Marcelo Brozovic: Al Nassr's all-action man key to Croatia Euro 2024 hopes

Marcelo Brozovic has seen, and done, almost everything in international football.

The Al Nassr midfielder is a FIFA World Cup runner-up, an integral component of that relentless Croatia team who, against the odds, reached the final in Russia in 2018. Brozovic, then of Inter Milan, played in every match en route to the showpiece against France, a crucial cog in the midfield alongside the enduring Luka Modric.

He was there again at the most recent global finals, picking and passing his way through opposition sides across Qatar 2022 as Croatia advanced all the way to the semi-finals. They eventually departed Doha with a bronze medal.

Marcelo Brozovic with Croatia at 2018 World Cup final

So the country of less than four million people returned its two finest performances on football’s grandest stage with Brozovic at the heart of their team. He is a tempo-setter and one third of a perfect triumvirate with Modric and Mateo Kovacic, driving Croatia to new heights.

Taking all three into consideration, manager Zlatko Dalic’s midfield have combined for an incredible 378 caps for their national team. Brozovic, who debuted for Croatia in 2014, has contributed 98 of those. 

All of that know-how and nous will be needed on Matchday Three of a UEFA European Championship Germany 2024 that hasn’t quite lived up to Croatia’s previous recent standard on the world stage.

Going into Group B deciding round of fixtures on Monday night, Croatia languish at the foot of the standings, with a solitary point following a 3-0 opening defeat to Spain and the subsequent 2-2 draw with Albania. Simply put, Brozovic and Co need a win against defending champions Italy in Leipzig if they are to progress to the knockout stages.

For that, Brozovic will of course be key. Even in two games that have not yielded the desired results, he has a remarkable 95 percent pass-completion rate. What's more, and despite having been substituted at half-time in the Albania encounter, he has covered 16.6 kilometres – the most of any player in the Croatian squad.

Then again, Brozovic’s talent was on full display during his debut in last season’s Roshn Saudi League. A summer signing for Al Nassr, the warrior with the “bomb” cartoon on his neck, helped ignite the Riyadh club’s 2023-24 title challenge even if it did, unfortunately for him and his team, extinguish late into the campaign.

Brozovic, 32, featured in all but four RSL matches for Al Nassr, contributing four goals and registering eight assists. His impact, as Luis Castro’s team finished runner-up to city rivals Al Hilal, was clear for all to see.

Brozovic is combative, but cunning, too; two attributes that will no doubt be required at Red Bull Arena against a streetwise and savvy Italy. There is added incentive also: Al Nassr teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Aymeric Laporte have already booked their spots in the last 16 in Germany, with Portugal and Spain, respectively. They each did it with one match to spare.

For sure, and bidding to break the 100-cap mark this next week, Brozovic will want to make it a clean sweep for the RSL club.