In a surprising turn of events coming from the Croatia national team camp, head coach Zlatko Dalić made the decision to send star players Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Danijel Subasic (AS Monaco) and Nikola Kalinic(AC Milan) back to their clubs early ahead of their friendly against Mexico, it was announced Saturday.
Mexico will now face a weaker Croatia side, as most of the ones dismissed were expected to be in the starting lineup as they all were in the Vatreni’s friendly against Peru on Friday. Croatia lost 2-0 to the Incas in the matchup.
#Croatia practice session at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.#BeProud #Family #Vatreni pic.twitter.com/OvbHgonN84— HNS | CFF (@HNS_CFF) March 25, 2018
What This Means For El Tri
Unfortunately for Mexico, they will not be facing the best Croatia squad that the World Cup-bound team has to offer. Croatia will lose their long-untouchable starting goalkeeper in Subasic, their two best attackers in Kalinic and Mandzukic and gutted their midfield significantly by losing Brozovic, Perisic and their captain and best player in Luka Modric. Croatia’s “golden generation” squad revolves around their midfielders who specialize in ball possession and can play box-to-box, but will not have that strength up to 100 percent against Mexico. Still on the squad is FC Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic, who will most likely start in the midfield for the Blazers. The Mexican defense will also have to turn their attention to younger strikers Andrej Kramaric and Ante Rebic, who have only nine goals between them.
The decision was not understood well by Juan Carlos Osorio, who was upset at the fact that his team won’t be facing the team he expected.
Osorio, understandably, wanted to face the strongest Croatian squad possible to prepare his players for the World Cup. A win is now a little more obtainable for El Tri, but you have to bet they didn't want to be favored this way.
One player who will be face to face with Mexico is defender Vedran Corluka, who had some nice words for his nation’s opponent on Tuesday.
Vice-captain Vedran Ćorluka on @miseleccionmx strength and #Croatia expectations in Dallas.#BeProud #Family #Vatreni pic.twitter.com/YmVy11VyBA— HNS | CFF (@HNS_CFF) March 26, 2018
The game is set for kickoff at 9:00 p.m. at the AT&T Stadium and will air live on Univision Deportes Network and UniMas in Spanish and on Fox Sports 1 in English.