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SquadEdit

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Oliver Zelenika (Dinamo Zagreb).

Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld, Danijel Pranjic (both Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa).

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Perisic (Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Sammir (Getafe), Milan Badelj (Hamburg).

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull City), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina).

Croatia
Edit

Team ProfileEdit

Croatia will be hoping to play the role of chief party-poopers when they face FIFA World Cup hosts Brazil in the tournament's opening game. 

Much of the focus on June 12 will be on Luiz Felipe Scolari's side as they look to begin their first World Cup on home soil since 1950 in style.

But the Croats will want to make a splash themselves, having failed to make an impression on the tournament since a stunning debut in France 98.

Lilian Thuram's only two international goals were all that kept Croatia out of the final in their bow on the world stage as they went on to finish third, but consecutive eliminations at the group stage and a failure to reach the 2010 World Cup have dented their reputation as tournament dark horses.

After facing Brazil, Croatia will tackle Cameroon and Mexico in their bid to make it out of Group A, but they will have to do so without two key players.

Veteran defender Josip Simunic will be missing after receiving a 10-game ban for singing controversial chants while celebrating their play-off qualification triumph against Iceland.

Perhaps more crucial, however, will be Mario Mandzukic's absence.

The Bayern Munich striker is unavailable for the group phase after his dismissal for a wild lunge on Johann Berg Gudmundsson in November's 2-0 win over Iceland, but is likely to travel to Brazil as he will be able to play in the knockout stages if Croatia progress.

Ivica Olic, Eduardo da Silva and Nikica Jelavic are the top candidates to replace Mandzukic, although age, fitness and poor international form make the trio a significant downgrade on the Bundesliga champions' spearhead.

The dilemma will give Croatia coach Niko Kovac an unwanted headache as he looks to turn the side's recent on-pitch woes around.

The win over Iceland was Croatia's sole success in their last six competitive fixtures, a run that saw them fall well behind Belgium in their bid to reach Brazil automatically and resulted in Igor Stimac's sacking.

Kovac's main strength will likely lie in his midfield, with Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric coming off the back of impressive campaigns at Sevilla and Real Madrid respectively.

Rakitic reached double figures in goals and assists at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan after being named club captain at the start of the season.

The midfielder will be keen to have a positive impact on the tournament, having missed a costly penalty in Croatia's shootout defeat to Turkey in the UEFA Euro 2008 quarter-finals and then spurned  a gilt-edged chance four years later in their final Group C game against Spain, which was punished by Jesus Navas' 88th-minute effort to seal their early elimination.

Croatia – and Rakitic - will now hope for better luck in Brazil.

Player Profile (Mario Mandzukic)Edit

Position: Forward

Date of Birth: May 21, 1986

Club: Bayern Munich

International Debut: v Macedonia (November 17, 2007) 

World Cup Appearances: 0

World Cup Goals: 0


After plenty of domestic success in recent years, Mario Mandzukic is ready to transfer his talents to the biggest stage of all.

The 28-year-old striker has been a central part of the Bayern Munich side that has conquered both at home and abroad in recent times, first under Jupp Heynckes and then Pep Guardiola for the successful 2013-14 campaign.

Now, at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, his next challenge is to become a similarly dominant talisman for Croatia.

The former Dinamo Zagreb forward has featured at just one competition with his national team so far, scoring three times in as many appearances at the UEFA European Championship in 2012. 

However, he was unable to stop Croatia crashing out at the group stage and, due to their failure to reach the World Cup in South Africa four years ago, Brazil represents Mandzukic's first chance to showcase his talent at the global football showpiece. 

Since moving to the Allianz Arena from Wolfsburg in 2012, Mandzukic has won a plethora of trophies, including back-to-back Bundesliga titles, as well as enjoying more glory in the DFB-Pokal and the UEFA Champions League. 

With Croatia facing a tough group, the chances of him adding a World Cup medal to his collection this year seem highly unlikely, but Mandzukic will nonetheless expect to play a leading role in their bid to spring a surprise. 

Only in the golden years of the late 1990s have Croatia managed to get past the group phase, with the likes of Davor Suker, Slaven Bilic, Robert Prosinecki and Zvonimir Boban helping them to third place at France '98. 

While they no longer have a squad capable of matching the quality of Miroslav Blazevic's class of '98, they do have some useful players at their disposal. Experienced defender Darijo Srna leads them from the back, while creative playmaker Luka Modric pulls the strings in midfield and Mandzukic provides the goals in attack.

He will be absent as they look to spoil the hosts' party in the Group A tournament-opener against Brazil on June 12 - having been handed a suspension for a stamp on Iceland's Johann Gudmundsson in November's qualifying play-off.

The Bayern man will be back in contention, however, for what are likely to be Croatia's key fixtures against Cameroon and Mexico. 

Having reached double figure goals in almost 50 appearances for his country, Mandzukic represents one of the more experienced faces in Niko Kovac's squad.

And despite the back end of his season in the Bundesliga being disrupted by reports of a falling out with Bayern coach Guardiola, he arrives at the tournament as a man in form.

News SourcesEdit

Croatia football federation website http://hns-cff.hr/en/

Twitter feed https://twitter.com/HNS_CFF

24 Sata http://www.24sata.hr/sport

Jutarnji List http://www.jutarnji.hr/sport/

Croatia Soccer Report https://twitter.com/CroatianSoccer

Croatian football writer Aleksandar Holiga https://twitter.com/AlexHoliga