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Modric, Mandzukic to lead Croatia at WCup

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OSIJEK, Croatia (AP) — Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic were included in Croatia’s 23-man final squad for the World Cup announced Saturday.

The Real Madrid midfielder and Bayern Munich striker are expected to form the core of country’s team at the tournament in Brazil, where it will play host Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon in Group A.

However, Mandzukic will have to sit out the World Cup opener against Brazil on June 12 in Sao Paulo because of his sending off during Croatia’s playoff match against Iceland.

Also included in the squad are Shakhtar Donetsk defender Darijo Srna, Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic and Wolfsburg striker Ivan Perisic who scored two goals in Croatia’s 2-1 win against Mali in a warm-up match Saturday.

Missing from the squad will be experienced midfielder Niko Kranjcar, 29, because a hamstring injury. His place in the roster was taken by 20-year-old Mateo Kovacic of Inter Milan.

Also scratched from the provisional 30-man roster was Hamburg midfielder Milan Badelj because of a leg muscle injury, coach Niko Kovac announced. He was replaced by little known Ivan Mocinic who plays for Rijeka in the domestic Croatian league.

“Mocinic is a real defensive player, much more aggressive than Milan and that’s why we chose him,” Kovac said.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Oliver Zelenika (Dinamo Zagreb)

Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld (Panathinaikos), Danijel Pranjic (Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa).

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Mocinic (Rijeka), Sammir (Getafe)

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina), Ivan Perisic (Wolfsburg)