ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatia has one of the most stylish midfielders in world football, and one of the top strikers.
Combined, Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic can expect to help Croatia score some goals at the World Cup, and possibly make their way into the knockout round.
Here are five players to watch:
Luka Modric is the backbone of the Croatian national team, and has become a regular in Real Madrid's central midfield.
The slender-built former Dinamo Zagreb and Tottenham player can also play as an attacking midfielder or winger with his neat technical skills.
At the 2008 European Championship, Modric was included in the UEFA "Team of the Tournament," becoming only the second Croatian to achieve that honor.
Mario Mandzukic is the strike force of the Croatian team.
Mandzukic, who plays for Bayern Munich, is known for finding space and his off-the-ball play. He also often participates in the defense, making him highly versatile.
At Euro 2012, he and several others led the scoring chart with three goals. He also became the first Croat to score in a Champions League final, getting Bayern's first goal in 2013.
Bayern says it wants to keep him despite reported interest from several top English, Spanish and Italian teams.
Croatia captain Darijo Srna is the workhorse of the team, known for his crossing and free kicks.
Srna plays for Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, and can play as a right back and at right midfield. He is the most capped player in the history of Croatian national team.
Srna had offers from clubs like Chelsea and Bayern Munich, but he reportedly declined them due to his loyalty to Shakhtar.
Sevilla captain and midfielder Ivan Rakitic regularly creates chances for the attackers.
Technically sound, versatile and creative in possession, Rakitic regularly tracks back to help out defensively. Croatia will look to him to supplement the goal threat of Mario Mandzukic.
Rakitic was born in Switzerland and played for the Swiss under-21 side.
The 20-year-old Mateo Kovacic is considered to be one of the top young talents of European football. Kovacic can take on different positions in midfield, having started out in an attacking role at Dinamo Zagreb but taking on more defensive duties after joining Inter Milan last year. With veteran Niko Kranjcar out of the World Cup, Kovacic is likely to join Modric and Rakitic in the powerful Croatian midfield.