The Eastern Europeans have one of the best midfield at the tournament which can give any team a run for their money.
Only one thing is certain about football, nothing is as simple as it seems. At first glance, Group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup looked relatively straightforward with Argentina looking nailed on to top the group. However, “The Cruyff of the Balkans” had something a little different in mind.
Luka Modric and his Croatian teammates ran riot on the group and became the first team in the competition to enjoy a perfect group stage, earning all nine of the available points. A lot has been spoken about the midfields of countries like Spain and Germany, while Croatia have been largely overlooked.
There is no denying that Andreas Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Isco form a formidable midfield, but as recent performances have proven, Croatia trump them in almost every department. Zlatko Dalic started the first two games of the competition with the midfield trio of Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic. Modric has looked like a man possessed right through this tournament and has even popped up with two goals, including a stunning curler from 25-yards against Argentina.
The Real Madrid man was named as the worst transfer of 2012 by Marca, following his transfer to the Spanish capital from Tottenham. The little Croatian has since gone on to prove all his critics wrong and is making a Croatian side that was not given too much of a chance, look truly world-class.
Group D Review
It is not often that players from Madrid and Barcelona combine to such devastating effect, but that is exactly what Rakitic is doing with Modric at the heart of the Croatian team. The duo danced circles around the Argentinian team in their second fixture and provided two of the three goals.
While Modric and Rakatic are what can be described as champagne players, their creativity is only made possible by the support offered by Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic. The 25-year-old is creative in his own right, but he offers a larger presence to shore up the midfield, allowing Modric and Rakatic the freedom to explore the final third of the pitch.
The Croatian manager, Dalic switched things up in their final group game against Iceland, with Modric and Ivan Perisic being the only survivors from the team that defeated Argentina 3-0. Brozovic and Rakatic were sacrificed to protect them from accumulating yellow cards that would rule them out of Croatia’s Round of 16 fixture.
Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic and Fiorentina’s Milan Baldej stepped up for the Croatians in the absence of their first-choice midfield duo. Baldej opened the scoring against Iceland with a sublime volley in a match which is a testament to the depth of the Croatian midfield.
So far in the competition, the bigger teams have largely failed to live up to expectations, while the nations who have come into the competition with a chip on their shoulder are performing admirably. Croatia’s midfield is by far their biggest strength and is one that would give any team in the competition a run for their money.
It is not out of the realms of possibility to see Croatia go far in the tournament on the back of their group stage performances. They play their Round of 16 fixture against Denmark on Sunday, in what will be the battle of the midfield maestros that are Christian Erikson and Modric.