Since the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia has become has become a regular at the big international tournaments. They participated in the UEFA European Championships of 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012, and at the FIFA World Cup in 1998 (where they finished third) and 2006. In 2014 they arrive at football's biggest stage with the Croatians placing a lot of their hopes on the shoulders of two Liga BBVA players: Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić.
The Real Madrid CF player was something of a playmaker for the winner of the UEFA Champions League and the Copa del Rey in the 2013/14 season. Last year, his first in a white shirt, doubts were cast on the ex-Tottenham Hotspur FC player's ability to cut it in the Liga BBVA, but under the orders of Carlo Ancelotti he has become the engine of the Décima-winning team. He will now be bidding to top off an excellent year with a good performance in a chequered shirt in Brazil, something that will not be easy as his team will meet the all-powerful host nation in Group A. The Brazilian outfit will almost certainly feature his teammate Marcelo in the left-back position.
It is a similar story for Rakitić. Since his arrival at Sevilla FC the Croat has grown enormously. He has now accumulated 140 matches and 30 goals with the Andalusian side, and in the 2013/14 season he has become one of the standout players in the Liga BBVA and in European competition, where he won the UEFA Europa League after beating SL Benfica in a close final in Turin. Of course, his performances have not gone unnoticed by other big clubs on the continent, and a good World Cup for Rakitić in Brazil could lead to some big offers being sent to Seville.
The two Liga BBVA players, together with other big names such as Mario Mandžukić, Ivica Olić and Darijo Srna make Croatia a tricky team and they could cross paths with Spain in the last sixteen of the tournament. It is clear that with two footballing minds such as those of Modrić and Rakitić the Balkan outfit will only add to the fun in what promises to be a thrilling month of football.