Know England’s next rivals
The chequered squad – Pride of Croatia
Manager Slaven Bilic, the former West Ham and Everton defender, usually deploys a 4-4-2 system with Pletikosa on goal, Corluka and Simunic as full backs, Simic and Robert Kovac as central defenders, Srna and Kranjcar as wide midfielders, Niko Kovac as a defensive midfielder, Luka Modric as an attacking midfielder, Petric or Olic as the second striker and Eduardo as the main striker.
In the current Euro qualifiers Croatia have won eight, drawn two and lost only one game, on Saturday to Macedonia, after learning that they had already qualified thanks to the Russian defeat to Israel. It will be interesting for Steve McClaren to learn that their next rivals have never lost two qualifiers in a row, but then again a draw at Wembley would be just fine for both teams.
Since coming on to the international scene in 1994, Croatia has lost just six out of 67 qualifying games, none of which have been at home. The men in the red and white chequered shirts have made it to six out of seven major competitions (Euros and World Cups), and only missed out on Euro 2000 – by a single Bandar Togel Online goal!
1st January 1979
Big and agile goalkeeper. Made his debut at 19 for Hajduk Split. Spent a stint as a second-choice keeper for Shakhtar Donetsk, which unnerved both him and his Croatian fans. Now a regular at Spartak.
10th February 1976
A decent club goalkeeper, formerly of Hajduk, Marseille and Standard. Highly respected at all of his clubs, has had few chances due to the dominance of Tomo Butina and Pletikosa in goal over the past 7 years.
5th February 1986
A prodigy. Former Dinamo star who immediately made an impact upon joining City last summer. Tall, strong, but a technically gifted defender. Can perform both as full back, centre-back or defensive midfielder. Participates in the play.
12th November 1975.
93 caps, 3 goals
The most capped player for Croatia. Made his debut for Dinamo Zagreb at 16. A tigerish defender used both centrally or to the right. Rarely features in the Milan squad, which the Croats find hard to understand. A true professional, lives for soccer.
6th April 1974
Arguably the best Croatian defender. Won plenty of honours at Bayern Munich plus an eventually anulled championship with Juventus. Capable of marking his player without a foul.
Josip “Joe” Simunic
18th February 1978
57 caps, 3 goals
Australian born. Amazingly technical, but also a wildly aggressive player. Four expulsions in the Bundesliga over the past year bear witness to his aggression. Three yellow cards at the Australia game at last year’s World Cup courtesy of Graham Poll’s poor record keeping.
28th January 1981
45 caps, 3 goals
A highly professional, strong, dependable left midfielder. Sometimes used as the left wing-back, which he resents. Prefers playing upfront. Recently sidelined to make room for Kranjcar. Moved from Bayer to Betis last summer.
1st May 1982
51 caps, 15 goals
Regular as a right midfielder. Strong and enduring as a horse. Very dangerous at set pieces. Originally from Hajduk Split, has starred for Shakhtar Donetsk since 2003. He is ocasionally used in a more defensive position with his club.
15th October 1971
Red Bull Salzburg
72 caps, 12 goals
Germany born, like his younger brother Robert. May be 36, but this seasoned veteran has plenty of fuel for some more tireless running around the midfield. A superb ball winner who often comes forward and scores. A long and distinguished career in the Bundesliga.
9th September 1985
18 caps, 2 goals
The most talented player to come out of Croatia in the past five years. A wonderfully gifted ofensive midfielder reminiscent of Johan Cruyff. Lots of strength in his fragile body. Mobile, fast, clever with the ball, seems destined for Arsenal or Chelsea.
13th August 1984
37 caps, 5 goals
Hyped as the greatest Croatian player for the XXI century, has not lived up to the expectations. Still, has found some of his early form in his second season at Portsmouth. Attacking midfielder by formation, usually played on the left side of the midfield for the national team. Technically gifted.
9th April 1980
48 caps, 2 goals
Tall, elegant, powerful, early on drew comparison with Frank Rijkaard. Upon transferring from Dinamo Zagreb to Dinamo Kiev has host much of his initial reputation, but still useful in the national team when Niko Kovac is injured.
Not entirely serious approach to soccer has cost him a bigger career.
16th August 1973
49 caps, 6 goals
Naturally talented left or attacking midfielder. Possibly the best dribbler in the squad. Has had a very chequered career club-wise, which has discouraged managers from using him more. Despite his age, still in good shape and may be recalled to Croatia provided he finds a club. Has plenty of offers but has high financial demands.
10th March 1988
4 caps, 1 goal
A supremely talented scoring midfielder. Subject of a soccer war between Croatia, his parents’ country, and Switzerland, his country of birth. As usually happens with the people from the Balkans, his ethnic origins prevailed, enabling him to make his debut for Croatia last August. Born to be the leader of the team over the next ten years.
2nd December 1981
A speedy left midfielder or wing back. Extremely fast on the break, packs a tremendous shot in his left foot. Currently the second choice for the left side of the midfield, behind Kranjcar, tied with Babic.
Eduardo da Silva
25th February 1983
20 caps, 13 goals
A clinical finisher with pure Brazilian technique. Came to Zagreb at 16, signed for Dinamo and spent some time on loan at neighbouring Inter Zapresic. Returned in 2003 to become an instant hit with fans and coaches alike. Last season scored an amazing 53 goals in all competitions for club and country. Currently at Arsenal, where he still has to adapt to the more physical English game.
1st January 1981
19 caps, 8 goals
A great striker who can equally well perform as an attacking midfielder. Born in Switzerland, won trophies both with Grasshoppers and Basel before joining Borussia last summer. Scored four goals against Andorra a year ago.
14th September 1979
49 caps, 8 goals
The Croatian international with the most titles of this generation. Won back-to-back Croatian titles with NK Zagreb and Dinamo in 2002 and 2003 before collecting two Russian Leagues and Cups plus the 2005 UEFA Cup with CSKA Moscow. A powerful winger or central striker reminiscent of Alen Boksic. Less prolific for country than for his clubs.
15th October 1978
34 caps, 10 goals
Aston Villa fans may disagree, but Balaban is a hell of a forward, who simply did not get a fair chance at Villa Park when John Gregory, the manager who signed him from Dinamo in 2001 left the club. Able to create his own chances. Dangerous from set pieces. Scored plenty of goals for Rijeka, Club Brugge and Dinamo. Currently injured.
29th January 1980
26 caps, 8 goals
Called “Killer Klasnic” spent most of the year on the sidelines because of a mysterious kidney disease and two attempted transplants. Now with his father’s kidney fully operational, Klasnic worked hard to return to form and finally featured for Werder amateurs in the German Cup – with goals!