Croatia have an impressive record at major tournaments and will be hoping to continue this at Euro 2016. Although they have never won a trophy, Croatia have applied themselves very well a fair few times on the world stage in both the World Cup and the European Championships and are always a team to be taken seriously due to their well drilled squad and quality forward players.
A 3rd place finish in the 1998 World Cup held in France is the best result that this national side has accomplished and Croatia will be hoping that history repeats itself this June when they touch down in the French capital.
This team is made up of some world class talent. The most notable names are the Barcelona regular Ivan Rakitic, Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric and the former Bayern Munich goal scorer and current Juventus star Mario Mandzukic. It could be argued that this trio could walk into any national team and it is Croatia who have inherited them and will be looking to make the most of their strengths at Euro 2016.
Despite this, the Croats only managed a 2nd place finish in Qualifying Group H a full 4 points behind table topping Italy, somewhat surprising considering the Italians recent poor form in tournament football. This may be a worry that a team full of quality cannot overpower a below par Italian side in a campaign that also included a loss to Norway, and there is no doubt that this kind of form will not see them progress very far at Euro 2016. If Croatia could reach the heights that this squad has promised to do then a much improved tournament could be on the cards.
This seems to be one of the best sides that Croatia have ever put together and expectations will be higher this time around than in previous years. Progressing from the group stages should be a formality for a side as strong as this and as shown in previous tournaments it is anybody's to win from there. This squad can go toe to toe with any team out there and won't be fazed by any other side at Euro 2016.
If Croatia can reach the Last 16 with their squad fully intact then I expect Croatia to do very well, and while winning it may be a step too far, another Quarter-final appearance certainly isn't and this side may prove to be a dark horse at Euro 2016.
|Belgium / Netherlands||2000||Did not qualify||-|
|Austria / Switzerland||2008||Quarter-Finals||5|
|Poland / Ukraine||2012||Group Stage||10|
Croatia tend to under-perform at the European Championships with the Quarter-finals the furthest they've achieved.
|12.06.16||14.00||Turkey||0 - 1||Croatia|
|13.06.16||14.00||Spain||1 - 0||Czech Republic|
|17.06.16||17.00||Czech Republic||2 - 2||Croatia|
|17.06.16||20.00||Spain||3 - 0||Turkey|
|21.06.16||20.00||Czech Republic||0 - 2||Turkey|
|21.06.16||20.00||Croatia||2 - 1||Spain|
Croatia will be expected to qualify from Group D but they will not have things their own way. Spain are their main competition in the group and the game between these two sides will probably decide who qualifies in 1st place.
The other match ups are against the Czech republic and Turkey, the second game of which is probably the most competitive as the Czechs seem to have a below average side and this star studded Croatian team will be expected to dispatch them. The Turkey game could throw up a shock as they seem to be in great form coming into this as they are unbeaten in their last 8 and will be expected to surpass their performances of recent times at international tournaments. This game will be vital to win for Croatia and they will be hoping they can take points off Spain to possibly top the group depending on other results.
Spain will surely win the group and the most obvious choice for 2nd is Croatia. They are a quality side and will show that in France as they should comfortably beat the Czech Republic and take points off Turkey on the way to securing 2nd place.
Below is a list of the 4 teams drawn in Group D and their FIFA World Ranking, as you can see, Spain are the highest ranked team, followed by Turkey and Croatia.
Ivan Perisic was Croatia's leading goalscorer during qualifying, finding the net 6 times en route to automatic qualification. Perisic currently plies his club trade with Inter Milan and will be a force to be reckoned with this summer. Although not the main striker, Perisic is formidable in front of goal. Croatia will also be relying on the talents of Mario Mandzukic to power them through to the last 16, Mandzukic also scored during qualifying although his goal return was minimal, he always steps it up a gear on the big stage.
|Ivan Perisic||27||Midfield / Forward||6|
Croatia will be expected to escape Group D, however it may only be in the runners-up spot which would cause problems going forward. If they do as expected and take points from both Turkey and the Czechs and finish a respectable 2nd behind Spain then they will be drawn against the winners of Group E which could be either Belgium or Italy. Croatia may be hoping to meet Belgium as they are a far more inexperienced side than Italy and Croatia will be going into that game with every chance of passing through into the Quarter-finals.
Although it is expected to be Italy who top Group E and Croatia may struggle against this battle hardened side. The 4 time World Cup winners will be heavy favourites to beat Croatia and it looks most likely that if this is the case in the last 16, then Croatia will be eliminated by the vastly experienced Italian side.
Croatia's player to watch is their influential midfielder Ivan Rakitic. The Barcelona star is most certainly Croatia's playmaker and star asset and he is the man who will be tasked with creating chances for the forward players to finish. His range of passing and control of the ball are his major assets and they will be tested thoroughly throughout this competition, but if he can handle the pressure of a major tournament and transfer his club form into international competition, he could well be one of the stars of the tournament.
Croatia are very capable of playing possession football and keeping the ball for as long as possible. Their squad has many creative talents and this is what they rely upon as when they keep the ball they will use their quality in midfield to open gaps in the opposition and create goal scoring opportunities for their main man Mandzukic.