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Euro 2016 team preview: Croatia's talented squad have high hopes

Group D: Spain | Czech Republic | Turkey | Croatia

Croatia have never gone beyond the last eight of a European Championship, but this time, a talented group of players should be aiming at least that high. Their midfield options are as good as anybody's, and anything short of the quarterfinals would be disappointing.

How they qualified: Second in Group H

Croatia pipped Norway on the final matchday, though they lost only once and conceded just five goals. Their margin would have been more convincing had a point not been deducted following racist behaviour by their supporters in the home match against the Italians.

How they'll proceed:

The smart money is on Croatia to finish second to Spain, in which case they will probably face Belgium or Italy. That would be a mightily tough round-of-16 clash to call, especially as they drew 1-1 twice with the Italians in qualifying.

TBD by Editor
Croatia reached the European Championship quarterfinals in 1996 and 2008.

Predicted lineup:

(4-2-3-1); GK: Danijel Subasic; DF: Darijo Srna, Vedran Corluka, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; MF: Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic, Marko Pjaca; FW: Mario Mandzukic.

Key player: Luka Modric

Croatia are not short of quality, but it is encouraging that Modric seems to have found a new level with Real Madrid since the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as manager. Maintaining that form would give his country a chance to stand up to the very best.

Manager: Ante Cacic

Little-known outside Croatia, the well-traveled 62-year-old did the job asked of him after taking over in September. Under Cacic, Croatia shrugged off the 2-0 defeat in Norway that ended Robert Kovac's reign and beat Bulgaria and Malta to qualify for France.

Schedule:

June 12 vs. Turkey (9 a.m. ET/1 p.m. GMT; Parc des Princes, Paris)
-- LIVE on ESPN

June 17 vs. Czech Republic (Noon ET/4 p.m. GMT; Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne)
-- LIVE on ESPN

June 21 vs. Spain (3 p.m. ET/7 p.m. GMT; Stade Velodrome, Marseille)
-- LIVE on ESPN

Games are also LIVE on ESPN Deportes, ESPN FC, WatchESPN and the ESPN app.

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