As we countdown to Russia 2018, we take a look at all 32 teams and suggest a reason to back them. With 11 days to the big kick-off it is the turn of Croatia.


No, Ireland don't naturally have fond memories of Croatia.

They were the ones who burst our 'You'll never beat the Irish' bubble back in the opening game Euro 2012, our first major tournament in ten years. 

And if that wasn't bad enough they were 50% responsible for the previous year's 0-0 stinker in Dublin that surely kick-started the campaign to end international friendlies. 

But all that aside they have a similar population, around 4.1 million, and are therefore worthy of a fond appraisal. 

Grouped with Iceland, Ukraine and Turkey, they replaced their manager with just one game left after some inconsistent performances. 

Zlatko Dalic helped oversee a final-round win over Ukraine to book a play-off place where they prevailed 4-1 on aggregate against Greece. 

In Russia, they'll once again come up against the impressive Icelanders - who lit up Euro 2016 with their Viking Clap and their famous victory over England - along with Nigeria and Argentina. 

Their two games with Iceland ended in a home win apiece so they'll fancy their chances in the Rostov Arena and if they could beat Spain at Euro 2016, which they did, then they won't fear Argentina either. 

Their main man is still Luka Modric of Real Madrid, ably assisted by Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic.

The 32-year-old former Spurs man remains the pulse of the team, ranked 18 in the world, and has been feeding Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic for the last few years and there's no reason why they can't click one more time. 

Liverpool's Dejan Lovren is also in the squad, while Italy-based Ivan Perisic and Nikola Kalinic are the other goal threats. 

With two players who featured in the Champions League final, and Mateo Kovacic an unsed sub, Dalic has the tools to craft a decent side. 

"I’m very proud that Croatia has three players in the Champions League final, which proves our quality," he said." 

"They won’t be tired and will come to Russia full of confidence and motivation."

Their best moment in five World Cup appearances came in 1998 when they finished in third place. 

Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Gent), Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb)

Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Ivan Strinic (Sampdoria), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Duje Caleta-Car (Salzburg)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka)

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Nikola Kalinic (AC Milan), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Marko Pjaca (Schalke), Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt)

You can follow the FIFA World Cup from 14 June with RTÉ. Live blogs of every game on RTÉ.ie and the News Now App, with 56 games live on RTÉ television and all 64 games available on the RTÉ Player