Luka Modric. The playmaker has just won his third Champions League in a row with Real Madrid and has flourished at the Bernabeu since signing from Tottenham in 2012. But life as his country’s captain is a lot trickier. Accused of perjury in a court case involving Croatian football supremo Zdravk Mamic, Modric has divided opinion among the fans. One way to change that mood will be for the midfielder to dazzle in Russia.
This squad is full of top talent and has huge potential. Forget the hiccups at the end of the qualifying campaign, Modric and team-mates such as Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic can ensure Croatia’s best showing at a finals since finishing third at France 98. Ignoring the political problems within Croatian football will be essential. N/A
Gylfi Sigurdsson (right). The
£45million Everton man failed to live up to that fee last season but continues to be his country’s main dangerman. Top scorer in the qualifiers with four goals, the set-piece expert inspired Iceland to finish first in a group that included Croatia and Turkey.
How well he has recovered from a knee injury remains to be seen.
With a population of 340,000, Iceland is the smallest nation ever to have made it to the World Cup finals. After being the shock package at Euro 2016, where they dumped England en route to the last eight, underestimate them at your peril. But with several injury concerns they will struggle to repeat that run at their debut finals.