Croatia’s World Cup campaign has been thrown into turmoil after striker Nikola Kalinic was sent home in disgrace and under bizarre circumstances.
The former Blackburn forward was left on the bench by his national team boss Zlatko Dalic for the fourth successive game, during the 2-0 defeat of Nigeria.
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Despite the most comfortable of wins for Dalic’s men though, Kalinic was asked to enter the field of play in the second half – and he refused.
After the win in Kaliningrad, the Croatia manager told reporters they finished the match with “a problem,” believed to be referring to the incident involving Kalinic.
Kalinic complained of a back problem, but the 30-year-old’s claims fell on deaf ears and he was not training on Monday with the rest of the camp.
A decision was made later in the day to send the on-loan AC Milan striker home, leaving Mario Mandzukic as the only out-and-out striker available to Dalic.
“During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinic was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half,” Dalic told reporters in Russia.
“However, he then stated that he wasn’t ready to come on due to a back issue. The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday.
“I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision.”
Kalinic has 41 caps and 15 goals for his country and joined AC Milan, on loan with an obligation to buy, from Fiorentina last summer.
Dimitri Kondonis – Yahoo Sport UK