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UEFA EURO reporter's view: Croatia

With a superb midfield and a killer striker, Croatia have good reason to think they can make it through the group stage, but team reporter Elvir Islamović knows fans want much more.

Fans expect the unexpected from Luka Modrić
Fans expect the unexpected from Luka Modrić ©Getty Images

Squad analysis
It is no secret that Croatia have one of the tournament's best midfields thanks to the likes of Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović. Much is expected of Juventus striker Mario Mandžukić too, with his fellow forwards not in the same class. Their biggest problem is at left-back, coach Ante Čačić yet to properly deal with the absence of the injured Josip Pivarić.

One to watch
Luka Modrić was a star for Real Madrid as they won the UEFA Champions League, and is expected to inspire Croatia at UEFA EURO 2016.

EURO star: Luka Modrić

Leader and playmaker, his performance will be the barometer of his team's; if he links up well with Rakitić and his other team-mates and maintains the supply lines to Mandžukić – most likely a lone striker – great things can happen. How fresh he will be after an exhausting club season is a big question, but no one doubts his commitment.

How they'll play
Čačić tried has tried out 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 formations in friendly games in recent months, but a 4-2-3-1, with Mandžukić alone up front, seems his most viable option. Croatia will look to overhwelm opponents with that classy midfield, with the agile, powerful Mandžukić a menace in full flow.

Croatia coach Ante Čačić
Croatia coach Ante Čačić©Domenic Aquilina

What you won't know
An amateur whose playing career was over by the time he was 30 due to injury, Čačić ran a successful electronic repairs business in the centre of Zagreb. "A lot of people came to get their TVs repaired at my shop," he recalled. He eventually hung up his soldering iron in 1991, two years after taking on his first professional coaching job at Zadar.

How they'll do
The minimum Croatians expect is a place in the knockout phase; getting as far as the quarter-finals would be an excellent result, but in a nation which always seems to expect miracles of its football team, fans are hoping to get to the last four – and then, who knows?

Turkey oust Croatia on penalties

Most memorable EURO moment
Mine is not necessarily a fond memory; UEFA EURO 2008, quarter-finals, 20 June, Vienna, Croatia v Turkey, extra-time. Ivan Klasnić scored for Croatia in the 119th minute: ecstasy. Moments later, Semih Şentürk made it 1-1: agony. Croatia lost on penalties. From joy to despair in the space of a few minutes.

What I'm most looking forward to this summer
I have been a team reporter at three of the last four EUROs, and it is a hard to describe how it feels to be part of someting you dreamed about playing in as a kid. The atmosphere of a EURO is something every football fan should experience once in a lifetime. I am always proud to be involved.

Follow Elvir throughout the finals on @UEFAcomElvirI

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