Croatia confident it can challenge Mexico despite lack of stars

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Gaston de Cardenas
With six top players not traveling for Tuesday's friendly, the Europeans' depth will be tested and they feel they are up to the challenge

DALLAS — Six of Croatia's best players are back at home rather than here preparing for Tuesday's friendly against Mexico, but the Europeans still believe they'll offer El Tri a stern test.

The absence of Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic, Nikola Kalinic and Danijel Subasic will complicate things for a side coming off a 2-0 defeat to Peru on Friday. But it's also a chance for fringe players to impress manager Zlatko Dalic.

"I think Croatia has a lot of quality with all its players," forward Duje Cop told Goal before the team's training session Sunday. "Tuesday, of course when you don’t have players like Modric and they’re gone, you feel their absence. But I think we’ll make tomorrow a very good game and this is an opportunity for everyone to show what they’ve got for the World Cup."

Former Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka will captain Croatia in the contest with Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic also part of the group that will take on El Tri.

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"I think we have players who can replace them. We still have a lot of quality," said Corluka, who has played for Lokomotiv Moscow since 2012 and has a Russian nesting doll tattooed on his leg. "Obviously it’d be much better if these guys stayed with us, but the situation is like that. They left. But, like I said, we have enough quality in the team to replace them. All the players play at a good level, so I don’t think it will be a big issue."

That's not to say the Croatian team isn't expecting a strong test. The two teams have a fair amount of recent history, with Mexico topping Croatia in the 2014 World Cup and the European side winning a friendly last year before Mexico's trip to the Confederations Cup.

"We have a history. We always beat them in the friendly games, they always beat us when it’s an important game." Corluka said. "Hopefully, I don’t want us to lose this game, but hopefully in the future we will change that."

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