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2022 World Cup Under the Radar Players: Croatia

He’s Learning from One of the Greatest


Can you imagine playing with and learning from the only player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win the Ballon D’or over the last decade? Well, Mario Pasalic doesn’t have to, because he is Luka Modric’s partner in Croatia’s midfield.

In the 2018 World Cup odds, the Blazers finished as the runners-up, but Pasalic wasn’t part of the team. Now, the presence of the 27-year-old, who has played in three of the top five European leagues, isn’t questionable. Will Croatia make it out of Group F? Well, having such a talented midfield definitely increases their chances.

2022 World Cup Under the Radar Players: Croatia
imago/PA Images

Club Career

Pasalic needed two years in the Prva HNL, Croatia’s top division, to start drawing the attention of several European powerhouses. In the 2013-14 season, he played in 37 games and scored 11 goals. That was more than enough for Chelsea to pull off the trigger on a multi-year deal.

Being only 20 years old, the Blues decided to send him to Elche on a loan, and he never came back. After one season in La Liga, in which he scored three goals in 35 games, he moved to Ligue 1 to play for AS Monaco. There, he did a bit better by scoring seven goals in 29 games. Later, he got a great opportunity at AC Milan but didn’t meet expectations.

After one season in the Italian Serie A, he was sent to Russia, where he played for Spartak Moscow, scoring five goals in 32 games. That was more than enough to earn him another shot at the Serie A, this time with Atalanta.

He played for the Neroazzurros on a loan for two seasons, scoring 12 goals in 45 games. Then he signed a multi-year, which is currently valid. Last season, he scored 14 goals in 48 games. Regarding Serie A, he was the team’s top scorer with 13 goals. Duvan Zapata, who’s a center-striker, scored three goals less. That’s how good Pasalic is.

With the Blazers

The talented midfielder has been on the verge of participating in a WC twice. In 2014, he was on manager Niko Kovac’s 30-man preliminary list but didn’t make it. The same thing happened four years later. Zlatko Dalic named him on the 32-man preliminary list, but shortly after he was cut.

Pasalic made his debut with the senior team in September 2014. It was in a friendly match against Cyprus. It took him six years to score his first goal. It was a friendly 2-1 victory over Switzerland.

Overall, he has played in 40 games and has scored seven goals, including three on the road to World cup soccer 2022. That’s right, he contributed a lot for Croatia to win Group H in the UEFA qualifiers. The Blazers beat Russia for the top spot by one point.

No other player scored more goals than him. Modric and Ivan Perisic scored three goals as well.

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Croatia in the 2022 World Cup

As mentioned before, Croatia will face Belgium, Canada, and Morocco in what many consider to be the 2022 world cup Group of Death. Belgium is one of the soccer betting favorites to dethrone France. Canada finished atop the standings in CONCACAF’s octagonal, defeating Mexico and USA. Last but not least, Morocco is one of the best teams in Africa. The Atlas Lions are led by Achraf Hakimi, a right-back who plays for PSG.

Anyway, Pasalic and the company are offering a +250 price to win Group H. The Red Devils dominate the Las Vegas odds at -190.

Individually, only Perisic is listed among the favorites to win the Golden Boot. Well, he’s offering a +15000 price, but again, any of the three can end up being the difference-maker.

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