‘We’re fully motivated to do it again’ – Can Croatia perform another World Cup miracle?

FPL360
By FPL360
‘We’re fully motivated to do it again’ – Can Croatia perform another World Cup miracle?

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Modric & Co are ready 

The contenders for this year’s World Cup are clear for all to see and are, seemingly, unanimous among most football fans. France have a fantastic shot of keeping their title as World champions, Brazil look stronger than ever and ready to end more than 20 years off the top spot and Lionel Messi’s Argentina will surely pack a punch. But one team that has gone entirely under the radar are none other than Croatia, a finalist at the last World Cup in Russia and in many ways much improved since then.

Indeed, four years ago Zlatko Dalic’s side stunned the World when they arrived in Russia as relative nobodies and proceeded to go on a three-game winning streak against Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland in Group D, before beating Denmark and the host nation themselves in back-to-back penalty shoot outs. Then, to add to the drama, Luka Modric & Co. fought off an impressive England side to book their spot in the World Cup final against France. 

Three teams break €1b mark – All nations at the 2022 WC sorted by squad value

Qatar – Squad value: €14.9m

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Hosts

Costa Rica – Squad value: €18.8m

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Saudi Arabia – Squad value: €25.4m

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Australia – Squad value: €38.4m

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Iran – Squad value: €59.5m

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Tunisia – Squad value: €62.4m

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Ecuador – Squad value: €146.5m

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Japan – Squad value: €154m

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Cameroon – Squad value: €155m

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Wales – Squad value: €160.2m

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South Korea – Squad value: €164.5m

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Mexico – Squad value: €176.1m

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Canada – Squad value: €187.3m

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Ghana – Squad value: €216.9m

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Morocco – Squad value: €251.1m

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Poland – Squad value: €255.6m

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United States – Squad value: €277.4m

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Switzerland – Squad value: €281m

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Senegal – Squad value: €288m

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Denmark – Squad value: €353m

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Serbia – Squad value: €359.5m

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Croatia – Squad value: €377m

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Uruguay – Squad value: €449.7m

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Belgium – Squad value: €563.2m

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Netherlands – Squad value: €587.3m

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Argentina -Squad value: €633.2m

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Germany – Squad value: €885.5m

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Spain – Squad value: €902m

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Portugal – Squad value: €937m

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France – Squad value: €1.03b

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Brazil – Squad value: €1.14b

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England – Squad value: €1.26b

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However, it seemed as though fate had finally abandoned the minnow nation when they arrived at the Luzhniki Stadium, when Mario Mandzukic knocked home an own goal in the 18th minute and despite an equaliser from Ivan Perisic and a late redeeming goal from the aforementioned striker, Kylian Mbappé & Co romped to a convincing 4-2 victory to claim the greatest prize football has to offer. 

World Cup final” src=”https://tmssl.akamaized.net/images/foto/newsansicht/croatia-starting-xi-at-2018-World-cup-final-1668612140-96602.png?lm=1668612157″ alt=”Croatia starting XI at 2018 World Cup final” width=”503″ height=”629″/>

Despite that, late substitute on the night Andrej Kramaric believes his team can once again upset the odds in Qatar. “We have played really great football in recent months and reached the Nations League final four,” said Kramaric at a press conference. “I have to be honest, we have a great team with young and experienced players.” When asked if his side can match their run from Russia, Kramaric said: “To play the final in 2018 it’s still unreal and it was something amazing and special and hard to describe. We would be happy if we can repeat this achievement.”

Lovren out, Gvardiol in – Are Croatia better than they were four years ago?

While this may initially seem like wishful thinking, a quick look at Croatia’s squad in 2018 and how it looks today would suggest that Kramaric has solid grounds for optimism. And while Dalic’s side 10th in the competition rankings for overall squad value, they are arguably stronger than the side that reached the final four years ago. 

To consider this we need only look at the starting XI that faced France on that fateful day. While there were genuine stars in Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mandzukic peppered throughout the side, Croatia also had a number of players that would have been deemed below-par for a fixture of this level. Such as Ivan Stinic, Dejan Lovren and Ante Rebic, who all played well throughout the tournament but certainly weren’t stars. 

As Croatia’s recent success in the UEFA Nations League – in which they recently avenged France with a 1-0 victory – would suggest, this new generation of young players certainly seem intent on improving on the players they have replaced. Lovren has stepped aside for the highly talented Josko Gvardiol, playmaking left-back Borna Sosa has taken Stinic’s spot on the left flank and the demise of Rakitic has been more than compensated by the emergence of Mateo Kovacic as a Champions League winner at Chelsea

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From €75m to €160m – The most valuable players at the 2022 World Cup

26 Neymar – Brazil – Market value: €75m

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25 Bruno Fernandes – Portugal – Market value: €75m

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24 Gabriel Jesus – Brazil – Market value: €75m

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23 Rúben Dias – Portugal – Market value: €75m

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22 Lautaro Martínez – Argentina – Market value: €75m

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21 Mason Mount – England – Market value: €75m

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20 Antony – Brazil – Market value: €75m

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19 Kevin De Bruyne – Belgium – Market value: €80m

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18 Bernardo Silva – Portugal – Market value: €80m

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17 Joshua Kimmich – Germany – Market value: €80m

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16 Rodri – Spain – Market value: €80m

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15 Declan Rice – England – Market value: €80m

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14 Aurélien Tchouameni – France – Market value: €80m

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13 Dušan Vlahović – Serbia – Market value: €80m

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12 Rodrygo – Brazil – Market value: €80m

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11 Rafael Leão – Portugal – Market value: €85m

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10 Harry Kane – England – Market value: €90m

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9 Bukayo Saka – England – Market value: €90m

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8 Gavi – Spain – Market value: €90m

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7 Federico Valverde – Uruguay – Market value: €100m

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6 Pedri – Spain – Market value: €100m

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5 Jamal Musiala – Germany – Market value: €100m

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4 Jude Bellingham – England – Market value: €100m

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3 Phil Foden – England – Market value: €110m

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2 Vinicius Junior – Brazil – Market value: €120m

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1 Kylian Mbappé – France – Market value: €160m

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When coupled with the ever-green talents of Perisic and Modric, as well as proven stars like Marcelo Brozovic and the aforementioned Kramaric, it isn’t hard to foresee Croatia not only getting out of a group against Morocco, Canada and Belgium but also potentially winning it. And from there, Dalic’s side know exactly what they’ll need to do to reach another final. 

“It will be hard but maybe we don’t have so much pressure because we did amazing things in Russia (in 2018). We still wish and want to achieve more,” noted Kramaric when asked about winning the tournament in Qatar. “If you see Luka Modric. He won everything but how he plays at 37 he is a perfect example for us younger players to be motivated, to want more, to be better. Croatia will be like this in Qatar, fully motivated. We wish to reach something nice again.” 


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