Football

Ivan Perisic's late winner against Spain sparked wild scenes in Bordeaux.

Croatia ready to shock the world of football with a Euro 2016 victory

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In 1992, Denmark stunned the world of football after their European Championship final victory over Germany.

Three tournaments later, and it was Greece's turn to cause a major upset in the final, with an Angelos Charisteas header proving the winner against the home nation and strong favourites Portugal.  

A further three tournaments along, could an outsider again lift the trophy to keep in line with the trend?

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This time around, these two former champions are absent, despite the new format making it arguably the easiest edition of the Euros in history to qualify for. However, if this pattern of an underdog winning the Euros every 12 years is to become established, Croatia are looking like prime candidates to lift the 2016 trophy.

Whilst the two-time Euros quarter-finalists were always expected to progress to the knockout stages, many did not predict them to top the group in the fashion that they did so. 

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The style of play has drawn many admirers, with five team goals a high total in comparison to most other teams. A draw against Czech Republic has been the only negative so far, where Croatia inexplicably threw away a two-goal lead amidst crowd trouble, and suffered an injury to midfield maestro Luka Modric.

Despite these dropped points, Ante Cacic clearly set his side out to play attacking, attractive football, and his players have so far duly delivered. 

The Croatians made five changes for the final group game against reigning champions Spain, who had not lost in the Euros since 2004. Their attacking intent and character was displayed again, as most teams in Croatia's situation would have settled for the draw and a runners-up spot.

FBL-EURO-2016-MATCH32-CRO-ESP

Sergio Ramos' missed penalty added fuel to the fire, with the excellent Ivan Perisic slotting home after a late breakaway move, to seal a remarkable victory and elevate his side to first place in the final Group D standings. 

Croatia will take great confidence from turning over the reigning champions, especially after being an early goal down with a supposed weakened starting XI.

The surprise win over Spain showed the rest of Europe why Croatia must be taken seriously. Five changes did not disrupt the momentum within the Croatian ranks, which points to a real cohesion in the whole squad.

This also indicates a real strength in depth, which will prove vital in the latter stages of the tournament. The rest will allow the likes of Modric to recuperate and return as sharp as possible for the knockout fixtures.

Turkey v Croatia - Group D: UEFA Euro 2016

As far as midfields go, they don't come much stronger than Croatia's. They are blessed with the world class talent of Luka Modric, accompanied by fellow Real Madrid midfield man Mateo Kovacic, as well as Marcelo Brozovic, Barcelona enforcer Ivan Rakitic, and the aforementioned Perisic.

There are certainly plenty of goals from the midfield area, whilst ex-Blackburn Rovers forward Nikola Kalinic is off the mark after an impressive display against the Spaniards.

In defence, Darijo Srna offers natural leadership and momentous amounts of experience, having played over 100 times in the red and white shirt of his national outfit. Vedran Corluka has made an impressive start to the tournament, as he also provides a depth of international experience.

Croatia v Spain - Group D: UEFA Euro 2016

The 2-1 win against Spain was particularly important, not only for confidence, but it also ensured that Croatia have earned a more favourable draw than if they finished as runners-up.

The miserly defence of Italy have been avoided in the last 16, with Spain now faced with the unenviable task of breaking down an all-Juventus rearguard.

Nevertheless, Portugal will be a tough side for Croatia to overcome, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo finally finding his goalscoring boots.

Tournament favourites France have also been avoided until the final, along with world champions Germany, which will encourage the Croatians to make it through all the stages of what is seen as the easier draw on paper.

FBL-EURO-2016-MATCH32-CRO-ESP

All in all, the omens are looking rather promising for the dark horses Croatia. Their in-form, talented squad will be brimming with confidence, with their goalscoring threat that could prove a vital weapon on the perceived easier side of the draw.

When you collate all these factors and add in the final omen of the 12-year sequence, a new name could be engraved on the trophy on July 10.

Denmark '92, Greece '04, Croatia '16?

Can Croatia go all the way and win the European Championships? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Topics:
Nikola Kalinic
Luka Modric
Ivan Rakitic
Euro 2016
Football
Vedran Corluka
Mateo Kovacic

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