Euro 2016 Group D

Croatia

12 June - Turkey (2pm GMT Stade Matmut-Atlantique, Bordeaux)
17 June – Czech Republic (5pm GMT Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Ètienne)
21 June - Spain (8pm GMT Parc des Princes, Paris)

Despite a messy qualifying campaign on and off the pitch, Croatia enter the tournament with a side that still boasts quality throughout. Paul Hill examines the Croats.

Vatreni hoping to blaze to glory

Despite having an array of stars playing for Europe’s top clubs, Croatia head to France with numerous worries. The managerial changes have not got down well with fans and Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren’s refusal to be on the bench and subsequent omission has dampened team spirit. However, if the likes of Mario Mandžukić, Dario Srna, Luka Modrić, Ivan Perišić, Marcelo Brozović and Ivan Rakitić can replicate their club form then there is no reason why the former Yugoslavian nation cannot reach the quarter finals at least.

Coach: Ante Čačić —  Following the sacking of Niko Kovač, Čačić was hired in controversial circumstances with very little experience and success at the top table. The 62 year-old did lead his country into the finals but supporters will be quick to get on his back if he gets off to a bad start.

Preferred XI: Subašić; Srna, Corluka, Vida, Vrsaljko; Modrić, Rakitić; Perišić, Brozović,  Pjaca; Mandžukić.

With Barcelona and Real Madrid starters occupying the double pivot positions, it is no surprise that most of Croatia’s play comes from that area. The two Inter stars Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović operate further forward, giving Croatia one of the best midfields at the tournament despite slightly lack some width.

Look out for: The aforementioned El Classico duo of Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić are two of the best central midfielders in world football and the bona fide stars of the team. They allow the Balkans nation to dictate the pace of the game from the centre of the park.

Did you know?

  • It has been over 22 years since Croatia last defeated group opponents Spain
  • France will play host to the first ever competitive meeting between Croatia and Czech Republic
  • Croatia have only once failed to qualify for the Euros (2000) since the country gained independence

Croatia versus…

…Turkey P 6 W 2 D 4 L 0 F 8 A 4
…Czech Republic P 2 W 1 D 1 L 0 F 5 A 3
…Spain P 5 W 1 D 1 L 3 F 4 A 6

Stats

Population: 4m
Nickname: Vatreni
Calcio fans might remember: Alen Bokšić – Lazio (1993-1996, 1997-2000), Juventus (1996-1997)
Top Division: Prva HNL
FIFA World Ranking: 23
International honours: None
Most capped player: Darijo Srna (129)
Leading international scorer: Davor Šuker (45)
Croatia at the European Championships:

1996 – Quarter-finals
2000 - Did not qualify
2004 – Group stage
2008 – Quarter final
2012 – Group stage

How they got to Euro 2016: Qualified automatically after finishing second in Group H behind Italy.