World Cup 2022 team preview: Croatia can repeat 2018 heroics in Qatar

The 2018 runners-up can impress on the big stage again.

Croatia national football team

Despite only playing competitive matches since 1994, Croatia have enjoyed plenty of success at World Cups. In 1998 they competed in their first tournament, finishing third and providing the tournament top scorer, Davor Suker. Roll forward 20 years and they reached the final in 2018, providing the tournament’s best player, Luka Modric.

They are the second-smallest country by population and land mass to reach a World Cup final, behind Uruguay and Netherlands respectively, and here to assess their chances of success at the World Cup 2022 is Paddy Power football trader Matko Janković.


Croatia World Cup 2022 qualifying record

Croatia qualified top of Group H where they faced Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta. Seven wins, two draws and one loss with 21 goals scored and only four conceded were the stats that really show they might be rallying up for another serious push in the World Cup.

Who is the Croatia manager?

Bosnian-Croat Zlatko Dalic spent most of his managing years in Saudi Arabia and the UAE before taking his current post in 2017. Often criticised for an apparent lack of tactical skills and ingenuity, he managed to find a way to compensate for this with his great motivational and psychological skills in Russia four years ago.

Dalic knows when to pull back and seek input from his players, and he doesn’t have the ego that would prevent some other managers from doing so. This proved incredibly important in 2018 and there’s no reason why it can’t happen again.

Zlatko Dalic, Croatia

Croatia World Cup squad

They’ll likely go with a 4-3-3. Dominik Livakovic from Dinamo Zagreb is a solid solution in goal. Stuttgart’s highly-rated Borna Sosa should be left-back. Another Dinamo player with huge potential, Josip Sutalo and highly-rated Josko Gvardiol from RB Leipzig could play at centre-back, although Southampton’s Duje Caleta-Car could squeeze in. Josip Juranović from Celtic will be a decent option at right-back.

Their midfield is stellar. Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric represent one of strongest midfields at the World Cup. Kovacic is a key player at Chelsea and Brozovic holds an important role at Inter Milan. Brozovic is recognized as the ‘Arturo Vidal’ of Croatia while Modric is one of the best midfielders in the world and an absolute key figure in this line-up. Left wing is reserved by Ivan Perisic who has been, after his Real Madrid compatriot, the most important player of this generation. 

The other two positions are still up for debate, with many wanting to see a former wonderkid, Marko Livaja, who has made a return to Hajduk Split and is tearing Croatian league defences apart up front ahead of Bruno Petkovic from Dinamo – who to be fair is another great solution. Livaja is a goal-getter and prolific striker, while Petkovic is more of a target man who can keep the ball and is very technical, especially in small spaces. Andrej Kramaric is a third option. Lovro Majer from Rennes and Mario Pasalic from Atalanta will be competing for position on the right wing, with Majer probably being the first pick. 

  • 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

Croatia Key Player

Luka Modric. Russia 2018 Golden Ball award, FIFA’s The Best Award and the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year distinction, oh, and the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner too.

The first player to break a decade-long monopoly that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi held on the latter. Modric at 37 years of age is still dominating midfields across Europe and proving age is just a number.

He is the engine of his club and national team and can slow the game down when needed and speed it up at will. Incredible passing skills, creativity and his ability to pass with the outside of the boot still manages to catch players off guard. The game intelligence that Modric possesses makes him a key figure in anyone’s plans.

Luka Modric, Croatia

Croatia One to Watch

Stuttgart’s Borna Sosa almost became a Manchester City player this summer, but after a long back-and-forth City didn’t get their target. Sosa is arguably one of the best left-backs in Europe, something between Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson and Real Madrid legend Marcelo – a great worker, strong on the ball and technically gifted, with an amazing pass, vision and decision-making skills.

Croatia World Cup Prospects

Croatia come into the World Cup in strong form after an impressive UEFA Nations League A Group 1 run where they finished first in a group featuring Denmark, Austria and France – who they managed to beat at the Stade de France for the first time ever to get a little revenge for their World Cup final defeat in 2018 and thanks to that victory, Croatia will be featuring at the Nations League Final Four in June next year.

The team has matured and there is a great and potent mix of experience and top young talent. Anything less than a quarter-finals run will be considered a failure for this team who believe they can go far again, and rightfully so – almost all their players play key roles in their clubs, some even have their club teams built around them, such as Majer at Rennes or Kramaric at Hoffenheim.

Croatia’s Group F is clashes directly with Group E, so if Croatia qualify they will have their first big test immediately in the Round of 16, most likely against either Spain or Germany. Croatia have shown over the years they can go toe-to-toe with the best and their confidence this time around will be sky-high.

Croatia World Cup betting tips

It may seem like a long shot but Croatia to reach the semi-finals actually isn’t unrealistic at all. As mentioned above Germany or Spain could be their first knockout round opponents, but they can go toe-to-toe with either of those. After that Portugal, Serbia, Switzerland or Uruguay are possible opponents. All of those are beatable. CROATIA TO REACH THE SEMI-FINALS.

Croatia World Cup Winner Odds

Croatia World Cup 2022 Fixtures

November 23, 10am: Morocco 0-0 Croatia (ITV)

November 27, 4pm: Croatia 4-1 Canada (BBC)

December 1, 3pm: Croatia 0-0 Belgium (BBC)

December 5, 3pm: Japan v Croatia (BBC)


*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

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