Regardless of what year it is, you think of Croatia, and you think of a side with some pretty decent players, but you never back them for a deep run at the World Cup.
That could change this year, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic supply a world class midfield, which is aided by Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic and Juventus front man Mario Mandzukic, making a side like Croatia a tricky customer in Russia.
With that much talent, whilst still maintaining an underdog status, Croatia are a superb choice for the World Cup update on FIFA 18. Can you take the Croats back to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 20 years.
It’s a four and half stars for Croatian on the World Cup update. This is made of an 81 attack, 82 midfield and 78 defence.
Croatia’s potential World Cup fixtures
Round of 16
Portugal or Uruguay
Brazil or Belgium
Spain or Germany
By no means an easy group, but Croatia will be backing themselves to at least finish second in Group D. Croatia are the best equipped to deal with the might of Argentina and will be confident of defeating both Nigeria and Iceland, despite finishing behind the Icelanders in their qualifying group.
If a second-place finish is secured, France will be waiting in the Round of 16. Les Bleus would be the hot favourites, but there is a chance for Croatia in that game. They can go toe-to-toe with the French in midfield, and they have the weapons to hurt them on the break, and at set pieces with Mandzukic’s aerial threat.
A win in the last 16 would open up the draw, and you would be rewarded with a clash against either Portugal or Uruguay. You will have developed some form by the quarter-finals, and should be confident in defeating either side.
A semi-final tie against Brazil or Belgium is a different prospect, and although it would be your most difficult match of the tournament so far, a victory is not out of the question. Keep things tight at the back and you may require some useful saves from ‘keeper Danijel Subasic but there is no reason why you cannot go through.
The final. Spain or Germany. This is where you feel the legs would come off for Croatia. But anything can happen in a final, so can you make history and win a first title with the nation on FIFA 18?
Croatia’s default formation is a 4-2-3-1 narrow, and we have expanded this to a 4-2-3-1 wide to spread the play.
Danijel Subasic is very useful in goal (84 GK reflexes) and he has a back four of Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Vedran Corluka and Ivan Strinic in front of him.
Mateo Kovacic and conductor Ivan Rakitic (90 long pass) are in defensive midfield, whilst Luka Modric (92 short pass) makes things happen in the final third from attacking midfield.
Andrej Kramaric and the sharp Ivan Perisic (87 sprint speed) provide the width, while target man Mario Mandzukic (90 heading accuracy) lines up in attack.
On the bench go for Lovre Kalinic, Domagoj Vida, Tin Jedvaj, Milan Badelj, Marcelo Brozovic, Marko Pjaca and Nikola Kalinic.
With your three central midfield players all playing for either Barcelona or Real Madrid, you must make the most of Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric. Look to use short, sharp interplay between them and consistently pass and move. Modric (90 vision) can pick out the runners from wide areas, with the deeper lying Rakitic (88 long shots) able to strike from range.
You must balance out the midfield though, and in playing all three of these talented players can leave you vulnerable in defence. You must therefore tell Kovacic to ‘stay back while attacking’ for attacking support on the instructions tab, despite his 87 dribbling stat.
Of course, with Mario Mandzukic up front you will want to swing plenty of balls into the box. To ensure he will always be available in the final third, change his support runs to ‘stay central’ and attacking runs to ‘target man’.
Mandzukic will need support in attack, and that should come from Andrej Kramaric, who is accustomed to playing out wide and as a conventional forward. Make sure the Hoffenheim man has ‘stay forward’ selected for defensive support and support on crosses is put to ‘get into box for cross’.
Time to make the talent count
It’s clear to see how much quality is in this Croatia squad, but you fear if they miss out on a deep run into the tournament this year, it may be some time before they will be able to again. With a kind group, they have to take advantage of it this year, but Croatia will need to beat one of the big boys if they are to go deep in the World Cup in Russia. It’s down to you to make sure that happens on FIFA 18.
Croatia squad player ratings
|Dominik Livakovic||22||GK||Dinamo Zagreb||65|
|Sime Vrsaljko||26||RB LB||Atletico Madrid||80|
|Vedran Corluka||32||CB||Lokomotiv Moscow||80|
|Domagoj Vida||29||CB RB||Besiktas||78|
|Ivan Strinic||30||LB||AC Milan||75|
|Tin Jedvaj||24||CB||Bayer Leverkusen||71|
|Duje Caleta-Car||21||CB||RB Salzburg||71|
|Antonio Milic||24||CB LB||Anderlecht||71|
|Marin Leovac||29||LB LM||Dinamo Zagreb||71|
|Josip Pivaric||29||LB LM||Dynamo Kyiv||68|
|Marko Barisic||25||LB LM||Hrvatski Dragovoljac||65|
|Marko Leskovic||27||CB||Dinamo Zagreb||64|
|Zoran Nizic||28||CB||Hajduk Split||63|
|Luka Modric||32||CM CDM CAM||Real Madrid||89|
|Ivan Rakitic||30||CM CDM||Barcelona||86|
|Mateo Kovacic||24||CM CDM||Real Madrid||81|
|Marcelo Brozovic||25||CM CDM||Inter Milan||80|
|Milan Badelj||29||CDM CM||Fiorentina||78|
|Marko Pjaca||23||LM CAM||Schalke||77|
|Marko Rog||22||CAM CM||Napoli||76|
|Mario Pasalic||23||CM CDM||AC Milan||75|
|Ante Coric||21||CAM LM||Roma||73|
|Domagoj Antolic||27||CM CDM||Legia Warsaw||67|
|Nikola Vlasic||20||RM CAM RW||Everton||67|
|Mario Mandzukic||32||ST LM||Juventus||83|
|Nikola Kalinic||30||ST||AC Milan||79|
|Franko Andrijasevic||26||ST CAM||Gent||76|
|Duje Cop||28||ST||Standard Liege||74|