Croatia – A UEFA Euro 2016 Team Preview

Posted on by Sreya

Croatia, one of the constant features of the European championships since Yugoslavia disintegrated, with the exception of 2000, would look to improve on their disappointing performance in 2012 when they failed to qualify for the knock-outs.

A quarter-final finish in the years 1996 and 2008 were the biggest achievements of the Blazers in this competition. With a young, talented, flourishing squad in place, a quarter-final finish is expected this time around.

Croatia qualified from Group H placed just behind Italy with six wins and only one loss. An expected achievement, considering the strength of the qualifying group. Croatia still surprised many when they won six of their ten matches, conceding only five goals, in spite of their rough qualifying campaign due to off-the-pitch happenstances which included sacking of the former manager Niko Kovac.

Ante Cacic, the current manager, is still unbeaten since taking over in September 2015 but some of his decisions have raised doubts among the Croatian fans, most recently the exclusion of promising young midfielder Alen Halilovic from the final 23-man squad for the Euro 2016.

The offensive aspect of the game is the Croatian side’s primary strength with the squad boasting of versatile attacking midfielders like Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic, two of the best modern central midfielders in the whole of Europe in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic and a clinical finisher in Mario Mandzukic.

The defense is yet to be tried and tested under pressure, but with the experience of veteran Darjo Srna and the likes of Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kyiv), Ivan Strinić (Napoli), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen) in the ranks, Croatia have the ability to hold their own against the giants of European football.

Gordon Schildenfeld and Šime Vrsaljko are the other defenders who made the cut for the Euros while Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marko Rog (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Ćorić (Dinamo Zagreb) round up the midfielders.

Cacic has chosen his five forwards for the Euro finals in Mario Mandžukić (Juventus), Nikola Kalinić (Fiorentina), Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim), Marko Pjaca (Dinamo Zagreb) and Duje Čop (Málaga).

The formation chosen by the manager is likely to play a key role in Croatia’s performance. While Mandzukic is likely to be the lone striker up front, Cacic is expected to start with Perisic, Brozovic and Kovacic as his attacking midfielder with Modric and Rakitic forming the base of the midfield.

Drawn into Group D along side current champions Spain, Czech Republic and Turkey, Croatia have to navigate through a few difficult games in the group stage. Rectifying their mistakes from the previous European championship and is all that will be in the minds of the Croatian players when they begin the campaign against Turkey on 12th June at Parc des Princes.

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