Croatia are still defined by their care of the ball and subtle movement in forward areas. A team run through a playmaker as good as Real Madrid’s Luka Modric can’t operate any other way.
Modric is still the best player for his country, but he’s not alone in maintaining Croatia’s quality going forward. Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, Modric’s fellow Real schemer Mateo Kovacic and Inter Milan ace Marcelo Brozovic are all comfortable on the ball and make the right runs off it.
Winger Ivan Perisic never tires from ghosting off the flanks and darting through central gaps. His smart, well-timed runs offer the perfect foil for the vision of Modric and Co.
The suspect areas of the team are either side of the maestros in the middle. A defense still led by Vedran Corluka and Dejan Lovren is likely to be shaky.
Up front, this team is still too reliant on Mario Mandzukic, despite Andrej Kramaric being an underrated striker.
Age is also an issue, with Modric, Mandzukic and Corluka all 32, while Rakitic is 30 and Perisic is 29. This may be a tournament too far for this gifted group of Croatian stars.