For the first time in the small nation’s history, Croatia has made it to the World Cup Finals. The closest they had previously come was a Semi-Final loss in 1998. But this year, we think it is Croatia’s year to take it all. They have a squad filled with Champions League stars, many of which will be playing in their final World Cup match on Sunday.
Croatia entered the World Cup with an overall team Elevated Injury Risk. Two of their best players, Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic, had long and somewhat concerning injury histories. But now both players are healthy, a major reason why we think this could be Croatia’s year. Mandzukic went down in the match against England when he got tangled up with Jordan Pickford on a shot on goal. He received treatment and returned to the pitch to score the game winning goal for Croatia. Needless to say, it’s unlikely the injury is serious enough to affect him in the Finals. Croatia has dealt with a few injuries so far in the World Cup, but they shouldn’t hurt the team’s chances of a World Cup victory.
Sime Vrsaljko suffered a knee injury against Russia, but he was still in the starting lineup against England. It’s not clear the extent of the injury, but Vrsaljko’s presence in the Semi-Finals suggest it was only a minor tweak. He looked fine against England, but it’s worth noting that the defender is still an Elevated Injury Risk. Mateo Kovacic suffered a right shoulder injury against Denmark, but he still came on as a sub in the following game against Russia. Kovacic did not make an appearance against England, which suggests he may not play in the Finals. Considering it’s not a lower body injury, Kovacic should be able to play if Croatia do need him as a substitute in the Final. Croatia’s goalkeeper Danijel Subasic suffered a hamstring strain in the Quarterfinal win over Russia but refused to come off the pitch. We aren’t concerned because Subasic was able to save a penalty kick against Russia and looked no worse for the wear against England. He’s a major backbone for the team, so Croatia need him to be 100% healthy against France.
The main reason we believe Croatia will win the World Cup is because of the health of their veteran trio: Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic, and Luka Modric. All three are nearing in on the end of their careers and bring a level of maturity that the rest of the squad seems to feed off of. Modric, at 32 years old, plays with the body of a 20 year old but with the mind of an experienced leader. All three of the veterans are completely healthy and have been the pillars of the team so far. Though Croatia’s best striker Mario Mandzukic has only scored twice in the tournament, the rest of the team has filled in the holes. This cohesive squad plays with passion and should be able to bring home a World Cup title for the first time ever.