World Cup over for Croatia striker

Virginia Santiago
June 19, 2018

Croatia striker Nikola Kalinic has been sent home from the World Cup after refusing to come on as a substitute in the team's opening game against Nigeria, coach Zlatko Dalic said on Monday.

Kalinic, who now plays for Fiorentina but spent last season on loan at AC Milan, has been linked with a move away from Italy in recent weeks but these actions could hamper a move.

Kalinic was an unused substitute against Nigeria with rumours emerging that he refused to go onto the pitch from the bench.

Winger Marko Pjaca went on instead, but Dalic apparently wasn't convinced by Kalinic's excuse.

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Dalic revealed that Kalinic also declined to enter a warm-up friendly against Brazil in England earlier this month, and that he said he was too injured to train on Sunday.

He can not be replaced on the squad, so Croatia will continue in the tournament with 22 players.

"I accepted it calmly, because I need ready and healthy players who can help their teammates".

The 30-year-old was starting his fourth successive global match from the bench, told the coach that he had a back injury and was unable to play.

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The 30-year-old former Blackburn Rovers striker - who has 42 caps for his country - scored six times in 31 Serie A appearances for AC Milan this season.

Croatia's winning start came as Oghenekaro Etebo's own goal and a Luka Modric penalty decided a poor Group D match in Kaliningrad.

Croatia's remaining group games are against Argentina on Thursday and Iceland one week from tomorrow.

Kalinic's exit has since exposed Croatia's lack of attacking options, with Mandzukic the only out-and-out striker available in their squad.

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