Croatia have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the second time in a row and are set to face Argentina in a tempting contest for a spot in the final of the Qatar tournament.
They achieved all of this by winning just one of their five games played in 90 minutes so far, in their 4-1 victory against Canada in the group stage. In fact, Croatia is just 56 minutes ahead of the 2022 World Cup in total, an extremely impressive feat for a team that has reached the last four.
Either way, they have every chance to go a step further than 2018 and take the Jules Rimet Trophy on Sunday 18 December, with their experienced squad and manager well adapted to the situation they find themselves in .
Despite not being the favorites of the last four remaining teams in the tournament, there are still plenty of reasons why they could win the World Cup.
Why Croatia could win the World Cup
Croatia has proven time and time again that it will never panic, evidenced by the statistic that eight of their last nine World Cup and Euro knockout matches have gone into extra time – the only exception being the 2018 World Cup final, where they lost four. -2 to France in normal time.
Indeed, they were a goal behind both Japan and Brazil in the knockouts of this year’s tournament, but managed to level on both occasions before going through to a penalty shootout.
They are a team of penalty kick masters, epitomized by their flawless four penalty kicks against Brazil in the quarter-finals.
As Argentina defeated the Netherlands in their quarter-final penalty shootout, it’s hard to look past another win for Croatia when the game (probably) goes full-on in their game.
In addition, their midfield three – consisting of Luka Modric, Matteo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic – is sublime. The trio control games for Croatia against supposedly better opponents, keeping the ball between them with their perfect passing and protection in tight situations.
However, they are not the only players on the Croatia side to worry about. Ivan Perisic has proven over the years that he can turn up with important goals and assists at crucial moments, while Josip Gvardiol in the heart of the defense is especially hard to pass.
Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic performed heroically against Brazil and also kept his goal tally to one. His important saves in both the match and the shootout helped Croatia advance in the tournament. Josip Juranovic at right back also handled Vinicius Jr. very well. and even found time to come forward and support attacks.
A team full of spirit and togetherness is essential at this stage of the World Cup, and Croatia has that in abundance. Finishing second in 2018 only brought the squad closer together, with eight key players from that team remaining.
They are also not averse to the dark arts – something that is absolutely required when facing this Argentinian side. However, it is their underdog mentality, which reinforces their desire to win, giving them the best chance of winning the World Cup.
Argentina are more eager to win, largely because of Lionel Messi, while France are expected to get past Morocco and would still be favorites against Croatia should the pair meet in the final. Zlatko Dalic certainly won’t let a repeat of 2018 happen again, with the manager using the heartbreak of four years ago to ensure they emerged victorious this time around.
However, the South Americans depend on Messi, something this tournament has proven. Although easier said than done, stopping Messi is holding Argentina back, and in their performance against Brazil, Croatia proved they have the ability to stop talented stars.
If Croatia played Morocco, who they played a goalless draw in the group stage, they would be favorites to win. Arguably the better side on paper, both would have to overcome their underdog status if that were the finals.
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