

Iceland’s three second-half yellow cards were their first of the tournament

Talking point

Only Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic retained their starting places for the final group game after coach Zlatko Dalic made wholesale changes.

Stats

Iceland/Croatia

Possession (%): 41/59

Goal attempts: 17/13

Attempts on target: 8/8

Corners: 10/5

Fouls: 10/12

Pass accuracy (%): 73/87

Distance covered (km): 103/101


Croatia vs Argentina (21st June) Match Report

Match preview here.

Argentina Starting XI: 23 Willy Caballero, 2 Gabriel Mercado, 3 Nicolas Tagliafico, 8 Marcos Acuna, 10 Lionel Messi, 13 Maximiliano Meza, 14 Javier Mascherano, 15 Enzo Perez (21 Paulo Dybala 68), 17 Nicolas Otamendi, 18 Eduardo Salvio (22 Cristian Pavon 56), 19 Sergio Aguero (9 Gonzalo Higuain 55)

Croatia Starting XI: 23 Danijel Subasic, 2 Sime Vrsaljko, 3 Ivan Strinic, 4 Ivan Perisic (8 Mateo Kovacic 82), 6 Dejan Lovren, 7 Ivan Rakitic10 Luka Modric, 11 Marcelo Brozovic, 17 Mario Mandzukic (Vedran Corluka 90+3), 18 Ante Rebic (9 Andrej Kramaric 57), 21 Domagoj Vida

Niznhy Novgorod

Argentina 0 Croatia 3

Scorers

Argentina: none

Croatia: Rebic 53, Modric 80, Rakitic 90+1

Match overview

Croatia swept aside a miserable Argentina to qualify for the second round and leave the South Americans with a mountain to climb after a disastrous error from goalkeeper Willy Caballero changed the course of the game.

It was a wretched, disjointed performance from Argentina, whose starting line-up had been shaken up by coach Jorge Sampaoli’s tactical and personnel changes. His team were uncertain at the switch to a back three and went to pieces after Caballero’s calamitous mistake.

Sergio Aguero was controversially replaced as Sampaoli threw on extra attackers in Gonzalo Higuain, Cristian Pavon and Paulo Dybala in a desperate search for an equaliser. With Lionel Messi increasingly unable to influence the game, Croatia exploited the huge gaps left in midfield to further extend their lead and leave Argentina in danger of crashing out of the tournament. 

Argentina got outplayed for 90 minutes against Croatia (Getty Images)

Matter of fact

The result was Argentina’s worse result in a World Cup group game since 1958. 

Talking point

It was a terrible mistake by Willy Caballero that gifted Ante Rebic the chance to score the opening goal but the Croatia forward was lucky to still be on the pitch after he stamped on Gabriel Mercado in the first half of a tetchy game. His yellow card was confirmed by VAR but he could easily have been sent off.

Stats

Argentina/Croatia

Possession (%): 58/42

Goal attempts: 10/15

Attempts on target: 3/6

Corners: 5/2

Fouls: 15/23

Pass accuracy (%): 79/74

Distance covered (km): 101/104


Croatia vs Nigeria (16th June) Match Report

The last game of the day sees Croatia face Nigeria – Match preview here.

Croatia Starting XI: 23 Danijel Subasic, 2 Sime Vrsaljko, 3 Ivan Strinic, 4 Ivan Perisic, 6 Dejan Lovren, 7 Ivan Rakitic9 Andrej Kramaric (11 Marcelo Brozovic 60), 10 Luka Modric, 17 Mario Mandzukic  (20 Marko Pjaca), 18 Ante Rebic (8 Mateo Kovacic 78), 21 Domagoj Vida

Nigeria Starting XI: 23 Francis Uzuho, 2 Brian Idowu, 4 Wilfred Ndidi, 5 William Troost -Ekong,6 Leon Balogun, 8 Oghenekaro Etebo, 9 Odion Ighalo (14 Kelechi Iheanacho 76), 10 Jon Obi Mikel (13 Simeon Nwankwo 88), 11 Victor Moses, 12 Shehu Abdullahi, 18 Alex Iwobi (7 Ahmed Musa 62)

Kaliningrad

Croatia 2 Nigeria 0

Scorers:

Croatia: Etebo 32og, Modric 71pen

Nigeria: none

Match overview

Croatia took advantage of a lucky break to edge past a Nigeria side who failed to rise to the occasion in their opening match. The Europeans took the lead after half an hour when a corner was deflected in by Nigeria’s Oghenekaro Etebo. Neither side offered much in the attacking third but Croatia extended their lead with a Luka Modric penalty after Nigeria defender William Troost-Ekong was spotted pulling back Mario Mandzukic.

