FOR many in Croatia, the team has already achieved their major aim in qualifying for Euro 2012.
With a group containing favourites Spain, and a rejuvenated Italy, expectations are realistic while many doubt that they’ll even finish third. Reaching the quarter finals, whilst not impossible, seems unlikely.
While Slaven Bilic’s tenure as coach has had its moments (beating England home and away in Euro 2008 qualifying and reaching the quarterfinals) the coach has come under increased pressure ever since failing to qualify for the 2010 world cup. With that in mind, Bilic will also be leaving after the tournament, having already agreed a contract with Lokomotiv Moscow.
It will be no surprise to anyone that Luka Modric is the team’s key most important player. The slight central midfielder dictates and creates in the same way he does for Tottenham though may be asked, on occasion, asked to play a little closer goal than he does for his club.
One to watch
One of many promising youngsters at German champions Borussia Dortmund, English audiences will perhaps remember Ivan Perisic most for his wonderful last minute volley against Arsenal in this season’s Champions League group stage. A midfielder who can play on either wing, Perisic will be looking to provide a wonderful moment for Croatia, should he get the chance.
Why they could have a good tournament...
Croatia has always, since their independence in 1991 had a habit of beating the big teams. Germany, England and Italy have all been surprised by the Croats in the past and, with expectations low, they could surprise yet again. Apart from counting on history Croatia will hope to get their points in the first game against Ireland making sure they’ll definitely have something to play for in their last game.
Why they could have a bad tournament...
There are major doubts about the defence, the main issue being a lack of pace. This means that Croatia may find it difficult to play higher up the pitch and get their creative players in key positions to do the opposition damage. Aside from this they’re in a difficult group were even the supposedly weakest side, Ireland, will be hard to beat.