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World Cup Fantasy Preview: Croatia

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Always contenders for the best jerseys, Croatia as a football team have been just on the cusp of breaking into the conversation as dark horses in major tournaments in the past decade. Will this be their year to make a run deep into the World Cup finals?

Croatia have a surprising number of big name stars. Who will be the best among them?
Croatia have a surprising number of big name stars. Who will be the best among them?
Alex Grimm

Former captain and star of the Croatia national team Niko Kovac has brought a nice blend of youth and experience to the squad since his appointment 7 months ago, and his provisional World Cup squad reflects that. Here's a look at who made the plane to Brazil:

Goalkeepers

Stipe Pletikosa, Danijel Subasic, Oliver Zelenika

Defenders

Igor Bubnjic, Vedran Corluka, Dejan Lovren, Danijel Pranjic, Gordon Schildenfeld, Darijo Srna, Ivan Strinic, Domagoj Vida, Sime Vrsaljko

Midfielders

Milan Badelj, Marcelo Brozovic, Ivo Ilicevic, Mateo Kovacic, Niko Kranjcar, Ivan Mocinic, Luka Modric, Mario Pasalic, Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic, Sammir, Ognjen Vukojevic

Forwards

Duje Cop, Eduardo da Silva, Nikica Jelavic, Mario Mandzukic, Ivica Olic, Ante Rebic

It's tough to tell which 7 players Kovac will drop to make up his final 23-man squad, but there are definitely some standout players whose omission would come as a huge surprise. 

Fantasy Players to Watch

Stipe Pletikosa - The veteran goalkeeper is entering that late prime that many shot-stoppers tend to hit in their mid-to-late 30s. If his impact in previous tournaments is anything to go by, he should be good value for investment in games where Croatia have a good chance of a win and/or clean sheet.

Darijo Srna - Another of the old guard, the long-standing captain of the Croatia squad may be playing in his final World Cup in Brazil, but still has plenty to offer. The fullback is constantly involved in the attack, takes set pieces and penalties, and has great defensive qualities. The best comparison to his style of play is that of Leighton Baines.

Dejan Lovren - A wonderful debut season for Southampton showed us the potential the center back has to deliver strong fantasy returns. The 24 year-old has an eye for goal and will be an aerial threat on set pieces.

Luka Modric - How Spurs have missed having the little playmaker at the heart of their midfield since his transfer to Real Madrid. The talented midfielder can unlock defenses with his pinpoint passing, but isn't afraid to unleash a shot from distance either. 

Ivan Rakitic - The 26 year-old attacking midfielder helped lead his Sevilla side to Europa League glory in 2014 and has been attracting a lot of interest from Champions League clubs. Slightly more attack-minded than Modric, he's likely to be heavily involved in the attack and has contributed his fair share of goals from midfield in the past.

Eduardo da Silva - The Brazilian-born striker showed immense promise at Arsenal before suffering a horrific leg break. He has rediscovered his goalscoring form of late, now playing his club football in Ukraine for Shakhtar Donetsk. A return to his native country could provide some extra incentive as the 31 year-old may not get another chance to play in the World Cup.

Mario Mandzukic - Despite having a breakout season at Bayern Munich, it appears as if the striker could be on his way out after being left out of the squad to face Borussia Dortmund in the German cup final yesterday even though he was fully fit. International tournaments are often a great stage for players to increase their transfer value and market their talents to potential suitors from around the world. Mandzukic will be eager to make an impact.