Talking point

Modric’s penalty in the 72nd minute was Croatia’s first shot on target in an underwhelming match. Their first shot on target from open play came from Kovacic in the 93rd minute.

Stats

Croatia/Nigeria

Possession (%): 54/46

Goal attempts: 11/14

Attempts on target: 7/5

Corners: 6/5

Fouls: 20/16

Pass accuracy (%): 84/84

Distance covered (km): 104/101


Croatia World Cup Guide

After reaching the 1998 and 2014 finals via the play-offs, Croatia again had to book their ticket  to the 2018 World Cup at the eleventh hour – although they were never in any danger of coming unstuck against Greece. A thoroughly inconsistent route march all in all: one moment, sublime, the next, downright careless.

Key Moments In Qualifying

Nov 2016
Marcelo Brozovic scores both goals in a 2-0 win against Iceland. The game was one of two Croatia qualifiers played behind closed doors as punishment for “discriminatory chants” by supporters.
Jun 2017
A 1-0 loss in Iceland is the moment the wheels start to come off. From beginning to end, a flat and ineffective display in which they conceded in the 90th minute.
Oct 2017
After a draw at home to Finland, coach Ante Cacic is replaced with former under-21 assistant Zlatko Dalic. In his first game at the helm, Dalic steers the side to a 2-0 win in Ukraine to secure a play-off berth.
Nov 2017
Specialists in head-to-head eliminators – Croatia boast a five out of five record in World Cup and Euro play-offs – they are too hot for Greece to handle, winning 4-1 on aggregate.

Croatia World Cup Group

Croatia are in a tough group alongside, Argentina, Iceland, and Nigeria.

Croatia World Cup Friendlies

On the 24th of March they went up against Peru and lost 2-0. A 1-0 win against Mexico followed but they then lost to Brazil 2-0. Finally on the 8th of June beat Senegal.

  • 24th March – Peru (lost 2-0)
  • 28th March – Mexico (won 1-0)
  • 3rd June – Brazil (lost 2-0)
  • 8th June – Senegal (won 2-1)

Croatia World Cup Fixtures

Croatia kick off their World Cup campaign against Nigeria on the 16th of June. Then their toughest opponents Argentina are on the 21st, and finally they finish up against Iceland on the 26th.

The Coach

Zlatko Dalic, age 51 (26.10.66)
Appointed caretaker in October 2017 and given the job permanently in November 2017, having spent five years (2006-11) on the Croat under-21 staff under Drazen Ladic. As head coach, he has been in charge of Croat outfits Varteks Varazdin, Rijeka and Slaven Belupo, plus clubs in Albania (Dinamo Tirana) and the Gulf (Al Faisaly Harmah, Al Hilal and Al Ain).

Experienced: He spent five years on the Croat under-21 staff and finally takes control of the national side (Getty Images)

The Players
Stars
The incomparable Luka Modric took over as skipper from Darijo Srna at the start of last season.
Stalwarts
As headstrong as he is talented, Mario Mandzukic is an all-day headache for defenders. Ivan Rakitic is an industrious, creative midfielder.
Missing
Centre-back Vedran Corluka has been out for several months after rupturing an Achilles tendon.
Debuts
An outstanding attacking midfield prospect, Nikola Vlasic made his competitive bow against Greece.

Related: Ivan Rakitic November 2007

Croatia World Cup Squad

Final 23-man 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).

Croatia World Cup Injuries

We will update you with injuries here.

Key: The play of Rakitic and Modric will determine how far Croatia go in Russia (Getty Images)

The Unanswered Questions

Could Luka Modric be affected by his loss of popularity back home?
Many Croat fans were unimpressed when he sensationally retracted his original testimony at the corruption trial of one-time Dinamo Zagreb chief Zdravko Mamic. The latter is very much a hate figure in the country and, with Modric appearing to side with him, the abuse of the Real Madrid ace has been considerable.

After creating havoc at Euro 2016, have the Croat fans calmed down?
Far from it. Their hardcore supporters remain fiercely opposed to the powers-that-be at the football federation and are adamant that president Davor Suker – once a prolific international striker – and his cohorts are corrupt.

Unsung: Badelj does all the dirty work for the team, and allows Modric to be creative (Getty Images)

Who is the side’s unsung hero?
Defensive midfielder Milan Badelj is the one who takes care of the dirty work and allows the likes of Modric and Ivan Rakitic to play.

Which areas of the pitch should concern coach Dalic the most?
In the absence of Marko Pjaca, Ivan Perisic is the squad’s only classic winger. Andrej Kramaric can do a job on the right but he is much more of a threat through the middle. Nikola Vlasic or Ante Rebic might be an incisive solution on that side.

 

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