Croatian national soccer team head coach Zlatko Dalic has cut eight names from his initial slate of candidates for the FIFA World Cup 2018 and still has one more player to scratch before a June 4 deadline to produce a list of 23 players that will travel to Russia.
Croatia is one of the three drawn with Nigeria in Group D of the World Cup that starts June 14 in Russia.
“I had to keep five center backs on the list because Vedran Corluka was injured in the last match. I can’t take any risks and we have to see if he will be able to play. I am hopeful that he will recover,” 51-year-old Dalic said here on Monday.
Corluka, 32-year-old center back of Russian champions Lokomotiv Moscow, is one of the most experienced players in the team with 97 international matches under his belt and a crucial role in the Croatian defense.
If Corluka does not recover in time for the World Cup, 21-year-old Duje Caleta-Car from Red Bull Salzburg or 24-year-old Matej Mitrovic from Club Brugge will travel to their first World Cup.
Players that were left out of the 24-man squad include goalkeeper Karlo Letica (Hajduk Split), defenders Zoran Nizic (Hajduk Split), Borna Barisic (Osijek) and Borna Sosa (Dinamo Zagreb), midfielders Marko Rog (Napoli) and Mario Pasalic (Spartak Moscow), strikers Duje Cop (Standard LIege) and Ivan Santini (Caen).
“There will always be those who will be unhappy with the list. However, this is my choice. I believe in that group of players and I will take the full responsibility for the result in Russia,” the coach said.
Under the FIFA rules, Dalic can change his mind until June 4, but after that deadline he will be able to change only injured players until 24 hours before the start of the first match in the tournament that will begin on June 16 against Nigeria.
The 24 players from the list will be gathering in Zagreb on May 26 and travel to Rovinj, a coastal town in Istria peninsula northwest of the country, where they will prepare from May 27 to June 1.
On June 3, Croatia will play the first of the two friendlies against Brazil in Liverpool. Upon returning to Croatia, the team will stay and prepare in Rijeka until June 7 when they will move to Osijek.
On June 8, Croatia will host Senegal in the second friendly before the trip to Russia on June 11.
In the group stage, Croatia will play on June 16 against Nigeria in Kaliningrad. Five days later on June 21, they will clash with Argentina in Nizhny Novgorod. The final match in the group stage will be on June 26 in Rostov-on-Don against Iceland.
Following is the full squad:
Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Gent), Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb);
Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Ivan Strinic (Sampdoria), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kyiv), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Matej Mitrovic (Club Brugge), Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg);
Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka);
Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Nikola Kalinic (Milan), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Marko Pjaca (Schalke 04), Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt).