All about Croatia

From all countries created after breakup of multi-ethnic federations like Yugoslavia and Soviet Union, the deepest mark in football left Croatia and Czech Republic.While Czech Republic got to the finals on Euro 1996 in England and to semi-finals on the last Euro in Portugal, Croatia won bronze medal on the World Cup 1998 in France, finishing the competition as the best European team, without the host country.After emancipation, Croatia qualified to six out of seven great competitions for which we fought, and only one goal left us without that seventh one, Euro 2000.Over than the crucial duel against Serbia and Montenegro in Zagreb finished 2-2, but every victory would lead us to Belgium and Netherlands. In every qualifications since 1994., Croatia has never lost a home match, and even at guest ground has a great results, with only six defeats in thirteen and a half years.

With that account, Croatia is in queens of qualifications, but appearances at the finals are less bright.If we exclude the Vatreni’s legendary generation with Miroslav Blažević at the head, which got to quarter-finals on Euro 1996 and the third place on World Cup 1998, none Croatian squad didn’t passed the first round of any large competition. And this is really defeating fact. Even more defeating sounds fact that ever since the victory over The Netherlands for that third place at the World Cup 1998, in the finals Croatia managed to beat only Italy, and even that happened with loads of luck and huge referee help. We had four draws and four loses. Can we correct it in Austria and Switzerland?

Croatia qualified for the upcoming Euro in a great style.In a hard Group F, we twice defeated favorized England and Israel and outplayed Russia.The only defeat came against Macedonia, one hour after mathematical qualifications to Euro. However, three and half months before the start of Euro, Birmingham’s Martin Taylor wrapped nation in black, by injuring Eduardo and sending him off the field till the late autumn.

Trance in which Croatians lived since the great victory at Wembley on November 21st, was abruptly broken on 6th February when Slaven Bilić’s team lost to Netherlands 3-0 in Split. But, one defeat in friendly game at the traditionally unlucky Poljud, didn’t discourage nation and players even close like it did terrible and shocking Eduardo’s injury on that damned 23rd February. The optimistic predictions that we will easily walk through the group with Austria, Germany and Poland and than even easier skip our opponent in quarter-finals, which will come from group with Switzerland, Portugal, Czech Republic and Turkey, suddenly silenced.Now even Austria looks like dangerous opponent if we take into consideration that more than three quarters of Vienna’s Prater will stand by them. Without Eduardo Croatia is without her best goalscorer, nowdays Davor Å uker, who scored in the crucial games against England and Macedonia in Zagreb and in duels with Estonia and Israel.

ANALISIS

Looking at squad, player by player, Croatia is superior compared with Austria, and even with Poland, while can equally bear with Germany.But except Eduardo’s absence, worrying part is the middle of defence. Robert Kovač is not standard in Borussia Dortmund while Dario Å imić is far from Milan’s first eleven.Therefore, great Dario Knežević from Livorno is obtruding for one of the stopper spots. It is clear that the right back side belongs to Vedran Ćorluka, but on the right side is Josip Å imunić, who is still bigger expert for the middle of the defence. When everything is taken into consideration, despite big names, defence doesn’t look impermeable and one lucky circumstance is that Stipe Pletikosa is finally standard in his new club Spartak. Midfield is much more convincing.Darijo Srna offers speed and acuteness on the right wing, opposing to Niko Kranjčar’s creativity on the left side.Reliable team leader Niko Kovač still goes on with full power although he is almost 37, and Jerko Leko and Nikola Pokrivač will, together with him, be in charge for dirty business at the center of the field. With their support, the most talented player of the generation, Luka Modrić, could have enough space for inspired play focused towards to opposition goal.His first alternative could be Ivan Rakitić, who will recover from ankle injury earned on Schalke training. In the attack there’s no Eduardo, but it’s not excluded that Bundesliga players Ivica Olić and Mladen Petrić will be venerable replacement. Of course, here are also recovered Ivan Klasnić and Igor Budan. There will be enough place for only two players out of this three: Mario Mandžukić, Nikola Kalinić and BoÅ¡ko Balaban.

KEY PLAYER: LUKA MODRIĆ

Luka

Creative midfielder loosen himself in past few months since Dinamo stopped his transfer during the winter transfer period. But, he raised up a bit and now when his transfer to Tottenham is arranged, he’ll probably find his inspiration and motivation again.

POSSIBLE DISCOVERY: NIKO KRANJÄŒAR

Before his seventeenth birthday he was welcomed as the biggest talent since the time of Boban,Å uker,Prosinečki and BokÅ¡ić.Four years later, in time of sour transfer from Dinamo to Hajduk, it was possible to hear thoughts that earlier compliments were overdone.Hopefully, his move to Portsmouth in 2005 made him loads of good. He is far more dynamic, active and fast, he added a running component to his technique.Although he is originally the following striker, Kranjčar is able to operate anywhere in midfield, and lately in Bilić’s 4-4-2 formation holds the left side.

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