How they qualified: Croatian fans were put through the wringer in their campaign, even after things started so well. Five wins from their opening six games set them on their way, but then they took just a single point from a possible 12. Then, one day after the final group game, Igor Stimac resigned as head coach and was replaced by Niko Kovac. It meant Kovac had to oversee Croatia's play-off tie, but they carved out a narrow win over Iceland to qualify.
World Cup pedigree: Croatia made their first World Cup appearance as recently as 1998, and proved to be a true surprise package as they made it to the semi-finals before winning the third-place play-off. They failed to get past the group stages in both 2002 and 2006, and didn't appear in 2010.
Main man: Luka Modric is arguably the most gifted Croatian footballer around, and he acts as a midfield general in the team, covering both attacking and defensive duties. It's his craft in the final third that will be vital to Croatia's chances.
One to watch: Ivan Rakitic is in the form of his career at Sevilla, and will look to bring it to the international stage. The midfielder will aim to take some of the pressure of Modric, and make some trademark late runs into the box.
What are their chances? If Modric and Rakitic really click, Croatia might make it to the quarter-finals. In reality, though, just making it out of their group is a big ask, especially if star striker Mario Manduzkic is suspended for the first two games – against hosts Brazil (the World Cup's opening match) and then Cameroon – due to his red card in the playoff second leg against Iceland.