Croatia had to rely on a play-off in order to book their place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. A clinical performance in the first leg of their play-off against Greece ensured Croatia will be in Russia next year after an indifferent qualification campaign that saw them finish behind Iceland in hotly contested Group I. Any team featuring Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic should never be written off and the appointment of Zlatko Dalic after the sacking of Ante Cacic in October appears to have had the required effect and rejuvinated the squad. The former under-21 assistant coach is expected to be offered a permanent contract to lead the team at the World Cup but must find a way to get the best out of an ageing squad.
Croatia found themselves in a competitive group and they will be pleased to have reached the finals in Russia, their fifth appearance at a World Cup. Croatia won six of their ten matches, losing two and drawing two to finish the group in second place ahead of Ukraine, Turkey, Finland and Kosovo. Mario Mandzukic finished as the nation's leading scorer with five goals, which included a hat-trick againt Kosovo in October 2016.
Croatia were semi-finalista in France in 1998 and have failed to eclipse that feat since. They failed to progress beyond the group stage at Korea/Japan 2002, Germany 2006 and Brazil 2014, while they did not even qualify for South Africa 2010. A 4-1 win over Greece in their European play-off ensured they didn't miss out this time, a route they needed to take four years ago in which they beat the side they finished behind in Group I this time around - Iceland.
Croatia will be looking to advance from the group stages and then will be looking to spring a couple of surprises along the way. They have plenty of experience in their ranks and this may work in their favour in Russia. Football Ticket Pad will have tickets available for some of Croatia's biggest matches, including the group stages and knockout rounds all the way to the showpiece World Cup final.