This week saw Slavan Bilić confirm his 23 man squad as he hoped to continue Croatia’s good form at European Championships. It has been mused that Croatia have struggled to replace the influencial Kovač brothers, Robert and Niko, who ran the back four and midfield for a good decade respectively. Bilić has got a strong pool to choose from however and he has drafted together an ambitious bunch of players that include game winners and in-form players.
Here is Croatia’s full 23 man squad list:
Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Ivan Kelava (Dinamo Zagreb).
Defenders: Domogoj Vida (Dinamo Zagreb), Vedran Corluka (Tottenham), Josip Simunic (Dinamo Zagreb), Gordon Schildenfeld (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ivan Strinic (Dnipro), Danijel Pranjic (Bayern Munich), Jurica Buljat (Maccabi Haifa).
Midfielders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Tomislav Dujmovic (Real Zaragoza), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Luka Modric (Tottenham), Ivan Perisic (Borussia Dortmund), Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham), Milan Badelj (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivo Ilicevic (Hamburg).
Forwards: Ivica Olic (Bayern Munich), Nikica Jelavic (Everton), Mario Mandzukic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk).
Based on the squad numbers submitted to Uefa Croatia look as though will line up with a 4-5-1 formation, here’s a possible line-up:
GK: Pletikosa; RB: Corluka; CB: Šimunić; CB: Schildenfeld; LB: Pranijić; RM: Srna; CM: Vukojević; CM: Modrić; LM: Kranjcar; CAM: Rakitić; ST: Jelavić
Undoubtedly Tottenham’s Luka Modrić will have a lot of presure on his shoulders to perform for his nation and the rest of the side will certainly be looking to the playmaker to perform as the creative spark. With rumours surrounding his future at club level, and if these rumours are to be believed Modrić will be keen to impress any possible suitors on an international level. Modrić’s vision and creativity will cause many defences in the competition many problems.
Whilst Croatia may not be able to boast having superstars filling their squad like Spain or Germany, however they do have a number of well known players that are able to win games and will be able to force the issue against many opponents at the Euros. Firstly there is Nikica Jelavić, the in form striker has set the Prem alight since his move from Rangers to Everton in the January window. With a return of 9 goals in 13 games the £5 million striker must go down as one of the best signings of the January window. Whilst Jelavić struggled to make Croatia’s first team during his time at Rangers, with Ollić, Eduardo and Petrić, all of which can also be described as big names, normally getting in ahead of him, however with the advancing ages of these players and the good form of Jelavić it would be a surprise if Bilić doesn’t start the Everton man.
In terms of the back four Croatia have many big names, and along with the ever reliable Pletikosa between the sticks Croatia will be a difficult side to break down. A name that may have been forgotten but will still be recognisable is Vedran Ćorluka, as the Spurs full-back has fallen out of favour at White Hart Lane, but his loan spell at Bayern Leverkusen got him game time again and he has been a crucial part of the Croatia make up for many years, and has the ability not only to defend well but get forward and set up goals.
Josip Šimunić is Croatia’s stalwart, he is their rock at the back, and their experienced centre back. At 34 some might feel he’s too old to step up at an international competition with the prestige of the Euros, however Šimunić will still give his all for his country and he has really made name for himself over his 93 caps for Croatia.
In the middle of the park Croatia once more look towards an out of favour Tottenham player in Kranjcar. The winger might have found it difficult to break into the Spurs first team ahead of Bale and Lennon, but he is a regular starter for Croatia and he featured 8 times in the qualifying campaign, scoring 4 goals and setting up 2 goal.
Captain Darijo Srna, who plays as a wide midfielder is another big name that needs to be watched. The influencial 30 year old is capable at playing at either right back or right midfield, and will utilise this ability by bombing up and down the wing, putting in a shift, and leading by example. His ability in the attacking half was highlighted by his qualifying campaign, in which he set up 6 goals and bagged one himself in the 10 games he played.
All in all Croatia have a strong squad, with many players that are not only able to change a game in the opponents half but also those who are able to ensure that Croatia remains a diffcult side to break down. This combination, linked with some world class play makers in the middle of the park, might just see Croatia pull off a big shock and qualify for the quarter-finals ahead of giants Italy.
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