With a 1-0 defeat of Russia in the UEFA World Cup Qualifying tournament, Croatia automatically qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Placed in Group F to face Belgium, Canada and Morocco, Croatia has a good chance of making it out of the group stage due to these five reasons.
Good Qualification Tournament
The Croatia National Team qualified for the World Cup with relative ease, winning their group. Croatia finished with a record of 7W-2D-1L for 23 points in the group, with its only loss coming against Slovenia in a 1-0 defeat that took place in March 2021. The national team led the tournament in scoring with 21 goals, goals conceded with four, as well as in goal differential with 17. Croatia also ended the tournament with seven clean sheets out of 10 games. With a solid showing in a fairly easy qualifying tournament, Croatia should head into the group stage with lots of momentum.
Strong 2018 World Cup
Croatia’s qualifying tournament should come as no surprise as the team went all the way to the finals of the 2018 World Cup. The returning runners-up will look to make a statement once more, as their run in 2018 shocked many. Croatia eased past the group stage winning all three games against Nigeria, Iceland and Argentina, continuing its run with a win over Denmark in the Round of 16 on penalties. The Croatian National Team remained successful in the quarter and semifinals, defeating Russia and England respectively to advance to the finals. There, Croatia lost 4-2 to eventual champion France. With Croatia returning a number of experienced players and also having practice against tough opponents, the group stage shouldn’t be an issue for the national team.
Modric is one of the many reasons Croatia has a strong shot at making it past the group stage. Although he is likely to be playing in his last World Cup at the age of 36, he has shown no signs of slowing, recently signing a one-year extension with Real Madrid. Modric played an important role in Croatia’s runner-up finish in 2018, leading the tournament in minutes played and scoring two goals as well as offering an assist to earn the tournament’s Golden Ball Award, also winning the Ballon d’Or that same year. The captain and midfielder was part of the 2006 and 2014 World Cup teams as well and is the most capped player on the team with 152 appearances. Modric will want to play well and lead his team far in what may be his last World Cup tournament.
Croatia has a wealth of other returning players that will prove to be useful in the opening round. While Modric headlines the returners, there are a few others that will return from the 2018 squad as well. Midfielders Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic will join Modric in the middle, while forward Ivan Perisic, who led Croatia in 2018 with three goals, figures to be back as well. Defender Domagoj Vida and forward Andrej Kramaric are also expected to return. Croatia should be able to rely on its veteran presence from these players as well as a few others in its quest for another successful World Cup run.
Bad Euro 2020
Although Croatia has had some recent victories, with a strong qualification tournament and a good run at the 2018 World Cup, the team has had some troubles too, with an early exit at the Euro 2020 tournament tampering its record. The national team made it past the first round, finishing with a 1-1-1 record to finish second and move on. Croatia scored four goals and gave up three in the group stage to finish with a goal differential of one. The national team then faced Spain in the Round of 16, getting eliminated after falling 5-3 in extra time. Following Croatia’s woes at the Euro 2020 tournament, the team will be looking to bounce back in the group stage of the World Cup.