Croatia predicted lineup vs Japan - World Cup

Grey Whitebloom
Zlatko Dalic is the first man to lead Croatia to three major tournaments
Zlatko Dalic is the first man to lead Croatia to three major tournaments / Fantasista/GettyImages

2018 runners-up Croatia face Japan in their World Cup round of 16 tie on Monday afternoon.

Zlatko Dalic has not used the group stage for experimentation. Coming into the tournament, nine positions were deemed to be nailed down. It seems that was an underestimate. Croatia are only of only two nations to have started the same ten players in every group game this year (alongside Australia).

Here's the familiar XI Dalic may deploy in the first knockout round.

Croatia predicted lineup vs Japan (4-3-3)

Luka Modrić
Alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric is one of two 37-year-old outfielders to have started every World Cup match this year / Lionel Hahn/GettyImages

GK: Dominik Livakovic - The son of a state secretary at the ministry of sea, transport and infrastructure has plans of studying diplomacy and international relations at university himself once this football malarky wraps up.

RB: Josip Juranovic - A talent which almost slipped through the cracks, Juranovic wasn't discovered until his late teens and never made an appearance for one of Croatia's underage international teams.

CB: Dejan Lovren - One of eight of Croatia's 30-plus contingent. The Vatreni are the oldest team to qualify for the knockout round.

CB: Josko Gvardiol - Nominated for this year's Golden Boy award - which is handed to the best player under the age of 21 - Gvardiol has bolstered his burgeoning reputation with an impressive group-stage display.

LB: Borna Sosa - Since making his Bundesliga debut in 2020, only three players have racked up more assists in Germany's top flight than Sosa - despite his status as a left-back.

CM: Luka Modric - The synergy between Modric and Kovacic goes beyond the pitch - the Croatian captain is the godfather to his teammate's first child.

CM: Marcelo Brozovic - The ballast in Croatia's silk-lined midfield dropped out of formal education at 16 because of his father's advice: “Football and school don’t go well together.”

CM: Mateo Kovacic - In 2014, Kovacic became the youngest Croatian to ever appear for the relatively young nation at a men's World Cup. Now at his third finals, the Chelsea midfield is only 28.

RW: Andrej Kramaric - A forgotten member of Leicester City's Premier League winners, Kramaric has scored half of Croatia's tournament goals (two).

ST: Marko Livaja - The only position up for debate is the centre forward role - which has been a struggle to fill since Mario Mandzukic's retirement. Livaja has started Croatia's last two matches but Bruno Petkovic is eagerly waiting in the wings.

LW: Ivan Perisic - The wait for his customary competition goal may still be ticking but Perisic became the first Croatian man to assist two goals in the same World Cup game against Canada.

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