Croatia have been one of the most impressive performers at this summer’s World Cup in Russia, finishing Group D with maximum points.
They saw off England’s Euro 2016 conquerors Iceland – who needed a win themselves to have any chance of progression – 2-1 on Tuesday night to set up a last 16 clash with Denmark despite making nine changes to the starting eleven.
One of the nine men who came into the side was 29-year-old Fiorentina midfielder Milan Badelj, lining up in the engine room alongside Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.
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Unlike France earlier on in the day, Croatia’s reserves took the opportunity to shine going into the knockout stages and Badelj was impressive as anyone, opening the scoring on 53 minutes before setting up a late winner for Ivan Perisic to kill off Iceland’s hopes of qualification.
Everton have been linked with midfield reinforcements for quite some time now, in the shape of Portuguese midfielder William Carvalho.
Yet, while the Sporting midfielder has looked cumbersome in Fernando Santos’ functional side, Badelj offered energy and a key contribution at both ends, marrying accurate passing and six interceptions with his attacking influence.
Of course the Croat is the older man but as Carvalho struggles to impose himself on the tournament, the 29-year-old offered Marco Silva a timely reminder that there are other options out in Russia this summer.