Nikola Kalinic had a chance to represent his country in the greatest international tournament on the planet, and he blew it.
The Croatian striker was called up to his nation’s team ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, after having a struggle-filled season at AC Milan, where he scored six times in 31 appearances. He was set, essentially, to be the backup to Mario Mandzukic, in a slate of games that included Nigeria, Iceland, and Argentina in Group D.
Kalinic’s ego only allowed him to witness the first of those matches. Against Nigeria in Croatia’s first match of the tournament, Kalinic refused to come off the bench as a substitute, saying his back was hurt. Croatia manager Klatko Dalic promptly sent the striker home, saying that he needs players who are fit and ready to play.
Dalic also said that Kalinic did the same thing in a friendly against Brazil before the tournament, where he was warming up to come in and then said he would not. However, this came after Dalic previously said his players had no injuries that would keep them out.
This also reportedly happened in training prior to the match against Nigeria. There were also reports that while Croatia were celebrating their win over Nigeria on the pitch, Kalinic went right to the locker room, and the next day did not look at Dalic or talk to him while the manager expected some sort of explanation or apology.
This is a case of Kalinic not realizing just how lucky he was to be representing his nation *at the World Cup.* The man wanted to start, even though he is not of the same quality as Mandzukic or Andrei Kramaric. When he did not make the starting XI, he sulked, and moped about it, and then let his ego get in the way of getting onto the pitch of a World Cup match. Dalic was having none of it, and once he talked to his captains, he sent the striker home.
There are no two ways about this: Kalinic blew it. He got the chance that only 23 people in 32 nations get to do every four years, and that is to play in the World Cup with your country’s badge on your chest. He got bent out of shape that he did not start (and I would love to hear his reasoning as to why he should start), and refused to come in. He then got sent home in disgrace.
Croatia, without Kalinic, proceeded to thrash Argentina 3-0, securing their spot in the knockout rounds. They won their group by beating Iceland 2-1. In the Round of 16, they edged past Denmark on penalties after drawing 1-1. They also needed PK’s in the Quarterfinals to get by the host nation, Russia, after a thrilling 2-2 draw in 120 minutes. In the Semifinals, they came up against England, and won with a Mandzukic goal in yet another extra time match, 2-1. With that goal, in their third consecutive extra time match, Croatia advanced to their first EVER World Cup Final, where they will play France.
Think about that. Not only did Kalinic have the chance that very few get, but he missed the opportunity to be on a team that made a run where no Croatian team has gone before. Their best finish before was in the Semifinals. Now, they have reached their first ever Final, with a chance to win the World Cup. And Kalinic will be watching from home after refusing to enter a match, being bitter that he did not start. This man let his sense of pride get in the way of playing in the World Cup and has now seen his teammates go on a run the nation has never before seen, and has seen his team establish themselves as Croatia’s Golden Generation. All without him.