Is Nikola Kalinic the only unhappy Croatian this weekend?
After four exciting weeks in Russia, the national team is in the World Cup final – and he’s, well… he’s on the couch.
The 30-year-old AC Milan striker was set to be a key part of Croatia’s squad at the tournament until he brought about his own demise with two incidents in June.
Kalinic was sent home from the World Cup after the second group game against Nigeria, as coach Zlatko Dalic laid out at the time.
“Kalinic was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half,” Dalic said.
“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 (on June 2), 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.”
Croatia’s march to the final with just 22 players was made all the more remarkable by the manner of their victories.
The squad has been to extra time in all three knockout matches, winning two penalty shootouts despite nerves and fatigue.
Kalinic would have provided cover for Mario Mandzukic, but instead the veteran forward has played 86, 93, 108, 120 and 115 minutes in his five games.
On Sunday night, Mandzukic will again warm up for a gut-busting shift in the final against France.
And Kalinic will be wondering what could have been.