Given that they were paired with the last two world champions in Group C, some may have had Croatia down as underdogs to progress to the quarter-finals, but there is no faulting their ambition even though they need a result against Spain to reach the last eight.
"They are the best team in the world," Ivan Rakitić told UEFA.com. "The only thing they lack is the best player in the world, but he is Argentinian [Lionel Messi]. They have more good players than they need, and they could make two good teams who could do well in this competition. But we've seen that they can be unsettled and eliminated from the championship. So we have to believe in ourselves and give it our best shot, and I am sure we will have our opportunities."
Rakitić plays in Spain for Sevilla FC, and can provide some inside information for Slaven Billić – but knowing the scale of the task means the team can be inspired rather than intimidated by it. "We want to be measured against the best, and Spain are the best," he added. "We all know that Spain are the strong favourites, there is no doubt about that. But it is important to us to be ready and to play well. It is clear we will have our chances, and we have to use them when they come. I'm sure on Monday the whole of Croatia can be proud of their players."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.