Croatia Finalizes Euro Squad With Modrić, Perišić And Brozović The Leading Lights
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ZAGREB - Striker Bruno Petković is expected to fill Mario Mandžukić's big boots at Euro 2020 as Croatia aim to reach the last 16 at the June 11-July 11 tournament, coach Zlatko Dalić said as he named his 26-man squad on Monday.
Mandžukić, who scored an extra time winner in a 2-1 victory over England in their 2018 World Cup semifinal, is one of several stalwarts who hung up their international boots after Croatia were beaten by France 4-2 in the final.
There were no surprises in Dalić's squad as a bulk of those who spearheaded that World Cup campaign were named alongside a host of players looking to impress on the big stage. Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida are likely to be Dalić's first-choice center backs again while 35-year old captain Luka Modrić will continue to drive the midfield.
"Petković has to be at Euro 2020 what Mandžukić was in Russia," Dalić told the online edition of daily Sportske Novosti. "He has shown that he is capable of leading the line but he has to be in top form. If not, Andrej Kramarić and Ante Budimir are the alternatives."
The gifted Petković has scored six goals in 13 appearances for Croatia but is yet to be tested on the biggest stage after making his debut in March 2019.
The Croatians face England, Scotland and the Czech Republic in Euro 2020 Group D and open their campaign against the English at Wembley on June 13. They face the Czechs at Hampden Park on June 18 where they also lock horns with Scotland in their final group match four days later.
Dalić played down Croatia's chances of emulating or surpassing their World Cup success.
"The primary goal is to reach the knockout stages and what makes it difficult is the fact that England and Scotland will be hosts in their games against us," he said. "England will be our most difficult opponents because they are a top quality side and we'll be playing them at Wembley.
"Our will-power and energy levels are the same as before the World Cup, but the atmosphere is different. The bar is too high and expectations are unrealistic now whereas no one had any before we went to Russia. We are still among the top 10 sides in Europe but there are many teams with a better chance of winning Euro 2020."
Croatia Euro 2021 Squad
Goalkeepers: Dominik Livaković (Dinamo Zagreb), Lovre Kalinić (Hajduk Split), Simon Sluga (Luton Town)
Defenders: Šime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Josip Juranović (Legia Warsaw), Dejan Lovren (Zenit), Duje Ćaleta-Car (Marseille), Borna Barišić (Rangers), Mile Škorić (Osijek), Joško Gvardiol (Dinamo Zagreb), Domagoj Bradarić (Lille)
Midfielders: Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Marcelo Brozović (Inter Milan), Milan Badelj (Genoa), Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea), Nikola Vlašić (CSKA Moscow), Mario Pašalić (Atalanta), Luka Ivanušec (Dinamo Zagreb)
Forwards: Bruno Petković (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Perišić (Inter Milan), Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim), Josip Brekalo (Wolfsburg), Ante Rebić (AC Milan), Mislav Oršić (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Budimir (Osasuna)
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris and Christian Radnedge)