Thursday, 15 September 2022

2022 Croatia National Team Kits Presented ahead of Nations League and World Cup

September 15, 2022 - The 2022 Croatia national team kits have been presented ahead of Croatia's upcoming Nations League matches later this month. 

The Croatian Football Federation and technical partner Nike presented the new Croatia national team kits with the legendary checkers, which the 2018 World Cup finalists will wear for the first time in the upcoming Nations League matches in September, announced HNS

The redesigned red and white home jersey and the away jersey inspired by nature will be worn by captain Luka Modrić and his teammates at the World Cup in Qatar, where the team will try to repeat the magic from 2018.

The first kit is inspired by the 'vatreno srco' theme (burning heart), perfectly fitting the passionate, hardworking, and fiery character of the Croatian people and the national team. It is a redesigned and modernized version of the checkers that has become a globally recognized symbol of Croatian pride. Unevenly arranged, the well-known design is revamped, with the HNS coat of arms proudly shining in the center of the jersey, next to the blue Nike logo.

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The away jersey further refines the iconic checkers through Croatia's natural beauty and national pride; in this case, they are blurred and wavy lines combining dark blue and turquoise colors designed to resemble the tides of the Adriatic Sea, whose waves wash over the Croatian coast. The stylistic patterns of surnames and numbers on the jerseys are also in the spirit of Croatian history and tradition, given that they are inspired by the historical Croatian Glagolitic script.

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"I am extremely proud that I had the privilege of wearing the beautiful Croatian jersey the most times, and I am looking forward to the new kit that follows the recognizable tradition. Those magical red and white checkers make the Croatian jersey the most recognizable in the world, and the new design reminds me a little of 1998 and the legendary team who inspired my generation. I really like the attractive design and colors on the away jersey, and I'm sure it will be very popular among our fans," said Croatia captain Luka Modrić.

Nike's innovative Dri-FIT ADV technology was used to make the new jerseys. They are made of one hundred percent recycled polyester from recycled plastic bottles, and their breathable material prevents excessive sweating and body heating.

Registered Nike customers can now buy the new collection on Nike.com, and it is also available for pre-order through the HNS webshop. In addition, the new Vatreni kit will be available in other authorized Nike stores from September 21.

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 10 June 2022

Luka Modrić's Wartime Refuge Revamped: Hotel Iž in Zadar Officially Opens as 'A'mare' in July

June 10, 2022 - The former Hotel Iž, where Luka Modrić and his family were housed during the Homeland War, will open as 'A'mare' hotel next month.

Renovations on the former Hotel Iž in Zadar are coming to an end, and in mid-July, it should open its doors as 'A'mare', reports Slobodna Dalmacija

"Every resident of Zadar and many of their guests have certainly heard of the hotel "Iž". Finally, after years of decay, one of the city’s icons will shine in a whole new light. 

To keep the heart of Zadar in the hotel, we came up with the name 'A'mare', which is synonymous with the famous historical heritage of the city, the amarena that marked many lives of Zadar families. The latest gem in the tourist offer opens its doors on July 1 and is looking for diligent, responsible, and ambitious people with the motivation to work in tourism," reads the advertisement from 'Green Tech Group' on the internet portal Moj Posao where they are looking for kitchen workers.

Behind Green Tech Group is a young Zadar entrepreneur Anthony Ninčević, son of the famous Mladen Ninčević, who also owns the hostel "4 You" in Zadar and Zagreb.

Recall, in the autumn of 2018, the Government decided to sell a majority stake in the former single military hotel Iž, where refugees lived during the Homeland War, including today's world-famous football player Luka Modrić and his family. It was sold to Ninčević's company for 11.47 million kuna.

The renovated tourist facility will have about a hundred rooms and a dozen four-star apartments. They will be able to accommodate about 250 guests.

