HomeFeatured ArticlesEURO 2024 Preview: Can Luka Modric Lead Croatia to Glory?

EURO 2024 Preview: Can Luka Modric Lead Croatia to Glory?

Croatia at Euro 2024: Can Modric’s Army March Deep Again?

Croatia’s run to the World Cup semi-finals in Qatar has set a high bar. With a squad brimming with experience but lacking youthful exuberance, can Zlatko Dalic’s veterans defy Father Time and pull off another surprise at Euro 2024?

Dalic: The Unexpected Hero

Zlatko Dalic wasn’t exactly the odds-on favourite to lead Croatia to glory when he took the reins in 2017. Back then, managing Slaven Belupo and clubs in the Middle East seemed a far cry from international success. However, defying expectations is what Dalic does best. He guided Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final and another podium finish in Qatar, securing his place as a national hero.

Photo: IMAGO

Dalic’s Croatia are built on a foundation of solidity. They play a possession-based 4-3-3, concede few goals, and grind out results. A devout Catholic who carries a rosary during matches, Dalic is a man of strong convictions, recently extending his contract until the 2026 World Cup.

Waiting for the Next Generation

Croatia’s strength lies in experience, but that also presents a challenge. With established stars like Modric (38), Kovacic (30), and Brozovic (31) still holding the midfield fort, there’s been limited room for youngsters to break through.

There are a couple of exciting prospects, though. Uncapped winger Toni Fruk impressed with 16 assists for Rijeka last season, while 21-year-old Martin Baturina is touted as Modric’s potential heir. Both players are in the preliminary squad, but how much first-team action they’ll see remains to be determined.

Experience Cuts Both Ways

Croatia’s midfield boasts a staggering 368 caps between Modric, Kovacic, and Brozovic. Add in seasoned campaigners like Perisic (35), Vida (35), and Kramaric (32), and you have a team overflowing with experience. This wealth of knowledge can be a huge asset, but there’s a nagging suspicion that Croatia might be a Dad’s Army – past their peak and vulnerable to a younger, hungrier team.

Their unconvincing qualifying campaign, with defeats to Turkey and Wales, only amplifies these concerns. Questions also linger over Perisic’s fitness after a recent ACL injury. Goalscoring could also be an issue – if Kramaric misfires, where will the goals come from?

“The Family”

In a heart-warming anecdote, manager Dalic opened a Croatian restaurant named “The Family” last year. The walls are adorned with memorabilia from the national team’s short but glorious history, and some of his star players like Modric and Kovacic even graced the opening night. It’s a reminder of the strong bond within the Croatian camp, a team spirit that has served them well in recent tournaments.

Realistic Expectations

Croatian fans’ expectations are a mix of hope and pragmatism. Reaching the Euros final in 2018 and securing a bronze medal in Qatar has set a high bar. There’s also a sense of realism – this might be the last hurrah for iconic figures like Modric and Perisic.

The group stage draw pits them against tough opponents – Italy, Spain, and Albania. Dalic has downplayed expectations, suggesting reaching the knockout stages would be a success. Croatia haven’t reached the Euro quarter-finals since 2008, and anything less than that would likely be seen as a disappointment. They’ll be hoping to avoid a repeat of their heartbreaking extra-time defeats in the last two Euros and a favourable draw if they manage to progress from the group.

With a squad brimming with experience and a pragmatic manager at the helm, Croatia are sure to be a tough opponent for any team. But can they defy Father Time and orchestrate one last magical run? Only time will tell.

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