BOASTING a squad that combines technical skill and plenty of industry, qualification from the group stage will be a minimum target for Croatia.


Outright odds: 175/1

To win group: 8/1

To qualify: 11/10


Full squad: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Oliver Zelenika (Lokomotiv Moscow), Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld (Panathinaikos), Danijel Pranjic (Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dinamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Perisic (Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Mocinic (Rijeka), Sammir (Getafe), Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina).

Manager: Niko Kovac

World Cup record: Third (1998), twice group stage (2002, 2006)

How they qualified (most recent 1st): Beat surprise packages Iceland 2-0 on aggregate in a play-off after finishing second in UEFA Qualifying Group A, nine points adrift of winners Belgium and three clear of Serbia. Having started their campaign with five wins and a draw in their first six games, Croatia then picked up just one point in the last four to rather stumble into the play-offs.

v Iceland (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Mandzukic 27, Srna 47

v Iceland (away) 0-0 (HT 0-0)

v Scotland (away) 0-2 (HT 0-1)

v Belgium (home) 1-2 (HT 0-2) Kranjcar 83

v Serbia (away) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Mandzukic 53

v Scotland (home) 0-1 (HT 0-1)

v Wales (away) 2-1 (HT 0-1) Lovren 77, Eduardo 87

v Serbia (home) 2-0 (HT 2-0) Mandzukic 23, Olic 37

v Wales (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Mandzukic 27, Eduardo 57

v Macedonia (away) 2-1 (HT 1-1) Corluka 33, Rakitic 60 v Belgium (away) 1-1 (HT 1-1) Perisic 6

v Macedonia (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Jelavic 69

Goalscorers: Croatia struggled for goals throughout the campaign, never scoring more than twice in any game and netting only 14 goals in their 12 games. Only Mandzukic (four) scored more than twice. Eduardo and Olic managed two apiece.

Half-time/full-time: Croatia led at the break in four of their six victories, and were unbeaten in matches where they reached half-time at least all square. They overturned a half-time deficit to defeat Wales in Swansea.

Clean sheets: Croatia achieved five shutouts in 12 qualifiers. Before keeping out Iceland over two legs in the play-off, Croatia had conceded in five consecutive games. Nine of Croatia's 12 games featured under 2.5 goals; the other three finished 2-1.

Win to nil: Four out of six Croatia wins were to nil, three of them by a 2-0 scoreline.

Cards: Croatia picked up 27 bookings and two red cards across 12 games. Counting reds as two, there were 50 cards altogether in their matches at an average of 4.17 per game.

Other competitive internationals: Croatia have played no more competitive football than qualifying since finishing third behind Spain and Italy in the group stage of Euro 2012.

Build-up (most recent 1st): Croatia beat Mali 2-1 on May 31 and conclude their preparations against fellow World Cup qualifiers Australia on June 7 in Salvador. They played a 2-2 draw against Switzerland in March.

v Mali (home) 2-1 (HT 1-0) Perisic 15, 63

v Switzerland (away) 2-2 (HT 2-1) Olic 39, 54

Team verdict: Boasting a squad that combines technical skill and plenty of industry, qualification from the group stage will be a minimum target for Croatia.

Coach Niko Kovac won 83 caps as the hardest-working of midfielders and will demand similar industry from his players here.

Coupled with the talents of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, Eduardo and Ivica Olic, it's a formula that should see them perform well in Brazil.

A crucial factor in Croatia's campaign is the fact they kick off against Brazil. There are two ways of looking at that. The optimistic way is that there will be no better chance of catching the hosts and favourites off guard than in the opening game; the pessimistic is that it may leave them three points second place after the first round of fixtures.

Croatia's solidity was highlighted by a qualifying campaign in which no game produced more than three goals, and they would feel confident of at the very least preventing Brazil from inflicting a heavy, confidence-sapping defeat in that opening game.

From there they should be able to see off Cameroon before a winner-takes-all closer against Mexico.