Nikola Kalinic: Croatia send striker home after back injury claim

Nikola Kalinic
Kalinic has made 41 appearances for Croatia and scored 15 goals

Croatia forward Nikola Kalinic has been sent home from the World Cup after he refused to come on as a substitute during the 2-0 defeat of Nigeria.

The 30-year-old cannot be replaced, meaning Croatia will have to make do with only 22 players for the rest of the tournament.

AC Milan's Kalinic said he had a back injury, having complained of the same problem in the friendly loss to Brazil.

Coach Zlatko Dalic said: "I need my players fit and ready to play."

Kalinic, who played for Blackburn Rovers between 2009 and 2011 and has scored 15 goals in 41 appearances for Croatia, was starting his fourth international in a row on the bench.

"During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinic was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half," said Dalic.

"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."

The striker spent last season on loan at Milan from Fiorentina, scoring six goals in 41 appearances, before making the move permanent this summer.

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

They face Argentina on Thursday (19:00 BST) and finish their Group D campaign against Iceland on Tuesday 26 June (19:00 BST).

Five other players who left the World Cup early

Willie Johnston (Scotland)

Willie Johnston
Willie Johnston playing for Scotland before the 1978 World Cup

The West Brom man was sent home from the 1978 World Cup in Argentina by the Scottish Football Association after failing a drugs test.

He fell foul of Fifa's early doping procedures after taking hay fever tablets before their 3-1 defeat by Peru.

He was a last-minute replacement for Archie Gemmill to do a urine test but failed and was quickly sent home.

Roy Keane (Republic of Ireland)

Mick McCarthy (left) and Roy Keane (right)
Mick McCarthy (left) and Roy Keane (right) did not see eye to eye before the 2002 World Cup

The Manchester United midfielder's departure from the Republic of Ireland's pre-tournament training camp was one of the most memorable moments of the 2002 World Cup.

He was unhappy with the standard of Ireland's preparations, which boiled over into an expletive-laden bust-up with boss Mick McCarthy in front of the squad at their base on the Pacific island of Saipan.

Instead of preparing to play the opener against Cameroon, Keane was kept busy by walking around Cheshire with his dog Triggs.

Diego Maradona (Argentina)

Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona before the game against Greece

The Argentina star was booted out of USA 94 after failing a drugs test before their final group game with Bulgaria.

He had previously led Argentina to the title in 1986 and to the 1990 final, where they lost to West Germany.

Maradona scored in their 4-0 win over Greece before failing his test which signalled the end of his successful and controversial international career.

Nicolas Anelka (France)

Nicolas Anelka
Nicolas Anelka arrives home after being sent away from the France squad in 2010

France striker Anelka was axed from his country's squad in South Africa after falling out with coach Raymond Domenech.

The forward, then at Chelsea, reportedly launched a verbal attack on the manager at half-time of their 2-0 defeat by Mexico at the 2010 World Cup.

He refused to apologise and, despite a players' revolt over how Anelka had been treated, was ordered home by the French Football Federation and banned for 18 games, although Anelka retired from international football before the suspension.

Zlatko Zahovic (Slovenia)

Zlatko Zahovic
Zlatko Zahovic juggles the ball during training

Roy Keane was not the only player to leave the 2002 World Cup early with Slovenia playmaker Zahovic following him.

The Benfica midfielder had a row with coach Srecko Katanec after being substituted in their 3-1 defeat by Spain and the Slovenia Football Federation decided to send Zahovic home early.

Rudi Zavrl, the president of the federation at the time, said: "Zahovic has continued with his attitude which was damaging for the atmosphere surrounding the team."

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