Croatia send reluctant substitute Nikola Kalinic home from World Cup

Posted June 19, 2018

Widespread reports suggest that Kalinic complained of a back problem when Dalic asked him to go on in the 85th minute when Croatia's comfortable 2-0 win was already secure.

Coach Zlatko Dalic confirmed Kalinic's explosion this afternoon to media after the story broke this morning that the AC Milan striker would be packing his bags for home for disciplinary reasons. The story was initially released this morning stating back pain as the reason, which is what the media learned from the staff in Russian Federation.

Kalinic, who played for Blackburn Rovers between 2009 and 2011, was starting his fourth global in a row on the bench and complained of the same problem in the friendly loss to Brazil. Those sympathetic with the striker however said he turned down the instruction citing a problem with his back.

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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.

Kalinic, 30, had been a starter when Croatia won its playoff series to qualify for the finals and has 15 goals in 42 matches for Croatia but he lost his starting job after a poor season at AC Milan.

World Cup nations are only allowed to replace players in their squads until 24 hours before the start of the tournament, and only then in the event of injury.

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"I need players who are fit and ready to play and Kalinic isn't", he explained in his pre-match press conference.

Croatia's next match is against Argentina on Thursday, before they finish the group stages against Iceland on June 26.

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