A Wales draw and a Croatian victory leaves Vatreni fans satisfied after a brutal October qualifying cycle. Croatia’s destiny now lies in its own hands with one final match hosting the Armenians in Zagreb. Should Croatia be victorious, they book their ticket to Germany this summer.
It’s no secret the line-up is not currently at full strength with the likes of Ivan Perišić, Mateo Kovačić and Bruno Petković out due to injury, but how did their replacements perform and how does Dalić play his cards on Tuesday against Armenia?
Dominik Livaković: 6/10
Liva faced no shots but didn’t have a superb game in terms of distributing the ball. An average rating of 6/10 seems reasonable although I’m almost inclined to give him an N/A rating considering he didn’t have much to do.
Joško Gvardiol: 6/10
Don’t get me wrong, Gvardiol certainly displayed his defensive qualities and his qualities on the ball. He completed four interceptions, a tackle, three clearances, won most of his duels and had the most touches out of any player on the field. But his decision making today was pretty bad and he’s lucky he’s as talented as he is and that Latvia is as bad as they are, because against top opposition he would’ve been punished for some of those passes and dribbles. This is proven by the fact he has the most possessions lost out of any Croatian player today with 26. I’m honestly just not really a fan of him on the left side but he’s certainly better than Barišić and an out of form Sosa so it’s fine for now. Ideally, an in form Sosa would take his place and he could move back into the CB pairing.
Martin Erlić: 7.5/10
It’s clear he’s not as talented on the ball as Gvardiol or Šutalo may be but this man is truly a rock at the back. He’s very reliable and his defensive fundamentals are great. He won 90% of his duels and completed very clean tackles, including one in our box that didn’t even worry me for a second. He wasn’t tested too much but did excellently well with what came his way.
Josip Šutalo: 7/10
All around solid game from him, just a good defensive showing. Hopefully his club form continues to improve and reflects on the pitch with the National Team. He had some nice interceptions and ball progressions, but once again, just wasn’t really tested much.
Josip Stanišić: 5.5/10
Stani kind of reminded me of a right-sided Barišić today, which is pretty problematic. I think it’s pretty clear Juranović is better for the time being, although Stanišić does have nice potential. Not a bad option off the bench for now, but he just doesn’t really offer much moving up the pitch and looks occasionally shaky at the back. I think he needs more playing time with Leverkusen or perhaps a different loan would benefit him as I doubt Leverkusen will change their winning formula right now.
Luka Modrić: 6.5/10
I think one of the best take aways from this game that’s sliding under the radar is the fact that Croatia performed well without a good Modrić performance. Yes, it’s just Latvia, but Modrić was a passenger in today’s match and we saw Kramarić, Gvardiol, Majer and Ivanušec take control of the game a bit more. All in all, Luka was just as good as he usually is but just didn’t really need to turn on the jets and was often subject to rough play from the Latvians as he was an obvious target due to his name. It’s nice to see other players step up in a game where “shutting down Modrić” seemed to be on the mind of the Latvian midfield and defence.
Marcelo Brozović: 6.5/10
Brozović was very involved, but got similar physical treatment to Modrić and seemed to be getting stepped on every play, resulting in a few Latvian yellow cards. This attention let other players flourish a bit more, and this isn’t saying he played badly, just that he didn’t need to pull the strings in order to win today. Still a solid performance from him as usual as he sprayed the ball around the field nicely.
Andrej Kramarić: 8/10
It really goes so unspoken amongst the Croatian footballing community just how good Kramarić has become over the last year for us. He may not be a world class forward, but he’s probably just what we always wanted him to be right now. He’s finally scoring consistently and his play is much less selfish. He’s excellent on the ball and finally seems to be using it to the benefit of the team. I think his confidence is back and he appreciates the fluid role he’s been given. He potted a nicely placed shot today and distributed the ball well, not much more you can ask for.
Luka Ivanušec: 8/10
He’s truly been a very good Perišić replacement and I hope he continues with these performances. We missed him last month, and look how that turned out. Ivanušec is very explosive and runs at the defence well, leading to a nicely placed assist on Majer’s goal. I like him in this role until we see a fully fit and healthy Perišić back in the squad, and even then he’d be a very effective late sub.
Lovro Majer: 8/10
Although he got a goal and an assist, I don’t want to give him a better rating than Ivanušec or Krama since the assist was kind of flukey. But still, a very commanding game from the 25-year old attacking midfielder. He looked confident and he’s very good on the ball, I think Dalić gives him the start against Armenia.
Ante Budimir: 6/10
I can’t really give him a better rating considering I forgot he was even playing at times. Still, I think I prefer him to Musa right now. He did alright with an off angled cross and almost got it on net. He’s simply just not receiving service, but that may be okay for now. I think it’s pretty evident that Petković is our number 1 guy at the moment, but Budimir can be interim starter as far as I’m concerned. He works like a dog and although he’s not the quickest, he did cause a few good turnovers that resulted in counter-attacks for the Vatreni. I don’t think I saw Musa doing that once. And even if we can’t get him the service, he’s a hardworking big body to help lead the line which helps our more talented and explosive players like Ivanušec, Kramarić, Majer or Marco Pašalić to exploit space behind him.
Mario Pašalić: 6/10
I really like him as a sub but I think that’s as good as it’s going to get for him right now. He gives us a bit more killer instinct in the box but Majer simply brings more to the game.
Marco Pašalić: 8/10
I was pleasantly surprised. He’s a bit similar to Ivanušec in play style but seems more aggressive and has better dribbling. This kid could be a wild card for the National Team going forward and he’s got loads of potential. Could he be the solution to our lack of a true right-winger? I hope so. In just 10 minutes, he completed a few dribbles, moved the ball up well and got himself into a prime goalscoring position and nearly scored as the ball hit the inside of the post and travelled along the goal line. Would’ve been so great to see him bag his first just ten minutes into his debut.
Martin Baturina: N/A
Didn’t play long enough to say much, but that clip of him subbing in for Modrić might be a big one should this young star reach his potential one day…
I think Marco P. has earned himself more minutes against Armenia (hopefully in the region of 20-30) and the fact Dalić decided to call-up Beljo after today’s game is certainly interesting. Should Dalić stick with the same lineup or shake things up against Armenia?