ZAGREB, May 11 (Xinhua) -- A month from today, on June 12, all eyes will be on Brazilian and Croatian national teams who will be playing in the World Cup opener.
Brazilian coach Felipe Scolari has already announced his 23-men squad that will try to win record sixth title in front of the enthusiastic home crowd. His Croatian counterpart Niko Kovac will wait until May 31 to release his final roster, names of 23 players who will travel to Tivoli Ecoresort in Praia do Forte, Croatian base in Brazil during the World Cup.
Most of Croatian media have been speculating for weeks about that list and most agreed that there is a core of at least 18 players who can already pack their suitcases. Among those, there is a smaller group of players whose performance will have a great influence on the Croatia's results at the World Cup. Therefore, it's very important that those players enter the tournament healthy, physically well prepared and confident that they can produce great things on the field. So far, Niko Kovac can be very happy with the state of his key figures. They are all free of injuries and they all have leading roles in their clubs.
Luka Modric (28) became one of Real Madrid crucial players under Carlo Ancelotti's guidance. Even those who doubted him have to admit that his ability to defend and then create Real's fast and deadly counterattacks was crucial on the path to the UEFA Champions League final. There is no doubt that Kovac will use Modric in a similar role, making him heart and lungs of the team.
Ivan Rakitic (26) will be helping Modric making Croatian midfield strong and creative at the same time. Sevilla's captain had a strong season and was one of the best players in Spanish Primera Division leading his team through to the final of the UEFA Europa League and fighting for the place in the qualifying round for the UEFA Champions League in the next season. It remains to be seen if Rakitic will still be in Sevilla to lead the squad to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League or he will partner Modric not only in Croatian national team but also in the jersey of Real Madrid, as the recent reports in the Spanish media suggest.
If Modric and Rakitic will be productive that will mean that Mario Mandzukic (27) will have a lot of chances to endanger goalkeepers of Croatia's opponents. Mandzukic's season came to a somewhat bitter end after Bayern Munich's chances of becoming the first team to defend the UEFA Champions League crown were trashed in the semifinals by Real Madrid and after he lost a title of the Bundesliga's best scorer in the last matchday to Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund striker and new Bayern's signing who is regarded by many as Mandzukic's replacement in Munich. Mandzukic will skip the opener against Brazil because suspension but that should make him even more eager to prove that he is a top class striker and help Croatia pass the group stage at the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
It is likely that Eduardo da Silva (31), Brazilian born footballer with Croatian passport, will occupy Mandzukic's place in the attack for the opener against his native country. If Kovac pick him for that game it will not be because of his contribution to Croatia's successes in the past but because Eduardo showed that he can be a great asset scoring goals for Ukraine champions Shakhtar Donetsk.
Wolfsburg's veteran striker Ivica Olic (35), who may be Eduardo's attacking partner against Brazil, will bring experience and positive altitude to the field, alongside with his amazing amount of energy. Olic scored 14 goals for Wolfsburg in Bundesliga, helping the team to qualify for the place in the UEFA Europa League for the next season. He recently signed two year extension of his contract with Wolfsburg so Kovac can be sure that all of Olic's focus in the following months will be solely on the World Cup where his goals can boost Croatia's chances.
Ivan Perisic (25), Olic's younger teammate from Wolfsburg and Croatian national team, also had a season of rejuvenation. In his first year with Wolfsburg he scored 13 goals in all competitions fulfilling his attacking potential which Croatian supporters would love to see in Brazil, as well.
If everybody mentioned will bring their recent form to Brazil, with Mandzukic being the only exception as he needs to improve, Niko Kovac will have enough attacking options. But, what he will do about his defense? Well, he can be optimistic about that part of the team, as well.
Goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa (35) will be playing in his third World Cup and when it comes to experience he is second to none. His side Rostov won the Russian Cup thanks to the penalty save that Pletikosa made in the shootout. Bringing the first trophy to the club that was founded in 1930 will fill Pletikosa with pride, joy and self-confidence, the most powerful ingredient of a great goalkeeper.
Croatia's and Shakhtar Donetsk captain Darijo Srna (32) once again led Ukrainian powerhouse to the national title. He will occupy right side of the field. He will defend, he will attack. He will wear heart on his sleeve, just as he did throughout his whole career. This might be his last World Cup appearance and you can be sure that he will do everything in his power to make it the most successful. Niko Kovac wouldn't and couldn't ask for more from his captain.
The anchorman of Croatia's defense will be Vedran Corluka (28). He is the leader of the Lokomotiv Moscow defense, the most successful in the Russian Premier League that had conceded only 20 goals in 28 matches. His club has entered last two rounds in a dead race for the title being just one point behind the leader Zenit St. Petersburg. Matured and physically fit Corluka can be one of the best defenders of the World Cup, something that Kovac will hope for.
A month before the clash with the mighty Brazilian squad Croatian supporters can be filled with optimism and hope that this generation of players will hit the peak of their performances just in time for the start of the World Cup. Of course, there is still a lot of work in front Niko Kovac and his team. For the time being, Croatia's future doesn't look bad. Not bad at all.