Computer simulations of the future appearance of the kitchen and part of the hotel interior have also been published on the pages of the Moj Posao portal. The central hotel building has been renovated; a built-in elevator can be seen on the facade, while work on the annex - where the hotel's reception and restaurant will be - is in full swing to meet opening deadlines, more likely by mid-July.

At the end of the season, the plan is to continue the work on improving the hotel infrastructure. Namely, the owners are negotiating with the City about the conditions for arranging the square in front of the hotel. An underground garage should be built below it, and the square above is planned to be renovated and arranged following modern communal standards.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

 

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Luka Modrić Extends Real Madrid Contract until 2023!

June 8, 2022 - Luka Modrić has officially extended his Real Madrid contract until 2023, meaning the Croatian footballer will play with the Spanish club until he is 37 years old. 

Real Madrid has officially announced that the Croatia captain and star Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modrić has signed a new contract with the 'Royal' club until June 2023.

"I am happy and proud to continue wearing the Real Madrid jersey for at least another year. I want to keep giving everything I can to the club. I am proud to wear this jersey. Thank you for your support and love. Hala Madrid," said Luka during the signing and added:

"I am very happy to be able to continue playing for the best club in the world. It has been 10 years since I came here, and I continue with the same desire as on the first day."

Many predicted Modrić's departure from Real Madrid. Manchester City was mentioned and even the potential of playing in the USA. Fortunately, the Croatian footballer has at least another year left in him to play for the biggest club in the world. 

Modrić has been playing for Real Madrid since August 2012, when he was transferred from Tottenham Hotspur. The #10 midfielder has won 20 trophies with Real Madrid, five of which are the Champions League.

Modrić left the Croatia national team camp in Split yesterday and arrived in Madrid for today's ceremony. After signing the contract, he immediately flew to Split where he continued preparations for the matches against Denmark and France.

The Croatia national team player has collected 436 appearances for Real Madrid to date, with 31 goals and 73 assists.

During his time at Real Madrid, he became the best footballer in the world in 2018 and won all of the individual awards that a footballer can win. 

Real Madrid won the Champions League, the Spanish Championship (La Liga), and the Super Cup this year.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated sports section

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Luka Modrić Wins 5th Champions League, Extends Real Madrid Contract!

May 29, 2022 - Croatian legend Luka Modrić wins the fifth Champions League of his career with Real Madrid after beating Liverpool 1-0 in Paris. To celebrate, he has extended his contract until June 2023!

Yesterday, Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final in Paris with a goal from Vinicius Jr. in the 59th minute. This way, the team from the Spanish capital achieved its 14th European Cup in its history, greatly lengthening the difference with the rest of the continent's clubs. Some players from the squad, such as Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Nacho Fernández, Marcelo, Isco, Casemiro, and Gareth Bale added the 5th Champions League trophy to their showcase, after winning the first one in 2014 in Lisbon. Likewise, Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti became the first coach in history to win four Champions League titles, two with AC Milan (2002-03 and 2006-07) and two with Real Madrid (2013-14 and 2021-22).

The captain of the Croatian national team, Luka Modrić, is also among the select group of footballers with five Champions League titles to his name. The 36-year-old Zadar-born midfielder played 90 minutes of the match before being replaced by Dani Ceballos. Luka has been considered by many journalists, fans, and even players from other teams as one of the architects of this new title for Real Madrid. Prior to playing the match against Liverpool, Luka stood out in the previous matches against Paris Saint Germain in the round of 16, against Chelsea in the quarter-finals, and against Manchester City in the semi-finals, showing that his great form doesn't seem to wear off over the years.

Luka played all 13 games in the European competition, where he gave 4 assists and received just one yellow card. The Croatian ends his tenth season with Real Madrid in a great way, winning both the Spanish league and the UEFA Champions League, as well as being a decisive piece in Carlo Ancelotti's team.

