How they qualified
The Croatians did not qualify the easy way for the finals. In a tough group, they struggled with an opening defeat at home to Austria, 3-0. A 1-1 draw with France kept the East Europeans in the race and with perseverance two wins against Denmark as well as a victory in Paris proved to be decisive. They edged the team of Kasper Hjulmand Danish team for the top spot by a single point.
It’s the first time that the Eastern Europeans have reached the semi-finals of the competition. In the 2021 iteration, they won just one match in a group with Sweden, France and Portugal. It was a point less than their 2019 campaign when they finished bottom of Group 4 behind Spain and England.
Once again the 37-year-old Luka Modric will lead the Croatians. His consistency at the elite level remains striking. He never tires and combines his courage with his great skill. He is no doubt Croatia’s greatest-ever player. In midfield, he will be accompanied by Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozovic.
Zlatko Dalic is a familiar face in the international game. He has been Croatia’s coach since 2017 – and to great success. They reached the last four of the World Cup twice in a row. Modric’s eventual retirement from the national team will present Dalic with his biggest challenge, but for now, he can count on the Madrid star as Croatia go in search of their first senior title.
What to expect
Josko Gvardiol has been ruled out of the squad, but Croatia have experience across the pitch to deal with tournament football. A team that never gives up, this is Croatia’s greatest generation ever and a prize would be a fine reward for their consistency at the international level. A win in Rotterdam and they’d be only 90 minutes away from achieving the feat. History is on their side: in 1998, they defeated their hosts 2-1 to claim bronze at the World Cup in France.
Goalkeepers: Dominik Livakovic (GNK Dinamoo), Ivica Ivusic (Pafos) Nediljko Labrovic (HNK Rijeka)
Defenders: Domagoj Vida (AEK Athens) Borna Barisic (Rangers), Josip Juranovic (Union Berlin) Borna Sosa (VFB Stuttgart), Josip Stanisic (FC Bayern), Josip Sutalo (GNK Dinamo) Martin Erlic (Sassuolo)
Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta), Nikola Vlasic (Torino), Lovro Majer (Stade Rennes), Luka Ivanusec (GNK Dinamo)
Attackers: Ivan Perisic (Tottenham Hotspur), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Bruno Petkovic (GNK Dinamo), Marko Livaja, Petar Musa (Benfica), Dion Drena Beljo (Augsburg)