A cat with 9 souls: Croatia lives from the moments of decision – time.news

In football in general, and in national team tournaments in particular, there is always a tendency to look for the “favorites”. Those teams on paper should go all the way and have the best players to achieve the goal.

People want to be able to predict the future, looking at rosters, data, past games and every parameter they can to try and intelligently determine who will go all the way this time. Even the bookmakers show the odds of each team to determine the winnable ratios.

In all the discussions on the eve of the opening of the World Cup, everyone left one team aside – Croatia. The European runner-up was ranked only 11th in most of the betting agencies, meaning that no one expected her to even reach the quarter-finals (last 8).

Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic didn’t give them a chance (Reuters)

Croatia is not interested in these things. Just like in 2018, she always seems to be able to get a little more toothpaste out of the tube, squeeze a few more drops out of the lemon, like a child who asks for just one more moment on TV before the shower, and another moment and another moment and another moment…

Zlatko Dalic’s national team is like a cat with 9 souls, every time you think it is on the way out, it has some other rabbit to pull out of its sleeve to survive at the last minute.

Against Belgium, Romelu Lukaku’s huge miss in the 90th minute was far from elimination already in the group stage, against Japan she had to come back from a deficit in a game in which she did not threaten and win on penalties, and against Brazil she equalized in the 116th minute from the feet of Bruno Petkovic in her only threat to the frame in the game. All the way to a victory with kicks from 11 meters against the Selecao.

Game summary courtesy of here 11 – the official broadcaster of the 2022 World Cup.

There seems to be something cosmic about this team in the last two World Cups, but above all they just love the decisive moments. Croatia have reached extra time in 8/9 of their last knock out games at major tournaments and that’s when they thrive. Between the 90th and 120th minute, the Croatians feel more comfortable than everyone else, they don’t stop running, they fight and in the end if penalties are also required, they arrive with ice in their veins. If there is one team that will always be difficult to beat in a given game, it is the team in red and white, and don’t be surprised if they go all the way this time.

The keys are in defense and the powerful link

The combination between Diane Lovren and Yoshko Gabardiol may determine the fate of the team in the game tonight (Tuesday) at 21:00 against Argentina and Leo Messi. When the former started his career at Dinamo Zagreb in 2006, the latter was only four years old, but their trajectory led them to a shared destiny in a moment that may be remembered as the greatest in their country’s history.

Gabardiol and Lovren (Reuters)Gabardiol and Lovren (Reuters)

Lovren had a glorious career when, between 2014 and 2020, he was part of Liverpool’s return to the top of Europe and managed to win the Premier League and the Champions League with the team.

The stopper is the only one left from the same defensive five (including the goalkeeper) that stood firm in the journey to the World Cup finals in 2018, and when he left for Zenit in 2020 it seemed that he was on the way to a natural decline in ability. However, that is not the case, and with two championships in Russia, Lovran returned to Qatar 2022 as the leader of the Croatian defense.

Gabardiol, for his part, is only 20 years old, but the one who aspires to be the best stopper in the world in the future already wears the mask of superheroes (literally) and is considered one of the best in his role that the game has to offer. Red Bull Leipzig picked up on the young talent and “pounced” on the bargain in the summer of 2021, when since then he has been doing well for them and within just one season has already been linked to all the major clubs in Europe.

Joschko Gabardiol and Diane Lovren celebrate together after the penalties against Brazil (Reuters)Joschko Gabardiol and Diane Lovren celebrate together after the penalties against Brazil (Reuters)

Together they put up an iron wall in the center of defense that made Brazil’s life miserable, and now they will have to do it once again against Argentina who like to find a way to goal through the center.

Everyone who stepped on the field is of great importance in Croatia, whether it’s Ivan Perišić who scored against Japan, Dominik Libaković who stars in a knock-out between the posts or Josip Juranović – Liel Abda’s friend for Celtic – who shows stability on the right wing of the defense. Despite this, it is clear to everyone that the vice-champion of the world will rise and fall on the trio in the center of the field.

Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic are having a wonderful tournament so far. It is already difficult to add more about the Golden Ball winner in 2018, because every action he does on the field completely forgets the fact that he is already 37 years old.

Luka Modric swings his leg (Reuters)Luka Modric swings his leg (Reuters)

The Real Madrid player leads the tournament (by a margin above the second Messi) in early passes and third in passes to the final third, but that’s really not all. Modric is simply everywhere, doesn’t stop working for a moment and has a quiet leadership that you just can’t see on the stats sheet, and with him is a great team.

Marcelo Brozovic believes in hard work, how hard? Inter’s fullback just doesn’t stop running and he is the player who covered the most ground on the field in each of the team’s games in the tournament, including a record of 16.64 km in the round of 16 against Japan. The 30-year-old player tackles, rescues and especially harasses anyone who tries to approach the dangerous areas in front of his team.

The one who completes the trio is Mateo Kovacic. The Chelsea player brings other qualities to the pitch as he is third in the tournament in successful tackles so far. In the struggles in the center of the court, he may be significant for the rest, when his ability to free himself from pressure while dribbling is one of the most prominent in Europe and against Canada we could see what happens when he is at his peak when he finished the game with four key passes, accuracy in passing and many significant actions on the grass. His team will have to have these qualities for the decisive games.

Modric, Kovacic and Brozovic against Neymar (Reuters)Modric, Kovacic and Brozovic against Neymar (Reuters)

Before all the individuals it is important to remember that Croatia still has many significant players in the tournament and it is first of all a team – a whole team – and that is what makes it so good. A difficult match against Argentina and Leo Messi can be expected, but if the runner-up of the world manages to make it difficult and bring the game to extra time as she likes, don’t be surprised if she repeats the achievement from Russia 2018 and maybe, who knows, even brings the biggest title of all to a country with four million citizens only.

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