Niko Kovac’s men take on Argentina at West Ham’s Boleyn ground. Despite this being a friendly, this is an important game for the Europeans. Their next game is a European qualifier against Italy, a tough match they would want to win.
For Argentina, it would simply be about pride. Tata Martino has taken over as coach after Alejandro Sabella dropped his boots after the World Cup.
Here are three things the Croats need to do to overcome the Argentinean hurdle:
1. The midfield trio has to contain the Argentinean attack threat
Croatia usually play with a three man midfield, which remains a huge possibility today. It is likely to comprise Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic. The three players are familiar with the defensive role as they have been deployed in that position for their clubs at some point of time. Luka Modric knows Messi well because of La Liga and he would have added responsibility to shield the defence. Rakitic should ideally be in a more advanced position but the past few games have shown us Kovac’s insistence to have the Barcelona player behind with Modric. Kovacic or another player (perhaps equally talented starlet linked with Arsenal, Marcelo Brozovic) would take up the advanced position. This midfield trio would need to help out the defence conain the immense threat Messi brings in the middle of the pitch. Croatia can take heart from a stalemate as well and they need to ensure the Argentineans don’t do much damage in the initial minutes. The likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria, Messi himself is a threatening one and the Croats would need to control the midfield well.
2. Mario Mandzukic needs to get on the score sheet.
The Atletico Madrid striker has been in fine form since his summer arrival. With seven goals from 13 appearances in the league and the Champions League, Mandzukic has made his transition from Bayern Munich very easy and has ensured Diego Simeone’s side continues to challenge on all fronts. The Croat also has two goals to his names in international friendlies. With four goals in the previous four games for Atletico, he is in good goalscoring form at the moment and he needs to continue it into this international break. A goal against Argentina would give him a lot of confidence, going into the all important qualifier against Italy. Moreover, Mandzukic remains Croatia’s biggest goal-scoring option. He might be alongside Ante Rebic or Jelavic, but with the experience he has at the topmost level, the Atletico man has the most responsibility in the attack to get the Croats an important win.
3. Niko Kovac has to find the right system for upcoming matches
The Croatian coach needs to take these games and find the appropriate system for his team. Croatia’s upcoming matches, the qualifier against Italy and games in other international breaks, are very important in their quest for a berth in the Euros in 2016. After a lot of time, the European side looks strong enough to compete against the likes of Germany and Spain. Coach Kovac needs to find a system which suits all his players and needs to implement it in the upcoming matches. Is playing Kovacic in the advanced position better or should he be deployed alongside Modric and Ivan Rakitc be played as the more advanced midfielder? Should a 4-3-3 be played with Perisic and Rebic on the wings and Madzukic alone or a diamond formation with Mandzukic and Jelavic in attack and Brozovic or another player as the number 10. Kovac needs to find the perfect system for his side as they look to do great things for the nation.