Since a shocking 3-0 defeat to Austria in Osijek on the opening night of Nations League June 3rd, Croatia have turned things around quickly; hitting a milestone in the process. The Vatreni bagged seven points out of a possible nine, finally beat France in a competitive match, and posted two consecutive clean sheets (versus France and Denmark on the road). With two matches remaining in Nations League and the World Cup less than 70 days away, how should Zlatko Dalić line up the boys versus Denmark on Thursday and again against Austria on Sunday?
This is the best position Croatia have ever been in Nations League after four matches. They control their own destiny as two wins in the final two matches will see them top group and clinch a berth in the semifinal round next year for the very first time. However, as sweet as that may sound, this is still Nations League we’re talking about. And if you’ve been living under a rock, the World Cup kicks off in two months. So my question to CroatianSports.com nation this week is: what are we trying to learn?
The only thing that not debatable is the Croatian midfield, which is arguably the best in the world. If the World Cup started tomorrow, Modrić, Kovačič, Brozovic would anchor the middle of the field with Perišić on the left wing and most likely Vlašić on the right. But what about everyone else?
Even though I want anyone but him in goal during the World Cup, I still believe Dalić thinks Dominik Lavaković is Croatia’s best bet between the pipes. But will he play him both matches this week or split time between Livaković and another keeper; possibly Ivica Ivušić?
Last we left our boys, Erlić and Šutalo were putting the French attack on an ice cold platter in Paris. Will Dalić keep the two central defenders in starting positions this week or add in veterans Vida and Lovren? I don’t mind if Vida and Lovren come along for the ride in Qatar but they cannot be considered Croatia’s best central defense pair this year. It’s not 2018 anymore.
Where does Gvardiol go? He’s been playing minimal minutes at RB Leipzig this season in the Bundesliga but can be slotted into his natural position at center-back or play on the defensive wing. We can only assume Sosa will play on the left in a 4-back formation with Juranović on the right. Still tons of decisions to make on defense over the next two months, especially with Gvardiol having a slow start to the campaign.
And last but not least, we have to discuss the Croatia attack. Kramarić is still status quo as the Croatia #9 but he can get some competition this week from Petković and Livaja, depending on how much playing time they each get. How Čolak did not get a call up still baffles me. He’s the most in-form Croatian striker at the moment, hasn’t stopped scoring the past month, and single handedly put Rangers in the Champions League group stage.
I’m not saying start the guy at the World Cup, but give him some valuable minutes against Denmark and Austria in Nations League.
Many of our World Cup questions will be answered this week. We will know exactly which way Dalić is leaning towards player selection soon enough.