Revamped Croatia has star shortages in major European leagues

Anyone who expects Brazil facing a Croatia full of international stars, as was the team at the World Cup in Russia, in 2018, may be surprised by the lineup in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Qatar. A good part of the players of the European giants are no longer there, and what remains is a young squad that mixes local athletes with few stars, like Modric.

Of the total, the Croatian team has seven of its 26 players coming from the Croatian local league – five from the traditional Dinamo Zagreb. On the other hand, there are six athletes who play for the biggest teams in Europe, such as Inter Milan, Tottenham, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

It is a result of the necessary renewal when players like midfielder Rakitic and striker Mandzukic retired from the national team. In total, there are 18 new athletes in relation to the 2018 World Cup team. The number is inflated, of course, by the extended roster of 26 players.

“This is a new national team. There are 18 new players, I can’t compare. Before, we had a national team that played 10 years. They played in the best leagues, and that’s not the case anymore. We have six players, Modric, Perisic, in big teams. We shouldn’t compare. This new team has to prove itself. We have quality players. We had players with more prestige”, analyzed, in a sincere way, the coach Zlatko Dalic.

Belgium's Lukaku clashes with Croatia's Josko Gvardiol in the Qatar Cup group stage game - Francois Nel/Getty Images - Francois Nel/Getty Images

Gvardiol scores Belgium’s Lukaku in a first round draw

Image: Francois Nel/Getty Images

Leipzig defender Gvardiol, with his mask on his face, is the big reveal. He is only 20 years old and has already become the leader of the defense even with the experienced Lovren at his side – with a passage through Liverpool. Big European teams are looking for the young defender.

Goalkeeper Livakovic, hero of the quarterfinals classification, plays for Dinamo Zagreb, in the local league, still far from the spotlight of the main leagues in Europe.

The midfield, key point of the Croatian team, continues to have a prestigious trio in Brozovic, Kovacic and Modric. The three players play in big clubs. The first, an Inter Milan player, is the team’s driving force and record holder for the distance traveled in the Cup. The second, Chelsea midfielder, is the youth of the trio. And Modric, star of Real Madrid, is obviously Croatia’s technical reference.

“The responsibility may be greater. But I keep in touch with him (Rakitic🇧🇷 Mateo (Kovacic) is playing well, and he’s substituting well Rakitic🇧🇷 This team is good, maybe not as good as Russia. But it’s a good team,” said Modric.

Croatia's Luka Modric against Morocco in the World Cup - Visionhaus/Getty Images - Visionhaus/Getty Images

Luka Modric vs Morocco

Image: Visionhaus/Getty Images

The Real Madrid star himself, aged 37, must be playing in his last World Cup. Questioned, he prefers not to talk about it, says he is focused on this World Cup. But his statements about enjoying every moment and advancing age in the next World Cup are indicative of the proximity of the end.

Therefore, coach Dalic saves his main playmaker. He was dropped from the squad in the first half of extra time against Japan. “It was a joint decision with Modric. We can’t lose him either,” he explained. The coach is aware of the complications he will face when facing a more rested Brazil after playing 120 minutes, plus penalties, to advance from the round of 16.

It will be with this mixed team, between initiatives and experienced, between youngsters in search of glory and consecrated ones, that will try the epic feat of beating Brazil and going to the semifinals.

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