By 90Min
July 08, 2018

Croatia are a small country in comparison to some of the footballing giants which have been hyped up before the World Cup started, but with a population of just over four million you could say they are overachieving to have come this far. Yet everything has fallen into place and with their country behind them, this could be a golden chance to lift the trophy.

From the moment the tournament began all the talk was about holders Germany - could they repeat the success of 2014? Yet they faltered by going out spectacularly in the group stage. Many tipped Argentina as winners with the aid of Lionel Messi and the striking options they possess. But they too failed after scraping through to the knockouts.

Spain crashed out to hosts Russia who relentlessly frustrated them during the match. And let's not forget Portugal. They had some impressive performances and of course Cristiano Ronaldo, but they fell to the well-drilled and dogged defensive display of Uruguay.

There are still some 'big teams' and pre-tournament favourites left in the competition, like France and Belgium. However these have appeared on the opposite side of the draw to Croatia and could only meet Croatia if they reach the final. 

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This means that all Croatia need to do is beat England on Wednesday night, and they're in the World Cup final. Easier said than done, of course.

But Croatia have an abundance of talent in their roster with star players all over the pitch. Their midfield is arguably one of the best in the tournament boasting the likes of Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic.

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Other notable players include Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic as attacking options who have both notched goals already in this World Cup. At the back they are sure and steady with Dejan Lovren at the heart. 

Then there are players who have caught our attention during this tournament. Ante Rebic looks to be a promising youngster, scoring in Croatia's extraordinary win over Argentina in the group stage. Atletico Madrid's Sime Vrsaljko has also looked assured as a right back, charging forward in attack whenever he can. 

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It's not just the players that have made this team eye-catching and therefore contenders to lift the trophy. It is also due to the manager, Zlatko Dalic, and the style of play he has implemented.

The dazzling performances in the group stages, with wins in all three matches, coupled with the grit and determination to win in dramatic penalty shootouts against Denmark and Russia, have instilled belief into this Croatian team.

The manager has inspired them to play with intent and hunger. There is a desire to press and win the ball back but at the same time be patient. There is a calmness which has filtered down from the manager to the players, who do not panic under pressure.

The style of play is fluid, with quick interchanges and perfect crosses. All the players know their position and role in the squad, when they should be attacking and when to sit back.

So, the time is now ripe for Croatia to grab this opportunity and with it the ultimate prize. 

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