Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

This article is part of The Guardian’s 2022 World Cup Experts Network, produced in collaboration with some of the top media outlets from the 32 qualifying countries. theguardian.com is broadcasting previews from both countries every day before the tournament, which will start on November 20.


The situation leading up to a tournament has never been so clear. Nine of the 11 starting points feel solid; the remaining two are everyone’s guesses – but not because they aren’t good options, quite the opposite. Zlatko Dalic has three or four players competing for each (right wing and center forward) and will decide who gets the nod on a match-by-match basis depending on the opponent and player form. What is particularly pleasing is that he now has a complete approach and makes it very clear, as in the past the manager was known to be preoccupied with many unnecessary experiments.

“I will not change the way we play,” he said ahead of the Nations League games that resulted in Croatia winning a group consisting of France, Denmark and Austria. “When you have a midfielder like ours, you have to work hard to move the ball and create your chances of possession. We have to play from behind and we are more dangerous when midfielders don’t have to go deep to get the ball.

Quick guide

Croatia group fixtures

To show

v Morocco Wed, November 23, 10:00 Al Bayt Stadium

v Canada Sun 27 Nov, 16:00 Khalifa International Stadium

v Belgium Thu 1st, 3pm Ahmed Ben Ali Stadium

All times GMT

Thank you for your feedback.

The 4-3-3 formation is definitely Dalic’s primary choice with 4-2-3-1 as a backup. And while the midfield trio has more than 300 caps between them, there have been changes elsewhere – particularly in defense, with starting fullbacks 22 and 20 years old who are much more mobile and ball-confident than their seasoned predecessors. Much of the 2018 silver medal-winning roster has been replaced, and there are notable additions since last year’s Euro, such as Josip Sutalo and Borna Sosa.