Can England’s conquerors go all the way?
CROATIA (Group B)
Group mates Austria (8 June, Vienna), Germany (12 June, Klagenfurt), Poland (16 June, Klagenfurt)
Three most valuable players 1) Luka Modric Tottenham’s next saviour is a wonderfully gifted playmaker, with a fine eye for a pass. 2) Niko Kranjcar Had a fine season at Portsmouth. Provides a great sense of balance wherever he plays in the Croatian midfield. 3) Mladen Petric May be expected to replace Eduardo as the team’s main goal threat. He’s pretty fast, and did score seven goals in qualfiying – although it must be noted that six of them were against the mighty Andorra.
Hard fact The country failed in its joint bid with Hungary to co-host the 2012 European Championships. (Poland and Ukraine won instead)
What the media say “Croatia’s best showing in the European Championships remains their quarter-final exit at the hands of Germany at Euro 96, a game in which Bilic played. Portugal or the Czech Republic are their likely opponents at the same stage this time around. Whether they can be relied on to score the goals needed to progress further is very much open to question.” [Guardian Unlimited]
What the bookies say Everyone’s dark horses, and generally seventh favourite to win the tournament. Available at a best-priced 14-1.
Pies predicts Plenty of talent in midfield to set up chances… but who will put the ball in the net? Without the injured Eduardo, who has been way more influential for his country than for Arsenal, I can’t see where the goals will come from. Beating Steve McLaren’s England was an overrated achievement – there’s no way Croatia will go all the way, although they are good enough to claim second in Group B, behind the Germans. Quarter finalists
Shit Lookalikes Slaven Bilic & Young Lou Reed
Random YouTube find Compilation of “Cro Cop”, Croatia’s legendary mixed-martial arts fighter. Lovely fella.
Goalkeepers Stipe Pletikosa, Mario Galinovic, Vedran Runje
Defenders Dario Simic, Josip Simunic, Robert Kovac, Vedran Corluka, Hrvoje Vejic, Nikola Pokrivac, Dario Knezevic
Midfielders Ivan Rakitic, Ognjen Vukojevic, Niko Kovac, Darijo Srna, Luka Modric, Jerko Leko, Niko Kranjcar, Danijel Pranjic
Forwards Nikola Kalinic, Ivan Klasnic, Ivica Olic, Igor Budan, Mladen Petric
Coach Slaven Bilic