Group D got underway today with Iceland holding Argentina to a 1-1 draw. So next up was Croatia and Nigeria who you would think to take advantage of the previous result in the group. However, Luka Modric helped Croatia take the three points despite an uninspiring performance in Volgograd.
Luka Modric helps Croatia Top Group D Despite Uninspiring Performance
Dalic men chiseled out the first goal after Mario Mandzukic’s diving header deflected in. Croatia’s number nine put his body on the line with a header from the corner but needed a deflection to take it past Nigeria keeper. Then, Modric put the game to bed from the six-yard box.
The 33-year-old is appearing in his sixth tournament and most likely his last. Mario Mandzukic was fouled in the box after Troost-Ekong wrapped his arm around the Croatian as Modric stepped up from the penalty spot to make it 2-0. Despite Croatia’s victory, they were being described as the dark horses. Can they really be potential winners of the World Cup?
Simple answer, No. Why?
Pace is Key
Give Croatia credit they have phenomenal players in the middle of the park. With likes of Luka Modric and Rakitic bossing the tempo. But every team needs that one spark who can beat defenders one on one with pace. Ivan Perisic is the only stand-out player that is notable for taking on players but isn’t quick enough. Every team needs that player who can pick up the ball from their own half and carry it to the other goal. Croatia lack pace which does not give them a plan B. So how far can their go in the tournament if their just stick to plan A?
No Hoofing the Ball
Every team heading into the World Cup has that one style of play. But with Croatia’s quality, hoofing the ball should be the last resort. Throughout the game, Croatia were looking long to Mandzukic but even if he got his head to it. Where would the support be? Teams that play long balls usually have a fast, technical player picking up the pieces from the target man. However, Croatia’s attack uses two target men up-top, Mandzukic and Aramaic, but the lack of pace of these two individuals meant it was useless. Croatia have plenty of talented players, but their style of play in their opening group game showed they were not utilised.
Croatia’s defense is the weak point in this fantastic side. Lovren was one of the two main center-backs, and felt the pressure this season with some dreadful performances. They have experience, but lack leadership. Through the game they were opened up too easily, and fortunate not to concede. Croatia did have Corluka on the bench, but felt the Nigerian pace may have exposed him. But I feel if Croatia did come up with more quality attackers, they would be less fortunate to keep a clean sheet, and so reliant on Luka Modric.
Luka Modric scores the 2,400th goal in World Cup history! pic.twitter.com/S1GiGLysas
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 16, 2018