And the good news, both for Luka and for Real Madrid, did not end there. As confirmed by the Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano, for many considered the most reliable source in terms of football transfers, Luka has signed the extension of his contract with Real Madrid for one more year, until June 2023, pending an official club statement. Luka will now join the Croatian squad ahead of the Nations League matches against Austria, France, and Denmark.

Congratulations Luka!

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Luka Modrić to Become Face of SofaScore Sports Application

Maya 21, 2022 - The 'maestro' of Croatia and Real Madrid will be the face of the SofaScore sports application. 

Luka Modrić, captain of the Croatia national football team and superstar midfielder for Real Madrid, is becoming the face of the SofaScore sports application, reports Gol.hr

"We have agreed on the best Croatian footballer, and negotiations for MMA and cricket are underway. We want every sport represented in the application to represent the best Croatian athlete. For some sports, such as cricket, it is difficult to find prominent Croatians, but we are trying to find the best local representative for each sport," said Zlatko Hrkać, director and co-founder of Sofa IT, on the show Entrepreneurial Mindset.

The SofaScore app currently has 22 million users worldwide and has become an important tool in the hands of athletes, their coaches and agents, and sports journalists.

"The algorithm processes the data and based on the statistics the players get ratings. What matters to the players is what Sofa says. If they are satisfied, they share our ratings on social media. Since there is a lot of money involved in transfers, Sofa is also important to agents. We have become a relevant source of data for 67 media in 60 countries," says Hrkać, who founded Sofa IT with Ivan Bešlić.

The application now includes 23 sports. Football is the most popular, but in some countries tennis, basketball, volleyball, and cricket are also followed with great interest.

"Everything is revealed by TV broadcasts. What television broadcasts is popular. We are number 1 in Brazil. We have many users in football nations, we are doing well in Italy, France, and the United Kingdom, but also in Nigeria and Kenya. Americans usually follow one team in one sport. It is different in Europe. Croatians follow football and water polo and skiing. We follow everything we are good in," Hrkać revealed.

To read more about sports in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Luka Modrić Wins Marca Leyenda Award for Outstanding Career in Spain

May 19, 2022 - Luka Modrić received the Marca Leyenda award, given by the respected Spanish newspaper to the best sports professionals in Spain.

Croatia captain Luka Modrić has been awarded another great recognition for his impressive career. On Wednesday, Modrić received the Marca Leyend award, given by the respected Spanish newspaper to the best sports professionals in Spain.

Luka arrived in the company of his wife, Vanja Modrić, and was accompanied by the director of Marca. The Modrić couple shone on the red carpet, took photos, and headed to their seats.

Luka walked into the hall of the Madrid casino through a line of kids in Real Madrid jerseys on one side and Croatia jerseys on the other. In his introductory words, he said that he was very emotional to receive this award, given to legends like Messi and Ronaldo.

"I am aware of what the people at Real want from me; it is clear that this is something amazing, and I am very grateful for that love. I will do my best in every game to reciprocate that love. Real Madrid is everything to me. This is my home; I am very happy here. I am living these moments, and they make me very happy. I am just another 'Madridista; it's for life," said Modrić.

Former Croatia captain Zvonimir Boban and another Real Madrid legend, Emilio Butragueno, sent him a message at the award ceremony, calling Modrić, a real example for children.

"Modrić has spent many beautiful days in football; he is a special player, a special man, an exceptional person. He gave us exceptional football beauty, but becoming Marca's legend is something few of them experience. This award remains with him forever. Marca is a mythical world newspaper, not only in Spain but like Luka, in the world. We Croats are proud of you, Luka," said Boban. 

After six Croatian championships with Dinamo, the Croatia captain has won 19 trophies in the Real Madrid jersey. He also left a deep mark at Tottenham, and in 2018 he led the national team to the World Cup silver medal, where he was named the best player in the World Cup for the Golden Ball.

Luka posted a photo of the award on Instagram, where he was congratulated by Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Lucas Vazquez, Isco, Narco Asensio, Iker Casillas, Mladen Petrić, and many others.

