Shortly before his side’s first training session, Croatian forward Andrej Kramaric spent a few minutes talking with FIFA.com about Croatia’s first appearance at the FIFA World Cup™, and about his impressions of the task facing his team. The Hoffenheim striker, who celebrates his 27th birthday during the tournament, is in fine form; in the last two Vatreni games, he was one of the team’s best players.

Expectations in Croatia are always quite high following the historic third place finish in 1998, but Kramaric is not keeping his mind on it. The Round of 16 is the only main focus for him, and for Zlatko Dalic’s side as a whole.

“This is a great generation. Our motivation is at a high level. We want to get to the knockout stage, and with some luck we can achieve a great result.”

Talking about the toughest opponent in Group D, the 26-year-old Croatian surprised us somewhat.

“I think it is Nigeria. Why? Against Nigeria we play the first, and for us the most important game,” he said. “That game will open or close the door of the World Cup for us! Therefore we need to apply our full concentration. Argentina? We don’t need to talk about Argentina, we all know the great footballers they have. They are one of the favourites for the tournament.”

The Croatian squad is a “neighbour” of the England squad near St. Petersburg, and the first impressions of the team base are excellent, according to Kramaric. “The accommodation in Roschino is great, and very interesting, because we are located in the woods and near the lake. I really love nature, and I am very pleased with this choice.”

After UEFA EURO 2016, where Croatia lost 1-0 against eventual champions Portugal in the Round of 16, there was a distinct feeling of dissatisfaction among the squad.

“Considering how we played in France and what kind of impression we left, we should have played in the final, not Portugal. So I always say that it is necessary to have some luck.”

Talking about Real Madrid star Luka Modric, perhaps the best-known player in the squad, Kramaric had the following to say: “Of course it is great to have Luka Modric in the team. He is one of the best footballers in the world. He helps us, but we also help him. He would surely want to achieve a great result with the team, which would be a crowning moment in his career.”