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Croatia World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections

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Pictured: Luka Modric.

  • Croatia made the World Cup Final the last time they played the event.
  • Will they be able to make a run this time around?
  • Brett Pund breaks down the team's tactics, roster and more.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network’s staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating. 

Read on for a full breakdown of Croatia ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.

Croatia World Cup Preview

Just four years ago, Croatia went on a magical run in the 2018 World Cup. They got all the way to the final before coming up short against France. The runners-up are back in 2022 after securing qualification as the leaders of their group that included Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia, edging out the Russians by a point and only losing one match. 

Following strong performances in the qualifying round, the Blazers then topped their group again in the UEFA Nations League, besting Denmark, France and Austria. Croatia finished with an xGDiff of +1.01, but they had an even 3-3 record in the xG battle in those fixtures. The attack averaged 1.222 xG and just one big scoring chance per 90 minutes, which makes you wonder if this will be sustainable in this competition.

Chances To… Action Projections bet365 Odds
Win Group Stage 33.40% +250
Advance To Knockout Round 64.99% -250
Win World Cup 1.64% +5000
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

There will be a lot of experience and familiarity returning from the last World Cup squad, starting with the same manager leading the country in Zlatko Dalić. His team will be driven by its midfield, which includes superstar Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić of Chelsea. Meanwhile, Marcelo Brozovic should once again be the base of the midfield three, providing protection for the backline. The two big losses from the runners-up roster will be striker Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitić, who have both retired from the international team.

In defense, former Liverpool man Dejan Lovren will have to battle for his place at center back against Martin Erlic and Josip Sutalo. Dominik Livaković has been the player in goal for Croatia in the majority of qualifying and the Nations League.

This Blazer squad will have a tricky path to the final this time around, which starts with a difficult group of Belgium, Canada and Morocco. The Belgian squad that currently ranks as the second-best team in the world by FIFA should be the favorite of Group F. Meanwhile, Croatia check in at No. 12 in the world rankings, followed by Morocco (22) and Canada (41).

Luckily, the Blazers do not face Belgium until the final game of the group stage, which means both teams may have already clinched their places in the knockout stages. However, this makes the pair of fixtures before the finale even more important. Neither team wants to come into that last match needing a result.

Key Player: Luka Modrić

Following his performances at the last World Cup, Luka Modrić earned the 2018 Ballon d’Or award, and he will need to be just as good in this competition if Croatia want to make another run at the trophy. This is also likely going to be the last tournament for the 37-year-old maestro, which should bring out the best in his play. 

The Real Madrid player led the Blazers with a pair of goals in the Nations League, following his three-goal and two-assist total in qualification. Modrić has also added three goals and a pair of assists for Los Blancos this season in all competitions. So, the veteran is proving that he still has what it takes to lead his country to glory.

Modrić has won everything there is to win at the club level. He is a five-time Champions League, four-time Spanish Super Cup and three-time La Liga winner, but he has not been able to earn a title with Croatia. There will be a lot of talk about this likely being the final tournament for Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, but Modrić will also go down as one of the best midfielders the world has ever seen.

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Tactical Analysis

With the same manager and multiple key pieces returning, we should see Croatia use the same formation from the last World Cup. Dalić likes to use a 4-3-3 system that allows him to be very fluid with how he wants to use his central midfielders in Modrić, Kovačić and Brozovic. He can either utilize a double pivot to give Modrić the free role as the No. 10, or he can go with more of a flat three to be more defensive minded.

On the wings, Dalić has multiple options to play, starting with Mario Pasalic and Josip Brekalo. You will also see veteran playmaker Ivan Perišić as another dangerous option out wide or as a set piece specialist. The main striker will either be Ante Budimir or Andrej Kramarić.

There are not many countries that are going to be able to match this Croatia side in the midfield without adding more players in the center of the park. With the Blazers able to control the most important part of the field against a majority of opponents, they will be a hard team to defeat in this World Cup, which is also what we saw at the last one.

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Croatia World Cup Schedule

Opponent Day/Time
Morocco 5 a.m. ET, Nov. 23
Canada 11 a.m. ET, Nov. 27
Belgium 10 a.m. ET, Dec. 1

Most Recent World Cup Result

Runners-Up (2018)

Croatia had a magical run to the final of the World Cup in 2018, where they glided by the group stage with three wins before getting three knockout results that went beyond the 90 minutes of regular time. In the final, Croatia was overwhelmed by France, 4-2.


Croatia World Cup Roster

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