CROA­TIA

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4

Third (1998)

20

Zlatko Dalic

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.

Last 16

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

22

Heimir Hallgrimsson

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.

Group

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.

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