Sevilla captain Ivan Rakitic has been named in Croatia’s provisional World Cup squad.
Rakitic lifted the Europa League trophy last night after Sevilla’s penalty shootout win over Benfica, and is one of three La Liga players in Niko Kovac’s 30-man party.
Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Getafe’s Sammir are also included in the first Croatian squad to feature Spanish-based players since 1998.
The list will be reduced to 23 and must be submitted to FIFA by June 2.
Rakitic has been an instrumental figure in his club’s successful European campaign with three goals and three assists, while he has also netted 12 times and set up a further 10 in La Liga as they have secured a continental place for next season.
Since making his international debut in 2007, the influential playmaker has appeared at two European Championships but this will be his first taste of the world’s biggest stage.
That is also the case for midfield partner Modric, who has also featured heavily at the Bernabeu this season with one goal and six assists to his name.
He was named in the Euro 2008 team of the tournament and will be hoping for an equally impressive competition at his maiden World Cup.
Brazilian-born Sammir has been something of a bit-part player since joining Getafe from Dinamo Zagreb in early 2014, and is one of the lesser-experienced players in the squad with just four caps.
These are just three from a host of attacking options available for the Croats, with the likes of Eduardo and Mario Mandzukic also featuring.
After failing to qualify last time around, their return couldn’t have provided a much tougher start, with hosts and favourites Brazil waiting in the tournament’s opening game on June 12.
Kovac’s men then face Cameroon six days later, before facing Mexico in their final group game on June 23.
In what is expected to be a three-way battle for second place, Croatia are expected to prevail along with Brazil from Group A.
The second round could throw up potential meetings with holders Spain or three-time finalists the Netherlands, but Vatreni have been known to cause upsets in big tournaments having beaten Germany twice in their 23-year history.
One of those came in their run to the semi-finals and third place at their first ever World Cup in 1998. Davor Suker was the tournament’s top scorer that year and with Rakitic and co, Croatia have plenty of attacking threats to create problems this time around.
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