Croatia: Luka Modric
On paper, Croatia have one of the most talented squads in international soccer. Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Persic and Mario Mandzukic all play for top European clubs and yet Croatia have exited at the group stages in their last three World Cups and needed a playoff to reach the World Cup for the second time in a row.
Performance issues seem to haunt the squad and with the current climate surrounding Croatian soccer, it’s not that surprising the national team are struggling to perform with so much going on in the background.
However, with the squad getting older, this might be many of the senior players’ last time at a World Cup and they’ll no doubt be eager to get the most out of the tournament this summer. One of those players is 32-year-old Luka Modric. The Croatia captain has done it all at club level with Real Madrid and is now looking at his last chance to impress for his country, something he has struggled to do consistently since his debut in 2006.
The Real Madrid midfielder is also caught up in a court case over perjury. No one personifies the problems facing the Croatian national team better, with outside influences surely having an impact on his performances on the pitch. The way the captain deals with his problems off the pitch will undoubtedly have an impact on how his team manage it as well. If Modric can place his problems aside and bring his best game, maybe the rest of the squad will take some inspiration and also bring their A game to Russia.
Honorable mentions: Ivan Rakitic, Matteo Kovacic, Mario Mandzukic