Source: HNS

To read more about sports in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Friday, 13 May 2022

Luka Modrić Records Historic 3 Real Madrid Assists in Single Match

Maay 13, 2022 - Luka Modrić recorded a historic three Real Madrid assists in a single match - a first-time feat after 434 appearances for the Royal club!

In the 36th round of the Spanish football championship La Liga, Real Madrid defeated Levante 6-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. But what makes this result even more unique is that three assists came from Luka Modrić.

With this defeat, Levante was left without a mathematical prospect to stay in the First League two rounds before the end of the championship.

It was another great performance of the new Spanish champion as Real Madrid celebrated thanks to triple scorer Vinicius Junior and triple assistant Luka Modrić.

For the first time in 434 appearances in Real Madrid's jersey, Modrić recorded three assists in one match. The last Real player to do so was James Rodríguez against Rayo Vallecano seven years ago.

This season, the Croatia captain recorded 13 assists in all competitions for Real Madrid and he also scored three goals.

Let's add that Benzema reached 323 goals in Real's jersey, tying for second place in the club rankings with Raul. In front of them is only Cristiano Ronaldo with 450 goals.

The 'Royal club' took the lead in the 13th minute with a goal by Ferland Mendy on Modrić's pass. Six minutes later, Karim Benzema scored for 2-0, this time assisted by Vinicius Junior.

By the end of the first half, Real scored two more goals, both assisted by the captain of the Croatia national team - in the 34th for Rodrygo, and in the 45th for Vinicius Junior.

Real continued to dominate in the 68th minute when Junior scored his second goal of the game, and in the 83rd minute, he scored a hat-trick for the final 6-0. Modrić played until the 75th minute when he was replaced by Peter Gonzalez.

Real Madrid leads the table with an unattainable 84 points, Barcelona is second with 72 points, while Atletico Madrid is third with 67 points. Sevilla (66)a and Real Betis (61) follow.

Levante remains at the bottom with 29 points, six less than Cadiz, which is in 17th and ensures salvation. However, Cadiz is better head-to-head (2-0, 1-1), so there is no hope for Levante.

Source: Gol.hr

To read more about sports in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Luka Modrić Celebrates 19th Real Madrid Trophy as LaLiga Title Clinched

April 30, 2022 - Real Madrid has become the Spanish champion for the 35th time, clinching the LaLiga title today against Espanyol.

A year ago, Real Madrid was left without a title in the last round, but this season looked a bit different. 

In the 34th round of LaLiga, Real Madrid beat Espanyol (4-0) at home and thus, for the 35th time in history, secured the Spanish title. Second-placed Sevilla is 17 points behind and Barcelona is -18 with a game less. Even if they celebrate on Sunday, they cannot theoretically overthrow Madrid.

Rodrygo scored two goals for 2-0 Madrid at halftime, followed by Asensio and Benzema goals in the 55th and 81st minutes for the final 4-0. 

On Wednesday, Real Madrid and Manchester City will play in the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals, meaning Ancelotti didn't want to exhaust his most important players. Luka Modric played until the 60th minute.

This title is special for Real in many ways. Brazilian footballer Marcelo has gone down in history as the most trophy-winning footballer in the club’s history with 24 trophies, and nothing could have passed without Don Carlo getting another column in the history books. He became the first coach in history to win a championship in all five leagues! He succeeded with Milan, Chelsea, PSG, Bayern, and now Real Madrid.

Croatian maestro Luka Modrić will remember this as the day he won his 19th trophy with Real Madrid, making him the fifth most trophy-winning player in the club's history.

Luka made history with Real Madrid and won four Champions Leagues, three of them in a row. This is Luka's third La Liga title, while he has also won one Cup, four Club World Cups, three Uefa Super Cups, and four Spanish Super Cups. 

Modrić came to Madrid in 2012, and while he had a rough start, he became one of the best ever to wear the Royal jersey.

