Croatia, ranked eight in the latest FIFA world rankings, are a very talented bunch of footballers who are capable of giving even the best teams a run for their money. Under the scrupulous eyes of their head coach Slaven Bilic who once said, “With the greatest respect to women, football is the most beautiful thing in the world” , the team has made commendable progress and has shown great promise. This June they have the opportunity to achieve everlasting glory by becoming the champions of Europe for the first time. With hardly few days left, the excitement is palpable and the tension intense.
Route to qualification
Croatia started their qualifiers with a decisive 3-0 victory over lowly ranked Latvia in September 2010. Their only real threat in the group, Greece managed to secure a goal-less draw against Croatia at Zagreb. Croatia next faced Israel in October 2010 and shrugged them off 2-1. They reached the summit of the group in November 2010 after convincingly overpowering Malta 3-0. However, their Numero Uno position was short-lived as they suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of minnows Georgia in March 2011. However, they avenged their loss by winning the reverse fixture 2-1 in June 2011. The victory propelled them to achieve better results and they dispatched Malta 3-1 and Israel also by the same margin in September 2011. Their next game against Greece was the most important game as both the teams were vying for top spot. Unfortunately, Croatia succumbed to the pressure and lost to Greece 0-2. Though they won their final game against Latvia 2-0, they managed to finish only in the second place as the Greeks pipped them to the top spot by just two points.They had to go through the tricky qualifying play-off against Turkey but they emerged successfully in that two-legged encounter to qualify for the third consecutive time.
History at the Euro
Until the early 1990′s Croatia was a part of Yugoslavia. After becoming independent, Croatia played its first ever European Championship in 1996. Their debut appearance was also their best finish as they reached the quarters, losing 1-2 to eventual champions Germany. They also made it to the quarter-final round in the last edition where they lost to Turkey on penalties.
Alongside Spain, Italy and Ireland, Croatia round-off Group C, possibly the most competitive group of the Euro. All the four teams are among the top 20 in the world and to make matters worse Spain, the current World and Euro Champions, are one among them. The Irish test awaits Croatia on June 10, 2012 at the Municipal Stadium, Poznań. They next face Italy on June 14, 2012 and then engage the mighty Spanish armada in battle on June 18, 2012.
Final squad for Euro 2012
Slaven Bilić trimmed down his 27 man provisional squad to 23 and Goran Blažević, Šime Vrsljako, Nikola Kalinić and Dejan Lovren failed to make the final cut.Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa, Ivan Kelava, Danijel Subašić. Defenders: Jurica Buljat, Vedran Ćorluka, Danijel Pranjić, Gordon Schildenfeld, Josip Šimunić, Darijo Srna, Ivan Strinić, Domagoj Vida. Midfielders: Milan Badelj, Tomislav Dujmović, Ivo Iličević, Niko Kranjčar, Luka Modrić, Ivan Perišić, Ivan Rakitić, Ognjen Vukojević. Forwards: Eduardo, Nikica Jelavić, Mario Mandžukić, Ivica Olić.
Luka Modric, the spine of his club Tottenham Hotspur, is commanding and threatening in the mid-field. He has been described by his Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp as a manager’s dream. His versatility is an added advantage as he can adopt a defensive midfield role apart from being a playmaker.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Gokul is a software professional from Chennai, India. An avid sports fan, he is a keen follower of Cricket, Football, Hockey, Tennis and Formula One. He styles his articles as razor-edge analyses of all the hot and happening events in the field of sports.