Goal.com may not be the ultimate measuring stick when it comes to soccer reporting, but earlier in the week, they named both Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić to the 2013-14 La Liga Team of the Year. Others on the list included Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale and Diego Costa, to name a few. Although Modrić only scored one goal for Real Madrid this season, he has pulled strings in the midfield to perfection with a team that has already won the Copa del Rey and is one match away from lifting a record 10th Champions League trophy. On the other side of the spectrum, Sevilla’s captain, Ivan Rakitić, has scored 13 goals this campaign for a club that will play in the Europa League final while just missing out on Spain’s last Champions League berth.
Put together these two Croatian studs with Mario Mandžukić and Ivica Olić, who have absolutely tore up the Bundesliga this season, and the World Cup is looking very promising for Croatia. Going into the last match of the season this weekend, Bayern Munich’s ‘Super Mario’ Mandžukić is tied atop the Bundesliga score sheet with 18 goals, alongside Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski. But we can’t forget about 34 year-old Ivica Olić, who has been lights out the past two months, tallying 14 total goals this season for Wolfsburg in a year where they still may earn a Champions League berth.
On top of all that, Southampton’s Dejan Lovren has been a stubborn rock at defense in his first year in the Premiership and will likely move to a bigger club after the World Cup. Mix that in with Darijo Srna’s résumé and the hustle of Vedran Ćorluka, and who’s to say Croatia can’t turn heads in Brazil?
If an X-factor like Ivan Perišić or Mateo Kovačić can play to their fullest potential, we shouldn’t just expect to get out of group play, but we can expect a monumental upset over Spain or the Netherlands in the Round of 16.
Croatia was one Ivan Rakitić header away from dethroning the champions at Euro 2012. There’s no reason they can’t do it this time around.