UEFA EURO 2012 Team Preview – Croatia

Population 4.2 million Area 56,594km2 Capital Zagreb Currency Kuna Official Language Croatian

FOOTBALL FACTFILE

Football Asocciation Hrvatski Nogometni Savez (HNS) Official Site http://www.hns-cff.hr Year of formation 1912 Euro Ranking 6 World Ranking 8 National Stadium Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb; Stadion Kantrida, Rijeka; Stadion Gradski, Osijek; Stadion Poljudu, Split Well-known club sides Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split Leading goalscorers Davor Suker (45), Eduardo da Silva (22), Darijo Srna (19+) Most capped players Dario Simic (100), Josip Slmunic (92+), Darijo Srna (89+) European Championship finals attended 1996, 2004, 2008 Best European Championship performance Quarter-finals 1996, 2008 Playing Record in European Championship P63 W39 D14 L10 Odds of winning UEFA EURO 2012 50/1

JOURNEY TO POLAND/UKRAINE

Croatia exacted revenge in the 2012 qualifying phase. Turkey had eliminated them rather spectacularly from UEFA EURO 2008 – equalising in the 120th minute and then winning on spot-kicks – but Croatia ended Turkish hopes of European glory in 2012 with victory in the play-offs.

That’s not to say Croatia had everything their own way. Despite being form favourites to comfortably ascend from their group, Croatia finished second behind Fernando Santos’ stubborn Greek side. So are they up to the task in hand? The answer: definitely maybe.

Fluctuating between awful, mesmerising and nondescript during qualifying, the Croats lost in Georgia and in Greece, but produced an electric display in the opening play-off match in Istanbul, scoring after only two minutes and going on to secure a 3-0 victory.

In Tottenham’s Luka Modric they have one of the most revered creative midfielders in the world and they will be looking to him to inflict pain and sorcery upon Group C’s tricky opposition. Italy and Spain will prove formidable opponents for Slaven Bilic’s men, and they won’t relish playing the Irish either. That said, if the right Croatia turn up in Poland/Ukraine, and perform to their best, they will be a match for anyone.

HOW THEY GOT THERE

03/09/2010 – Group F – Latvia 0-3 Croatia
07/09/2010 – Group F – Croatia 0-0 Greece
09/10/2010 – Group F – Israel 1-2 Croatia
17/11/2010 – Group F – Croatia 3-0 Malta
26/03/2011 – Group F – Georgia 1-0 Croatia
02/09/2011 – Group F – Croatia 2-1 Georgia
06/09/2011 – Group F – Malta 1-3 Croatia
07/10/2011 – Group F – Greece 2-0 Croatia
11/10/2011 – Group F – Croatia 2-0 Latvia
11/11/2011 – Play-Off – Turkey 0-3 Croatia
15/11/2011 – Play-Off – Croatia 0-0 Turkey

HOME AND AWAY KITS

 

GROUP FIXTURES – GROUP C

Sunday, 10/06 – Republic of Ireland v Croatia (Poznan, 19:45)
Thursday, 14/06 – Italy v Croatia (Poznan, 17:00)
Monday, 18/06 – Croatia v Spain (Gdansk, 19:45)

FINAL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (FC Rostov), Ivan Kelava (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Danijel Subašic (AS Monaco FC).

Defenders: Jurica Buljat (Maccabi Haifa FC), Vedran Corluka (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Danijel Pranjic (FC Bayern München), Gordon Schildenfeld (Eintracht Frankfurt), Josip Šimunic (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Darijo Srna (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Ivan Strinic (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Domagoj Vida (GNK Dinamo Zagreb).

Midfielders: Milan Badelj (GNK Dinamo Zagreb), Tomislav Dujmovic (FC Dinamo Moskva), Ivo Ilicevic (Hamburger SV), Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Ivan Perišic (Borussia Dortmund), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla FC), Ognjen Vukojevic (FC Dynamo Kyiv).

Forwards: Eduardo (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Everton FC), Nikola Kalinic (FC Dnipro), Mario Mandžukic (VfL Wolfsburg).

THE CAPTAIN – DARIJO SRNA

Also captain of the hugely impressive Shakhtar Donetsk side that won the last UEFA Cup before it became the Europa League, Darijo Srna is a journeyman and then some. He scored on his competitive debut against Belgium in 2003 and has been regular ever since, playing at UEFA EURO 2004, the 2006 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2008. His sheer determination makes him a precocious leader.

THE KEEPER – STIPE PLETIKOSA

Was transferred to Shakhtar Donetsk alongside his national captain, but didn’t prove a success in Ukraine. After spells with Spartak Moscow and Tottenham Hotspur, he has settled in the Russian Premier League with Rostov. Once criticised for his inept dealings with high balls, he has eradicated the weakness from his game and claimed the keeper’s shirt for the foreseeable future.

STAR MAN – LUKA MODRIC

Much Ado About Luka Modric turned into Much Ado About Nothing over the last summer, as Chelsea’s very public and very persistent pursuit of the Croatian magician was rebuffed by Tottenham Hotspur, much to their credit considering his performances in their 2011-12 Premier League campaign. Generally regarded as a player who operates in the much-lauded ‘hole’, Modric has proved his versatility by dropping deeper behind Rafael van der Vaart for Spurs and also playing on the left to suit tactics. On his game and on his day ge is a match for anyone in any of the midfield positions.

THE MANAGER – SLAVEN BILIC

Whenever the name Slaven Bilic is mooted in pub conversations, the phrase ‘not your average manager’ is usually not far behind. A guitar-playing graduate with a degree in law, he was as assertive on the field as he now is in the dugout. As a player, he helped Croatia to a shock thrid place at the FIFA World Cup 1998 and was unlucky to be hoisted from a UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final berth by spirited Turkish team. Respected and supported unequivocally by his players and countrymen, he will be looking fill that berth at UEFA EURO 2012.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTION

Group Stage – It’s hard to see Croatia making it through from the very tough group C at the expense of either Italy or Spain. Although they have a number of talented individuals but they can’t compete with the strength in depth of either Italy or Spain. Their firepower may be enough to see off the Irish in their opener but the lack of quality in defense may see them struggle against Spain and Italy. In end they would be fighting for the third place with Ireland, unless they surprise everyone.

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