Modrić has played 431 games and scored 31 goals with 70 assists so far. This season, he's played a total of 38 games - and that's all at 36. 

Source: 24Sata

To read more about sports in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Saturday, 16 April 2022

Captains: Luka Modrić to Feature in New FIFA+ TV Series, Netflix Also Interested

April 16, 2022 - Croatia national team captain will feature in a new FIFA+ series called Captains, which has also caught the attention of Netflix. 

Fifa has launched the FIFA + digital platform, which allows free viewing of rich content to football fans around the world, reports 24 Sata.

The series "Captains" will soon be available on the platform, which follows six captains behind the scenes as they lead their countries through the qualifications for the World Cup in Qatar, including Croatia's fierce leader Luka Modrić.

The series explores the leadership qualities of each individual but also the different roles of captains, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), Brian Kaltak (Vanuatu), Andre Blake (Jamaica), Hassan Maatouk (Lebanon), and Thiago Silva (Brazil) in addition to Modrić.

At the age of 36, Modrić remains the engine of Real Madrid and the Croatia national team, and one of the main reasons why Netflix, one of the world's largest streaming services, showed interest in the FIFA documentary. As 24 Sata has learned, they are in advanced negotiations with FIFA, and the mentioned series will probably be found on that popular streaming platform as well.

The Netflix streaming service has already released super-successful documentaries about Michael Jordan, Michael Schumacher, and Formula 1, to name a few.

The series will, among other things, feature never-before-released footage from Luka's childhood, details from his private life, and viewers will be able to see first-hand the atmosphere within the national team during their hunt for the World Cup in Qatar.

According to 24 Sata, Luka expressed regret that the cameras did not film Croatia's path to the silver medal at the World Cup in Russia. Still, this series should also arouse great interest among viewers.

Equally, FIFA+ will soon release a feature-length documentary, "Croatia: Defining the Nation," by acclaimed director Louis Myles, which talks about how football unites and connects the Croatian people and a group of friends who have gained global recognition in the face of extreme hardships. Each of them became a legend and painted their country around the world.

The film tells many stories of Croatia's bronze national team in 1998, such as Davor Šuker's Golden Boot at the 1998 World Cup, and the captain of the national team at that time, Zvonimir Boban. 

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

World Cup and Croatia: 5 Reasons to Dream of Glory (Again)

April 3, 2022 - The Vatreni already know their rivals for the biggest football event to be held in Qatar this year, and there are reasons to believe that Modrić and company can add yet another page to the wonderful history between the World Cup and Croatia.

There is no easy rival in the World Cup, and this should be well known by now. It doesn't matter what path took you to the biggest stage in football, once you're there all you think about is winning and advancing as far as you can. If not, ask Croatia in 1998 and twenty years later, in 2018. To qualify for the World Cup in France, Croatia had to play a two-game playoff against Ukraine, after finishing second in their qualifying group behind Denmark. They beat the Ukrainians 3-1 on aggregate, and destiny led them to finish third in their first-ever World Cup finals.

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The Croatian national team, led by ''Ćiro'' Blažević, reached third place in France '98. (Image: Croatian Football Federation)

Unlike other national teams, Croatia's qualifying history has not been constant. After the success in France, Croatia qualified directly for the World Cups in Korea-Japan in 2002, and Germany in 2006. However, they would miss the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and again would need the playoffs to qualify for the World Cups in Brazil in 2014 and the most recent in Russia in 2018. Little or nothing Messi's Argentina, host Russia or Harry Kane's England would have imagined, that the Croats did not travel to Russia on vacation. They had a mission, and this led them to overcome what was done by Šuker, Boban, or Prosinečki twenty years before that. Croatia, defying the odds, reached the final of a World Cup.

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Croatia could not beat France in the World Cup final in Russia, but the second place achieved will always be remembered. (Photo: PIXSELL)

Can Croatia repeat a memorable feat? We think so, and here are 5 reasons why you should too.

