ZAGREB - Croatia are waiting on clearance from governing body FIFA to allow them to replace injured midfielder Ivan Mocinic with Milan Badelj, the national football federation said Wednesday on the eve of the World Cup finals opener with hosts Brazil.
Mocinic, 21, is the fourth player from the Croat squad to be forced to drop out because of injury but normally FIFA rules allow squads to replace injured players up to the eve of the kick-off of the tournament. Mocinic suffered a recurrence of an ankle injury and is expected to be sidelined for up to three weeks.
"We have to take into account the interest of the squad but also the interest of both Mocinic and his club and that is why we have to send him home," said coach Niko Kovac in a statement published on the Croatian football federation's (HNS) website. The federation has forwarded to FIFA all medical documentation on the injury of Rijeka defender.
If FIFA gives its green light Hamburg's Badelj would join the squad on Friday which means that he would miss the match against Brazil. The 25-year-old was initially named in a 30-man provisional squad but Kovac had to rule him out due to a muscle injury. QPR's Niko Kranjcar, Hamburg Ivo Ilicevic and Ivan Strinic of Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk will also miss the World Cup due to injuries.
In their last World Cup warm-up match last week the 'Fiery Ones' (Vatreni) defeated fellow finalists Australia 1-0. The team who will also face Mexico and Cameroon is led by experienced stars like midfield magician Luka Modric of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic. Croatia's best performance at a World Cup was reaching the 1998 semi-finals, but they failed to qualify in 2010.