Croatia’s Blazers

Croatia will be making their fourth appearance at a FIFA World Cup™.  Nicknamed Vatreni (The Blazers), the Croats first appeared at the 1998 edition in France.  In 2014, Croatia find themselves in Group A alongside Brazil, Cameroon and Mexico.

Croatia suffered a stage fright after pulling a string of good results in the opening fixtures of the qualification phase as they were unbeaten in six matches with five wins and a draw.  However, they ended their run with nerve wrecking performances leaving them in second spot after defeats to Scotland and group winners Belgium.  The Croats were forced into the play-offs where they drew Iceland and duly overcame the tiny Scandinavian island.  Coach Niko Kovac is facing a tough task of having to do without the in-form Mario Mandzukic in his side’s opening fixture in Brazil.  Mandzukic received a red card in the Iceland encounter.

The striker berth will shift to another prolific goal poacher, Nikita Jelavic.  Vatreni have a balanced squad with loads of potentially great players.  The likes of Luka Modric, Ivica Olic and Niko Kranjcar are all experienced campaigners as well as captain Darijo Srna.  The Blazers will open their campaign on the first day of the tournament against the hosts before locking horns with Cameroon and Mexico.

Croatia has a good record in the World Cup despite having not won it.  In 1998 they were ranked 125 but shocked the world by finishing third as Davor Suker topped the goal scoring charts.  There is no doubt that the hosts are the favourites to top Group A but the Balkan nation will be in a tough battle with the Mexicans and Cameroon as all three will fancy their chances against each other in the quest for second place.