Croatia came painfully close to a fairytale World Cup win, only to come short against France in the final. Still, their best ever performance should be remembered and lauded. Let’s take a closer look at the team.
Preferred Starting XI
The most obvious place to start is in the centre of midfield. With Modric, Rakitic and Brozovic holding down the middle of the park, Croatia was able to get on top of teams with their physicality, passing prowess and tactical intelligence. Captain, heartbeat and creative fulcrum Luka Modric ended on a bittersweet note, losing out in the final but was named as the best player of the tournament and given the Golden Ball award. Defensively, too, Croatia combined aggression, skill, and power to thwart opponents. But perhaps the mental side is where Croatia really shone. Three times in knockout games they went behind, three times they prevailed. The 4th and final try was a bridge too far but they should be proud of their efforts.
Croatia’s lack of an obvious goal scorer aside from Mario Mandzukic was an issue, but that became less of a problem with regular contributions from Ivan Perisic. Defensively, Croatia was impressive as a unit but had the tendency to start a game or a half carelessly and get caught cold, as evidenced by Denmark’s opening minute goal in the round of 16. Against Russia in the quarterfinals, their proneness to concede from set-plays was also apparent when Mario Fernandes rose highest to equalise in extra time and take their match to penalties.
Read also: Ajax Warns Barcelona To Stay off duo
Croatia was a treat to watch throughout the tournament, giving people the belief that fairytales can happen and odds can be defeated. Most of the world’s neutral fans ended up backing Croatia as they continued to defy the odds and produce an effort where the total was more than the sum of its parts. One or two star names aside, this was a hardworking unit that fought for every ball. Perhaps the Golden Generation peaked in 2018, but if the next generation possesses the same spirit and determination then Croatia can definitely build on this achievement and be a serious contender at Euro 2020.