In a sensational turn of events, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has sent Nikola Kalinic home from the 2018 FIFA World Cup after the forward refused to come on a second-half substitute during his side’s 2-0 win over Nigeria on Sunday.
“In agreement with his coaching staff, Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalić decided to exclude Nikola Kalinić from the World Cup squad. Kalinić leaves Croatia basecamp in Roshchino on Monday and returns to Croatia,” a statement on the Croatian federation’s website read.
The former Blackburn Rovers striker, 30, complained of a back injury when asked to come in the closing stages of Croatia’s 2-0 win over the Super Eagles and the coach wasn’t satisfied with his complaint and promptly asked him to pack his bags.
“During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinić was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half. However, he then stated that he wasn’t ready to come on due to a back issue. The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday. I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision”, the Croatian coach explained at a special press conference on Monday.
The controversial decision to send him the experienced striker, who spent the 2017-18 season on loan at Italian giants AC Milan, leaves the Croatians short on attacking options.
Mario Mandzukic leads the line but in case he’s suspended or injured, Andrej Kramaric is the sole like-for-like replacement available.
Currently Croatia are topping Group D which consists of Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland.
They next face Argentina on June 21 at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium before wrapping up their group stage campaign against Iceland on June 26.
Considering Argeinta drew their opener with Iceland, Croatia are now favourites to make to the knockouts and could even end up winning the group.