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World Cup 2014 Team-by-Team Guide: Croatia backed to qualify

| 11.06.2014

Past tournaments: 1998, 2002, 2006

Previous Best: Third Place, France 98.

How they got here: Croatia’s route to Brazil was not all plain sailing after defeats to both Scotland and Belgium but Niko Kovac’s side still had enough quality to finish in the runners-up spot in Group A.

This set up a play-off clash against Iceland and after a 0-0 draw in Reykjavík goals from Mario Mandzukic and Darijo Srna sealed their passage to Brazil.

Star man: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

The former Tottenham man struggled in his first season at the Bernabeu following his switch from White Hart Lane but this season, under Carlo Ancelotti, Modric has shown his star quality.

If Croatia are to have a successful World Cup and reach the knockout stages for the first time since 1998 they will need the diminutive playmaker on top of his game.


Under the radar: Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla)

The 26-year-old, who has enjoyed the best season of his career to date with Sevilla scoring 13 goals and creating just as many assists, is set to star in Brazil.

The former Schalke playmaker has been a key man at the heart of Sevilla’s Europa League winning campaign and he will relish his chance to shine on the grandest stage of them all.

Things to watch out for are his eye for a defence splitting pass, his ability to strike from long-range and the threat he posses from dead-ball situations.

Team nutcase: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich)

The Bayern striker earns himself the moniker of ‘Team Nutcase’ after a mindless challenge on Iceland’s Johann Gudmundsson which earned him a red card in the second leg of their play-off clash.

The 27-year-old will miss his side’s World Cup opener with Brazil after receiving an automatic one match ban, but Croatian boss Kovac has still picked him with crucial matches against Mexico and Cameroon to follow. Lucky lucky boy!

How far can they go?

Surprisingly it was finding the net that was the problem for Croatia in qualifying but with the likes of Modric, Rakitic and Mandzukic in their ranks, they could click into gear going forward at any moment.

And built on a solid defence – they did not concede in their final three qualifying matches – they have the tools to qualify from the group stages for the first time since 1998, on at 13/10 with Ladbrokes.

But with Spain, Netherlands and Chile all possible second round opponents, the last 16 could be as far as they go this time around.

Best World Cup Bet: Croatia to reach second round 13/10.

Watch as Croatia turned France 98 on its head by finishing third to claim their best ever showing at a World Cup: 

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Oliver Yew