EURO 2024 Team Preview: Croatia's Quest for Glory in Luka Modric's Possible Farewell Campaign


Once again, Croatia go into an international tournament as the dark horse to go all the way.

They are never among the favourites when it comes to major competitions, yet they have a knack of springing a surprise and causing the larger nations trouble when it comes to crunch time.  

At Euro 2024, they are the third favourites to progress out of their group – this year’s ‘Group of Death’ – including Spain, Italy and Albania. 

Germany could be seen as a last chance saloon for Croatia, given that Luka Modric – one of the finest midfielders in the world for well over a decade – is likely to be playing in his final tournament for his country. 

Ahead of Euro 2024, Mail Sport takes you through everything you need to know about Croatia, including how they qualified, their history in the tournament and which stars to look out for.

Croatia again pose a dangerous opposition for any nation they come across this summer

Croatia again pose a dangerous opposition for any nation they come across this summer

It will likely be Luka Modric's final international competition, given he will turn 39 this year

It will likely be Luka Modric’s final international competition, given he will turn 39 this year

Who is the manager?

Zlatko Dalic is entering his fourth international tournament as Croatia manager. 

After seven years in the Middle East, Dalic was appointed as manager in October 2017 after Ante Cacic was sacked. 

At the time, Dalic said he would only stay in the position if Croatia reached the following year’s World Cup.

That is something they accomplished, and they were only one step away from shocking the world and winning the tournament. 

The job he has done since then has continued to be impressive, though questions will arise over whether it’s time for a change if Croatia don’t perform at the Euros – given they were underwhelming during the qualifying process.

It feels in some ways that Croatia are approaching an end of an era with the likes of Modric nearing international retirement, so this will be a massive competition for Dalic.

Zlatko Dalic has impressed over his seven years as Croatia manager, particularly in the World Cup

Zlatko Dalic has impressed over his seven years as Croatia manager, particularly in the World Cup

Who is their star man?

Special mentions to Man City pair Mateo Kovacic and Josko Gvardiol, as well as Andrej Kramaric who scored 17 goals for Hoffenheim and topped the scoring for Croatia in the qualifiers, but there’s only one selection here, surely?

Luka Modric is set to play in his ninth, and likely final, major international competition for Croatia. 

The 38-year-old might be approaching the end of his career, but he is still playing at an incredibly high level, making 45 appearances for Real Madrid this season. 

He is no longer the regular starter for Los Blancos, but he is still the influential heartbeat of the Croatia midfield, and if this is his final international tournament, he will be determined to go out with a bang.

This tournament could be the last for the likes of Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Perisic and Domagoj Vida as well – who have been stalwarts of the Croatian national team over recent years.

Though they are in a tough group, Croatia are a dangerous opposition who can frustrate the biggest sides and perhaps go deep into the competition.

Luka Modric is no longer a regular starter at Real Madrid but is still the heartbeat of the Croatian midfield

Luka Modric is no longer a regular starter at Real Madrid but is still the heartbeat of the Croatian midfield

Croatia are a dangerous opposition who could go a long way into the tournament despite a tough group

Croatia are a dangerous opposition who could go a long way into the tournament despite a tough group

How did they qualify?

Croatia were the last team to book an automatic qualification spot at Euro 2024 – pipping Wales who then went on to lose in the play-offs. 

They looked in a comfortable position to make the tournament until back-to-back defeats to Turkey and Wales left them level on points with the latter – with only two games to play. 

Victories over Latvia and Armenia proved enough though for Dalic’s side, as the Welsh were held to two consecutive draws.  

This marks Croatia’s sixth successive appearance at the European Championship. 

Ante Dudimir celebrates after scoring the goal to send Croatia through to this summer's Euros

Ante Dudimir celebrates after scoring the goal to send Croatia through to this summer’s Euros

Fixtures (all UK time)

Croatia vs Spain – Saturday June 15 (5pm, Berlin)

Croatia vs Albania  – Wednesday June 19 (2pm, Hamburg)

Croatia vs Italy – Monday June 24 (8pm, Leipzig)

Tournament history

Croatia played their first tournament in 1996, having previously been part of Yugoslavia up until the qualifying stages for the 1992 edition.  

They reached the quarter-finals at Euro 96 – which along with Euro 2008 – is still the best they have performed in this competition.

Despite reaching the final of the World Cup in 2018, and finishing third in Qatar four years later, their last two efforts at the European Championship have not been as impressive.

They were knocked out by France at Euro 2016 in the Round of 16, and at the same stage at Euro 2020 by Spain.  

Croatia lost to Germany in the quarter-finals of their first European Championship in 1996

Croatia lost to Germany in the quarter-finals of their first European Championship in 1996

At Euro 2020, Croatia were knocked out in the Round of 16 after a thrilling 5-3 loss to Spain

At Euro 2020, Croatia were knocked out in the Round of 16 after a thrilling 5-3 loss to Spain

Odds to win the trophy 

40/1 (Sky Bet)

Provisional squad (35 players)

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livakovic (Fenerbahçe), Ivica Ivusic (Pafos), Nediljko Labrovic (Rijeka), Dominik Kotarski (PAOK)

Defenders: Domagoj Vida (AEK Athens), Josip Juranovic (Union Berlin), Borna Barisic (Rangers), Josko Gvardiol (Manchester City, Duje Caleta-Car (Lyon), Borna Sosa (Ajax), Josip Stanisic (Bayer Leverkusen), Josip Sutalo (Ajax), Martin Erlic (Sassuolo), Marin Pongracic (Lecce), Niko Kristian Sigur (Hajduk Split)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Manchester City), Marcelo Brozovic (Al Nassr), Mario Pasalić (Atalanta), Nikola Vlasic (Torino), Lovro Majer (Wolfsburg), Luka Ivanušec (Feyenoord), Luka Sučić (Red Bull Salzburg), Kristijan Jakic (Augsburg), Martin Baturina (Dinamo Zagreb), Toni Fruk (Rijeka), Petar Sucic (Dinamo Zagreb)

Forwards: Ivan Perisic (Hajduk Split), Andrej Kramaric (1899 Hoffenheim), Bruno Petkovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Marko Pjaca (Rijeka), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Marco Pasalić (Rijeka), Marin Ljubicic (LASK), Igor Matanović (Karlsruher SC)



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