After many months of club football, the Vatreni are back in action on Saturday, March 26th as they take on Slovenia in Qatar to prepare for the 2022 World Cup. Croatia hosted Slovenia at Stadion Poljud the last time these two sides met, where they demolished them by a score of 3-0. The stadium was absolutely electric as all three goalscorers – Marko Livaja, Mario Pašalić, and Nikola Vlašić – were current or former members of Hajduk Split.
With the 2022 World Cup right around the corner, should Zlatko Dalić field Croatia’s expected lineup for the tournament? The answer is YES. Not only does it give the players an opportunity to develop chemistry, but a victory would also maintain Croatia’s place in Pot 2 of the World Cup. Entering the draw as a second-pot nation could make November’s group stage a whole lot easier for the Vatreni.
Recently, Dalić confirmed that he would test a lienup with three central defenders, pushing the two wingbacks further up the pitch – the perfect tactic for Croatia’s current squad. Expect to see a back line of Borna Sosa and Josip Juranović as the left and right wingbacks, right in front of Joško Gvardiol, Duje Ćaleta-Car, and most likely Dejan Lovren as the three center-backs. The lineup allows Sosa and Juranović to become wing-midfielders in the attack, granting them the opportunity to make overlapping runs and whip in crisp crosses. Gvardiol will also be free to advance the ball, one of his greatest and most unique traits, trusting that Lovren and Ćaleta-Car will cover for him in the back. Ivo Grbić will most likely start between the sticks on Saturday, despite his rough patch of performances for Lille. Dinamo Zagreb’s Dominik Livaković simply isn’t good enough to start for Croatia anymore.
The midfield should be a no-brainer for Dalić. Due to the absence of Marcelo Brozović, and the addition of a five-man backline, the Vatreni only need to field two midfielders. Captain Luka Modrić and rising superstar Mateo Kovačić will most likely be the only midfielders to receive a starting call on Saturday.
Now, the attack is where it gets a bit tricky. Ivan Perišić and Lovro Majer will most likely start on the wings, but who will be Croatia’s striker? I am a fan of testing Mario Pašalić at the position due to his strong performances for Atalanta as a striker in recent weeks. However, I believe that Dalić will hand the starting position to Andrej Kramarić once again, upsetting the entire Croatian football community and relying on a miraculous, star-studded performance from the most average striker in world football. I cannot understand how Antonio Mirko Čolak and Mile Škorić were called up over Petar Musa, Croatia’s most in-form striker. How much is Kramarić paying Dalić to give him more chances up top? 😉
Dalić, not every team is Malta my friend.
As for substitutes, let’s hope that Dalić does not go overboard with them, especially if we have less than a two-goal lead. The Vatreni must remain focused and realistic during these friendlies since the World Cup is only months away. During Euro 2020, Croatia learned the hard way that testing new formations and tactics in the middle of a major tournament is absolutely NOT the way to go. If Croatia enters the World Cup more prepared than last summer, it will show in the results.