Group draw

Two days ago, the draw for the group stage of the World Cup in Qatar was held. Croatia, despite coming second in the previous World Cup and finishing first in their qualifying group, was placed in Pot 2 of the draw. Those led by Dalić could not avoid playing against teams such as Brazil, France, Argentina, or Spain, but they could avoid others such as the Netherlands or Germany, also in Pot 2. Thus, the chances for Croatia to be put in a theoretical ‘‘group of death’’ were low.

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Image: @FIFAWorldCup/Twitter

Croatia will be in Group F, with the Belgian team as the leader, and where they will be joined by Canada and Morocco. I would like, at this moment, to remember the first thing I said at the very beginning: there is no easy rival in the World Cup. Oh yes, I've read loads of people on social media saying "not bad" or that it is an "affordable group for Croatia". The reality is that we are up against Morocco, a team that has matured since the last World Cup in Russia and one of the toughest in Africa. While the absence of Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea) may sound motivating for many, the Moroccans still have a group of talented players such as Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), Achraf Hakimi (PSG), Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina), Adel Taarabt (Benfica), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla), or the very young Ez Abde, from Barcelona B.

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Croatia's first World Cup match will be against Morocco on November 23 at Al Bayt Stadium. (Image: @EnMaroc/Twitter)

Canada might sound to many like the rival to beat, but don't underestimate that the Canadians finished the CONCACAF standings in the first place and very comfortably ahead of more experienced teams like the United States, Mexico, or Costa Rica. The North American country will be looking to bring out the best in a golden generation that includes the likes of Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Jonathan David (Lille), and Cyle Larin (Besiktas).

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Croatia's second game will be against Canada on November 27 at the Khalifa International Stadium. (Image: @CanadaSoccerEN/Twitter)

Finally, Belgium will surely be Croatia's big test, and many believe that it will be between them who will go through to the round of 16 as group leader. But despite the fact that some point out the bad moment and the injuries of Eden Hazard at Real Madrid, the lack of continuity of Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea, or the departure of emblematic defenders such as Vincent Kompany or Thomas Vermaelen, the truth is that the Belgian team also has reasons to go far. A team that has Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Yannick Carrasco (Atlético Madrid), Axel Witsel and Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund) at the peak of their football maturity, as well as many youngsters who will refresh the team with their mischief, like Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Alexis Saelemaekers (Milan), Albert Sambi Lokonga (Arsenal) or Jérémy Doku (Rennes), is a team to bet on as World Cup champions. In 2018, they were the third-place team behind Croatia.

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Croatia will close the group stage against Belgium on December 1 at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium. (Image: @BelRedDevils/Twitter)

So if the group is not as easy as we thought, why would it be a reason to dream? Although I insist that confidence comes from not underestimating the rivals but instead being cautious, other groups have more even teams. Group E has Spain, Germany, and Japan (waiting for Costa Rica and New Zealand). Group H has Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea, and Ghana. Croatia will first play Morocco, then Canada, and will play the last game of the group stage against Belgium. If Croatia believes in its chances, it could arrive with six points to face the Belgians and fight for first place in the group. But, of course, those six points must be won first, and for that, they will have to be at the same level as the Moroccans and the Canadians.

A new generation of Croatian football players

Something that surprised (and saddened) everyone after the World Cup in Russia was the retirement from the national team of many players who were part of that wonderful team that got second place: Danijel Subašić, Vedran Ćorluka, Ivan Rakitić or Mario Mandžukić. Likewise, some starting players have been left out due to physical problems, such as Ivan Strinić, or behavior, such as Ante Rebić.

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Mario Mandžukić and Ivan Rakitić, two key players who are no longer part of the Croatian national team. (Photo: Igor Kralj/PIXSELL)

It is difficult to deny the negative impact of their absences on the Croatian team, and this could be seen in the subsequent Nations League (2018-19 and 2020-21) and Euro 2020, where it seemed that Dalić's team could not find a way to cover their exits.

