Croatia have qualified for two FIFA U-20 World Cups previously. At Nigeria 1999 their squad included future senior-team goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa as they qualified for the last 16 from a tough group including Ghana and Argentina, only to be denied a place in the quarter-finals by Brazil. Even so, Martin Novoselac's charges did manage to take home a prize – the FIFA Fair Play Award. At Colombia 2011, Croatia were sent packing after the first round following group-stage defeats by Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Guatemala.
Naturally, Dinko Jelicic's team are aiming for an improvement this time round and will have gained confidence from their showing at the UEFA U-19 European Championship 2012 in Estonia. After a sobering start to the group stage which included a 1-1 draw against England and a 1-0 defeat by France, the Croatians responded with a 3-0 success against Serbia and qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 in third spot.
Croatian teams have built something of a reputation at youth level for their technical ability and this year promises more of the same. However, they also hold the strong defensive spine continuing from the U-19 EURO, while Lokomotiva Zagreb team-mates Filip Mrzljak and Marko Pjaca – who helped their side finish second in Croatia – will look to dictate play from the middle of the field. They may not be among the favourites at Turkey 2013, but the potential in the Croatian squad makes them one team not to be underestimated.