Runners-up four years ago, the worry is that this Croatian generation might have run out of steam. Just as it was in Russia 2018, Zlatko Dalic’s side still very much revolves around the typically imperious Luka Modric, but they have been reduced somewhat by a series of key retirements in the interim.
Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic, Vedran Corluka and Sime Vrsaljko are no longer there, while Ante Rebic was not selected. Of course, there remain the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Perisic - stars at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively - but no doubt the support cast's prowess has pinched a little.
On Wednesday, as Croatia commenced their campaign to go one better than four years ago, that appeared evident. They struggled against Morocco in the Group F opener at Al Bayt Stadium, playing out a goalless draw that contained plenty of effort but minimal enterprise.
Afterwards, Dalic referenced the change from 2018 to now. Only four players that contested the last final against France started on Wednesday. "This is a whole other team,” the former Al Ain manager said. “Four years have passed since the last World Cup and we have virtually a new national team.Read more on thenationalnews.com