But the Croatian team, especially in the second part of the World Cup qualifying phase, seems to have found several young players who will make their debut in the top competition, and nourish the team with their energy and desire. Dominik Livaković (Dinamo Zagreb) in goal, defenders Borna Sosa (Stuttgart), Joško Gvardiol (RB Leipzig), and Josip Juranović (Celtic), midfielders Nikola Vlašić (West Ham), Nikola Moro (Dynamo Moscow), and Lovro Majer (Rennes), and striker Josip Brekalo (Torino) are some of the players who will complement the more experienced players.

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Lovro Majer (left) and Joško Gvardiol (right), two young Croatian players who are called to renew the national team with their youth and projection. (Photo: Josip Regovic/PIXSELL)

Likewise, and despite not being as young as those already mentioned, some players who did not go to the last World Cup will also have the opportunity to bring the best of their talent and experience to the Croatian team. Marko Livaja (Hajduk Split) and Mislav Oršić (Dinamo Zagreb) shine in the Croatian First League and will help Vatreni regain offensive power with their fighting spirit.

In the last games that gave Croatia the qualifying ticket, these players showed not only to be decisive but also made it clear that they are ready for any football challenge. Many of them are starters for their clubs and in competitive leagues, and some of them are even starters for the national team. Let's hope Dalić gives them the opportunities they need to shine and gain experience.

Experience all around the field

And while many of the players who achieved the epic in Russia are no longer in the squad, Croatia will need more than ever of those who stayed. Croatia will need their leadership, their experience, and their hunger for revenge. An extremely young team is not always good, and neither is a team with a lack of renovation. But Croatia seems to have found that balance, and in all lines.

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Marcelo Brozović, the undisputed midfield leader at Inter Milan who became champions of Serie A in the 2020-21 season. (Photo: Milan Sabic/PIXSELL)

The good news for Dalić is that several of the players who were in Russia, despite now being four years older, are in even better sporting form than they were back then. Marcelo Brozović has established himself as the decisive player in Inter Milan's midfield, ending Juventus' reign in Serie A last year and fighting for a second consecutive Scudetto this season. Also at Inter, Ivan Perišić has managed to maintain his status as a starter, and despite the passing of the years, Ivan continues to be a benchmark in the Neroazzurro attack, as he proved himself by winning the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League during his loan spell at Bayern Munich.

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The last seasons of Mateo Kovačić at Chelsea have been spectacular and he is called to be the companion of Modrić and Brozović in the Croatian midfield after the retirement of Ivan Rakitić. (Photo: Igor Kralj/PIXSELL)

Mateo Kovačić, who played a more secondary role in 2018, is now indisputable in Thomas Tuchel's plans at Chelsea, with whom he won the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League, in a midfield that also includes players like Kante, Jorginho, or Saul. Many fans of the London team consider him not only his favorite but also the best. In defense, Dalić still has Domagoj Vida and Dejan Lovren, who in 2018 showed the world their valuable fighting spirit on the field, something that they can still pass on to the younger players.

World Cup calendar

Due to the high temperatures in Qatar between June and July, the usual format of the World Cup will change for the first time in its history. Now, the opening match will be on November 21, while the final will be on December 18. Previously, the group draw was held in December, six months before the start of the tournament. This year, the qualified teams already know their rivals with more than eight months to go until the start of the World Cup. Also, after the draw in December, the players used to face only the second part of the season and some friendlies before integrating with their national team in June.

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Contrary to previous editions, the World Cup will take place between November and December, and the draw for the group stage will take place in April. (Image: @HNS_CFF/Twitter)

In this way, Zlatko Dalić not only has two additional months to evaluate his players well before making a final decision on his squad in October or November, but he will do so by playing high-competition matches such as the Nations League, in a group that they make up France and Denmark (qualified for the World Cup in Qatar) and Austria, which reached the playoffs. Thus, some players who were not part of the qualifying process from the beginning will have more opportunities to show that they can be decisive in Dalić's tactics. Sometimes four friendlies before the World Cup are not enough to draw any conclusions about line-ups and strategies.

