Belgium and Croatia, Canada's two World Cup rivals, both won the Nations League

World Cup finalists Croatia bring a rebuilt squad to Qatar

Was Croatia’s run to the 2018 World Cup final a one-off? Don’t be so sure.

Only five of the 11 players who started the 2018 final are still in the squad – led by 37-year-old Luka Modric – but Croatia’s rebuild fuses a new generation of talented players with experience.

This year’s defeats to World Cup champions France, Denmark and Austria in the Nations League show that Croatia are making a comeback after a period of poor results after 2018.

With over 150 caps for Croatia, Modric will join the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the most experienced players at the World Cup in Qatar. The Real Madrid veteran is joined by former Tottenham team-mate Ivan Perisic and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic. Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic, an unused substitute in the 2018 final, is also key.

Notable absentees include midfielder Ivan Rakitic, who retired from international football in 2020. Winger Ante Rebekah has not played since coach Zlatko Delec’s side’s defeat in the last 16 of Spain at last year’s European Championships.

Group F

The game was relatively kind to Croatia, whose main threat in Group F is Belgium.

Croatia open against Morocco on November 27 and then face Canada four days later, before facing Belgium on December 1.

A pre-match friendly against Saudi Arabia is also scheduled.

new blood

The veterans in the squad are paired well with young players such as 20-year-old Leipzig center back Josep Guardiola, who is widely regarded as one of the best young defenders in Europe and is already a regular in the Bundesliga and Champions League.

He is not the only new face with ties to Germany.

Last year, the German team hoped to recruit fullback Borna Sosa, who played for Stuttgart and received a passport thanks to his mother, who was born in Germany. However, before the European Championship, it was revealed that he did not meet the FIFA eligibility rules.

After a lengthy apology on the Croatian Federation’s website and some strong performances in a Croatia shirt, including a goal in a 2-1 win over Denmark in September, the 24-year-old Stuttgart defender The team is a valuable member.

There is also German-born Josip Stanisic, increasingly a first-team player for Bayern Munich and Croatia.

high goal

With 3.8 million people, less than Oklahoma, Croatia has the second-smallest population of the 13 European nations at the World Cup (only Wales has fewer people).

Despite its relatively small size, Croatia is a regular at major tournaments, missing just one World Cup since finishing third in its first round in 1998 after beating Yugoslavia.

Croatia’s recipe for success includes a passionate soccer fanbase and youth academies at clubs like Champions League regulars Dinamo Zagreb.

Strong ties with the Croatian diaspora abroad have helped Croatia count on players like Rakitic, who was born and raised in Switzerland, or Stansic and young Austrian-born midfielder Luka Sucic.

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