International tournaments are renowned for their dark horses. Although Croatia was tipped a country with the capacity to do some damage, they may be even more powerful than that. With an arsenal of watertight midfielders, attacking prowess and a regimented goalkeeper, it’s time to mark Croatia contenders for winning Euro 2016.
Euro 2016: Croatia Contenders
Triumph Against the Turkish
Perhaps it’s a long shot, but Ante Čačić’s squad is a particularly capable bunch, not least with its talisman, Luka Modrić. With his fiery shots alone, the team have a staggering chance of getting out of the group stage. The Real Madrid midfielder wouldn’t don a jersey for the Spanish elite if he didn’t pack some kind of punch. In Croatia’s opening game of the tournament, he walloped a volley right into the back of the net. Turkey’s hopes of a victory became out of reach. Although Croatia only seized a 1-0 triumph, it certainly showed their deft creativity. It also demonstrated that they weren’t about to fritter many chances.
Captain, Darijo Srna, also enjoyed a decent game against the fairly dogged Turkish outfit. The 34-year-old still has what it takes to lead his team. However, there were three other men that showed off tremendously that game, despite the low score line. Ivan Perišić, Ivan Rakitić and Marcelo Brozović absolutely shone. It was from that moment – the calculation of this handful of sheer talent – that Croatia showed they could really be contenders.
Why so Confident?
It isn’t so much aerial prowess and undeniable ability with both feet that make me so trusting of their capability. It’s their determination that really makes them look like they could go far. Impeccably timed runs from Perišić and Rakitić are in abundance, whilst the skillful footwork and clean bills of possession from Modrić are just breathtaking sights. This is a solid team with a lot to show.
Of course, one has to factor in how absolutely wowing it was to witness the relentlessness of Vedran Ćorluka. The man sustained a head injury during the first half against Turkey, but he didn’t quit. Bandaged up like an extra from The Mummy, he continued. Great passes, strong runs and flawless linking-up with his teammates persisted into the second half.
Although we’re yet to see his magnificence in full swing, let’s not forget Mario Mandžukić. The Juventus striker once usurped the place of Mario Gomez within a thriving Bayern Munich side – and for the better. His height always helps, but he boasts incredible ball control and a stealthy shot happy to knock a keeper’s concentration. He is the man we’re yet to see in actual beast mode. This only leaves Croatia in a stronger position; when he goes for goal, he really goes.
But Could They Really Win?
On Friday, Croatia were set to beat their opponents again. However, through a mass storming in the second half, the Czech Republic totally upset the bets and levelled the match, ending the fixture in a tied 2-2. This is the sort of mismanagement and perhaps carelessness of a team that really had it in the bag. It’s a concern and shame really, because now their initial convincing appearance has been slightly tainted. The fan hooliganism in the same game also won’t have aided their cause. With reports of a fine, morale might be dented.
Granted, the team has areas that need shaping up, and Modrić has been inflicted with injury, but Croatia still stand tall. They have a fantastic line-up of extremely deft players. The also have the ability to stir up their rivals with their grit and calibre. Although it’s just a bit premature to tell, they only sit second behind Spain in their group. So, one should still consider Croatia contenders.