Croatia Team - 2014 World Cup Betting

Best Finish: Third, 1998

Manager: Darijo Sma

Captain: Niko Kova?

Key Player: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Group A: With Brazil, Cameroon and Mexico


Croatia has a short, but surprisingly good history at the World Cup. After gaining independence from Yugoslavia and joining FIFA and the UEFA in 1993, the Croats played their way to a very strong third-place finish in France. Since that time, this team has failed to make it out of group play and missed the Cup entirely in 2010. But they're back this year and considered one of the most talented of the 32 qualifying teams.

Speaking of qualifying, it wasn't easy for what some thought to be the cream of UEFA Group A. They finished second to a rising Belgium team after going 5-2-3 (W-D-L) in qualifying matches. Croatia was cruising through UEFA Group A until a 1-0 loss to Scotland. Then they tied Serbia and lost to Belgium before winning a critical game against Scotland to earn themselves a spot in the playoffs. Here, the "Vatreni" topped Iceland to secure their slot in the 2014 World Cup.

Given their struggles against less talented teams like Scotland, it's difficult to predict how Croatia will do in Brazil. But they do have a number of pieces that make them capable of advancing pretty far this year. Midfielder Luka Modric is the key piece in the Croatian lineup. He has perfect touch on the ball and good vision to set up teammates for goals. Modric also has the ability to control the pace of games, and if he can continue this skill, the Vatreni will be tough for many teams to handle.

One dark cloud hanging over Croatia's chances is top-goal scorer Mario Mand?ukic. He led this team's qualifying efforts with three goals in 10 matches. However, Mand?ukic also drew a red card against Iceland and could be suspended for at least one match. Croatia can still be a good team without him, but their goal-scoring abilities take a hit if he can't play..

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