Croatia pose England danger at Euros despite changes with Luka Modric still leading the way

·2-min read
Croatia pose England danger at Euros despite changes with Luka Modric still leading the way
 (BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
(BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Croatia have rebuilt since the World Cup in 2018 — and the team that lines up at Wembley on Sunday will have a different look to the one that broke England hearts three years ago.

Four players from the side that started against France in the World Cup Final — Danijel Subasic, Ivan Strinic, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic — have now retired from international duty.

Their replacements — Dominik Livakovic, Borna Barisic, Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic — have done well, but the feeling in Croatia is they are not the force they were in Russia.

Croatia qualified for the Euros without too much trouble, but they looked hapless in the recent Nations League, losing five of their six matches, and go into this tournament with rumours of a dressing-room rift between the old guard and some of the fresh blood in the squad.

Luka Modric still reigns supreme in midfield. The Real Madrid star remains a class act and Croatia are heavily reliant on a player who will be 36 in September.

Alongside Modric, holding midfielder Marcelo Brozovic has just helped Inter win their first Serie A title in 11 years and is vital to the balance of the team.

Rather than try to replace Rakitic’s role in midfield, coach Zlatko Dalic switched back to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Vlasic impressing in the No10 role.

Vlasic could be the new Croatia hero. The CSKA Moscow playmaker, 23, scored some key goals in qualifying.

Meanwhile, Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic has never been considered a starter, despite his 67 caps.

 (BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
(BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Their ageing defence looks vulnerable, particularly at set-pieces, and they were dominated by Belgium in a 1-0 defeat in one of their warm-up matches. They were also held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Armenia in their other pre-tournament friendly.

Those rumours of unrest have not helped.

Dejan Lovren has said some of the younger players “lack respect” and, while Zlatko Dalic has dismissed speculation of a rift in the camp, the Croatia coach has spoken about a “lack of chemistry” in his squad.

But their experience at the World Cup means they cannot be underestimated and, if things come together for them again, Croatia could prove to be a dangerous team again during this summer’s tournament.

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