It’s no secret Croatia has been plagued with injuries as of late, and with Petković and Kovačić missing this international window, there are two open spots on Dalić’s starting eleven this time around. Yes, it’s just Latvia and Armenia, but any little slip up can be costly at this stage in qualification as Croatia MUST secure all six points. How does Dalić line up? Here are some suggestions…
If Dalić opts to make big changes in the squad, perhaps a bold move is the way to go, however unlikely considering his typical pragmatism. As already mentioned, Gvardiol will be playing in his Man City left-back role since Sosa and Barišić haven’t impressed as starters. This opens a center-back role for one of Erlić or Pongračić should Dalić make proper adjustments. If Dalić goes bold, he moves with the youth, in which we can see an in-form Sučić potentially start in attacking midfield in front of the Modrić-Broz duo, and maybe we see the Rijeka duo of Pjaca and Marco Pašalić on the wings? However, this would make 4 new additions to the line up and the odds Dalić does this are very low. Expect Ivanušec on the left and probably Kramarić on the right, but perhaps we see the Rijeka duo get some late minutes. Ante Budimir is a top 3 goal scorer in La Liga this season thus the striker role is his, at least against Latvia. I believe injecting some youthful attackers has the benefit of a more determined and hungry play style, but probably more wasteful as well. However cut throat Marco Pašalić has been in the HNL, doing it in Croatian checkers is a different story, as seen with Beljo’s intense but insufficient cameo. Dalić will probably opt for his more trusty “fox in the box” Mario.
Plug and Play *
This plug and play line up contains an asterisk because I do believe one of Baturina, Sučić, Marco P or Pjaca will get minutes in this international break, meaning a new call-up will see some playing time. However, historically, Dalić has felt more comfortable opting for a “Plug and Play” style of dealing with squad changes. This would see Mario Pašalić most likely playing behind the striker with Kramarić in the right-wing role, where he has found some recent success. I don’t think you can really go wrong with this line up as it is the strongest one on paper. I like the new call-ups but I wouldn’t want to rely on them just yet in such crucial games, even against inferior opponents. Although I’d be much more intrigued to watch the likes of Pjaca, Marco P, Sučić or Baturina mesh within the National Team, I think Dalić goes the safer, and probably better, route.
It’s crunch time for Croatia. The usual “Cardiac Croatians” have been at it again this qualifying campaign, however, it’s time to quit playing games and take care of business. Hopefully Wales continues their patchy form and drops points in order for Croatia to cruise into the Euros. I think another play-off route would be detrimental to the cardiac health of Croatian fans around the globe.
How would you line up for the upcoming games? Where do you think Dalić goes with the squad?
*Update: Juranović will miss the clash with Latvia due to injury but will be back against Armenia*