Croatia: Are they the World Cup’s dark horses?

Zlatko Dalić’s men have won all three of their games so far and face Denmark in the last 16.

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Reuters/HANNAH MCKAY

In World Cup qualifying, Croatia were arguably the favourite to qualify from their group but they ended up second behind Iceland.

They began their campaign with Ante Cacic, but he was sacked rather hastily and replaced by Dalic who has turned Croatia into quite the juggernaut.

During his tenure so far he has taken charge of ten games, winning seven and losing just two of them. That included a vital 4-1 playoff victory against Greece in the playoffs. 

At the World Cup, they have gone from strength to strength with three wins from three games and looking very impressive in the process.

Argentina hammering

Immediately when the World Cup draw was made everyone pinned Argentina as the group winners and really the rest of the group would be battling for second place. 

As matchday two rolled around, Croatia faced Argentina in a huge game that would likely determine who would win the group.

Reuters/MATTHEW CHILDS

What followed was arguably the most impressive performance at the World Cup as they dismantled one of the pre-tournament favourites with considerable ease.

Ante Rebic got the party started just after half-time, as he capitalised on a Willy Caballero mistake.

Luka Modric then scored a screamer on 80 minutes to double their advantage before his midfield partner Ivan Rakitic scored the third goal.

The performance proved that Croatia are maybe a little better than the pundits give them credit for and their midfield two of Modric and Rakitic are the strongest of any side in the whole competition.

While Argentina were hopeless in this game, they were stifled by Croatia and their gameplan. 

Denmark next

By the time the last 16 comes, every side left in the tournament is a tricky one. Denmark are no different.

Reuters/CARLOS BARRIA

They conceded just one goal in the groups and look defensively rock-solid. They have lacked quality going forward, but Christian Eriksen has always got a stunning moment in him to turn any tight game in his favour.

But Croatia should have more than enough to get past Denmark and make it to the quarter-final. All across the pitch, they look stronger, with better midfielders and a star striker that Denmark could only dream of in Mario Mandzukic. 

Spain or Russia await in the quarters

If Croatia gets past Denmark, then they will run into either the hosts Russia or one of the tournament favourites Spain. 

With Russia, they would have to deal with essentially being essentially an away side as the home Russian support would be ferocious in such a huge game.

Spain would offer the more difficult tie, but they have proved to be very mortal so far at the tournament with draws against Portugal and Morocco coupled with a narrow victory against Iran. 

They could be a very different proposition at this stage, but Croatia certainly have nothing to fear against Spain.

Quality players

The final reason why Croatia are the dark horse for the tournament is the quality they possess all over the park.

In defence Dejan Lovren and Sime Vrsaljko offer quality and big game experience. Modric and Rakitic are arguably the two best central midfielders at the competition and can run any game against any midfield.

Reuters/HANNAH MCKAY

Ivan Perisic is a quality footballer who has been continually linked with moves to the elite European clubs because of his abilities.

Finally, Mario Mandzukic represents an experienced striker capable of scoring the big goals.

This is a team that deserves to be taken seriously at the World Cup and they could well be a shock contender to win the whole competition. 

Do you think Croatia have a chance of winning the World Cup? Let us know in the comments below.

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