Captain Luka Modric says Croatia have set a primary target of qualifying from their opening group at the World Cup in Qatar but after that are hoping to match their achievements of four years ago when they finished runners-up in Russia.
But he bemoaned a lack of sharpness in attack as they opened their Group F campaign with a 0-0 draw against Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday.
“It was a difficult game, especially in the first 15 minutes but I thought we were much the better team in the second half. Our defence was particularly strong but missed something upfront.
“I think if we had been a little sharper in attack we could have opened them up a bit more,” said the 37-year-old playmaker, a former Ballon d’Or winner and inspiration behind their unexpected run to the final in 2018.
“We haven’t come here just to compete. On the basis of our Russian experience we have ambitions to do the same or even better but even before that tournament we said let’s first set a primary objections of getting past the group stage.”
“We know that once we get into the knockout rounds we can be a very dangerous opponents. We have greater goals here, don’t misunderstand me,” he told the post-match news conference.
Croatia 2022 World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Dominik Livakovic, Ivica Ivusic, Ivo Grbic
Defenders: Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Borna Barisic, Josip Juranovic, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa, Josip Stanisic , Martin Erlic, Josip Sutalo
Midfielders: Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic, Mario Pasalic, Nikola Vlasic, Lovro Majer, Kristijan Jakic, Luka Sucic
Forwards: Ivan Perisic, Andrej Kramaric, Bruno Petkovic, Mislav Orsic, Ante Budimir, Marko Livaja
What are Croatia’s chances?
Drawn into Group F, Croatia have Belgium as their primary rivals for supremacy, and progression to the round of 16 is all but assured ahead of Canada and Morocco, who round out the group.
According to the latest Fifa rankings, Croatia are the seventh best team in the world, well capable of causing an upset in the knockout stages, just like they did in 2018 when they reached the final.
After that, the side appeared to be in decline, after poor performances in the 2020 Nations League campaign and 2021’s European Championship. However, recently Croatia won their Nations League group, ahead of France, Denmark and Austria.
Dalic has recently been integrating debutants in a bid to refresh the team that reached the final of the tournament in Russia four years ago. He has handed starts to, among others, Josip Stanisic, who plays at club level for Bayern Munich, and Kristijan Jakic from Eintracht Frankfurt.
After a shaky start to their qualifying campaign, Croatia topped their group ahead of Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta and runners-up Russia, who were later suspended from the tournament.
Following their successful Nations League campaign, Croatia have just one more game to play – the friendly with Saudi Arabia on November 16 – before getting their World Cup under way against Morocco 17 days later.
Who is likely to be the star performer?
In a team studded with international standouts, such as Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic of Inter Milan, and Tottenham’s Ivan Perisic, Luka Modric remains the brightest in the firmament. A master of midfield alchemy and Champions League titleholder with Real Madrid, Modric is his country’s most capped player, with 152 international appearances. He will be 37 at this year’s World Cup.
“I’m certain he’ll stay on the team, and that this won’t be his last major tournament,” said coach Dalic. “Luka is playing amazing football and he can continue doing so.”
What are Croatia’s fixtures?
What is Croatia’s World Cup record?
Croatia have qualified for all but one of the World Cup tournaments held since their independence, in 2010, and their appearances are bookended by their standout finishes: third place at France 1998, which made them the highest-finishing debutants since Eusebio’s Portugal in 1966, and runners-up in Russia 2018.
Modric was awarded the Golden Ball for best overall player of the tournament, with his performance in Russia contributing to his Ballon d’Or win later that year.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | Costa Rica | Croatia | Denmark | Ecuador | England | France | Germany | Ghana | Iran | Japan | Mexico | Morocco | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Senegal | Serbia | South Korea | Spain | Switzerland | Tunisia | Uruguay | USA | Wales
In what is sure to be Luka Modric’s last World Cup, can Croatia top the group? See all the latest group winner odds
Croatia are currently a best price of 100/1 to win the World Cup.