On the other hand, the Croatian players will play two different seasons before the start of the World Cup: the second part of the 2021-22 season, and the first part of the 2022-23 season. This can be beneficial for three main reasons. First of all, some players who are currently not playing many games as starters (Nikola Vlašić at West Ham or Šime Vrsaljko at Atletico Madrid), can solve their situation with a transfer or loan to another team during the summer, and from this way to pick up more form by playing more games.

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Croatia already knows its rivals eight months before the start of the World Cup, enough time to study them and prepare. (Photo: Igor Kralj/PIXSELL)

Secondly, some players like Ivan Perišić at Inter, Mateo Kovačić with the current problems at Chelsea, or Dejan Lovren at Zenit, can resolve the contracts with their current clubs, and thus become more focused on the field and the Croatian national team.

Finally, and taking into account the competitiveness of the second part of the season, many football players used to miss the World Cup in June as there was not much time to recover from their injuries, some even minor. If it were the case (hopefully not) that a Croatian player suffered an injury in these months, it is possible that they could recover before the World Cup in November, especially considering the rest months between June and July.

The Croatian national team has everything to arrive in good physical condition and great concentration in November, and Dalić to decide on a harmonious line-up and strategy, which could help them face their rivals in Group F with a lot of preparation.

One of the Best Players in the World

Croatia did not get third place in France '98 with a single player, nor the second place of Russia in 2018. Football is a team sport, and to win a World Cup eleven players is not enough, but a complete squad with players committed to a common goal. That is the reason why Croatia reached the final against France before other teams like Argentina, Portugal, or Brazil.

However, if in your squad you have a uniquely talented player, an undisputed figure in one of the best football clubs in history, a leader with 16 years of experience in the national team, and an endless fighting spirit when it comes to attacking and defending even in the 120th minute, it is enough to motivate an entire country and make them believe that they can go very far. Some still believe to this day that Luka Modrić received the 2018 World Cup best player trophy, the Ballon d'Or, and FIFA The Best as consolation after losing the final against France. If his season with Real Madrid (where he was decisive in winning the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League) and his goals and performance in the 2018 World Cup were not enough, Luka has shown them today that he is more relevant than ever and one could even say that he's in the best moment of his career.

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Luka Modrić will play his fourth and last World Cup at the age of 37 and in great shape. (Photo: Luka Stanzl/PIXSELL)

Since he secured a place in Real Madrid's starting eleven in the 2013-14 season with Ancelotti (winning the UEFA Champions League along the way), no player has been able to take his place. Along the years, Luka has seen how several midfielders have come, gone, and stayed: Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Özil, Asier Illarramendi, Isco, James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos, Martin Odegaard, Casemiro, Dani Ceballos, Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga... but the Croatian has always been a constant, and has recently reached an agreement with Real Madrid to extend his contract even further.

Luka will arrive at the World Cup at the age of 37, probably being one of the oldest among all players. However, and as has been shown in this season of the Spanish La Liga (where Real Madrid is close to winning the title with a great difference in points over their rivals) and in the UEFA Champions League, the Croatian captain is in a great moment of form and with intact talent and technique. Also, Modrić's style of play and his position on the pitch are essential for the team's performance. Some rely on goalkeepers, central defenders, or even forwards as the star of the team, but Croatia sees having a player who is among the best in the world in attacking and defensive work as the key to success.

Luka assists, scores goals, recovers balls, and, above all, leads his team by example and attitude. This will be his last World Cup for him, and we are sure that he will want to say goodbye to the national team in the best possible way and with him a team with talented players who will help him lead Croatia back to glory.

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