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Croatia's World Cup squad in profile - including star players and key fixtures

Luka Modric and co. had a tricky path to the finals but will fancy their chances in Russia

It seems that Croatia can't go an international tournament without being labelled as the 'dark horses.'

And lo and behold that is precisely what they will enter the World Cup as once again, as they carry an outside chance of success in 2018.

The Croats have had to overcome a few hurdles to even make it to Russia, having squeezed in via the playoffs.

Zlatko Dalic only took over the team with one game left in the qualifiers, so it's safe to say the journey has so far not gone to plan.

Not only that, but stars Luka Modric , Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic will all be in their 30s by the time the competition kicks off in June.

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  • World Cup 2018 group guide: Fixtures, schedule, kick-off times, key clashes and players to watch in Russia

This could be their last chance of glory, with the so-called golden generation of Croatian football unlikely to see another World Cup.

Form guide

Croatia's Ivan Rakitic in action with Greece's Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Image: REUTERS)

As mentioned, it's not been straightforward for the Croats in getting to Russia.

Qualification from the group phase went right down to the wire with a final day stand-off between them and Ukraine.

This was made all the more difficult when new manager Dalic took charge just two days before the group decider.

Croatia triumphed 2-0, but then had to navigate a tricky play-off tie with Greece.

A 4-1 aggregate win saw them reach the finals though, where the real hard work begins.

Star player

Luka Modric

Luka Modric is the key man for Croatia (Image: Getty Images)

Croatia are not short of talent in their ranks, but skipper Luka Modric is the man who leads his troops to battle.

Modric has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Europe through his impressive displays at club side Real Madrid.

The 32-year-old is no stranger to success, having lifted the Champions League trophy three times in the last four seasons.

And with over 100 caps to his name, his form will be pivotal to whether Croatia can shake off their 'dark horses' tag and march to glory.

Rising star

Andrej Kramaric

Andrej Kramaric celebrates scoring against Greece (Image: Getty Images)

Fans of English football may remember Croatian forward Andrej Kramaric ... or maybe not.

Kramaric had a short stint at Leicester City, becoming their record signing in a £9million move in 2015.

He even played a part in their title-winning season of 2015-16, although he did only make two appearances, meaning he sadly missed out on a winners medal.

Since then, Kramaric has come on leaps and bounds at Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, where he has notched over 20 goals.

It was Kramaric's goals that helped Croatia overcome Ukraine in the decisive group tie, and he even bagged one in the play-offs against Greece.

He finished as Croatia's third top goal scorer in the qualifiers, and at 26, he still has his best years ahead of him.


Croatia's midfielder Ivan Perisic celebrates after scoring a goal during the play-offs (Image: Getty Images)

Saturday June 16 - Croatia v Nigeria, 8pm, Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad

Thursday June 21 - Argentina v Croatia, 7pm, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod

Tuesday June 26 - Iceland v Croatia, 7pm, Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don

Betting odds

'Dark horse' status confirmed by bookmakers William Hill , as they go 28/1 on Croatia to lift the Jules Rimet trophy this summer.