Euro 2012 - Team profile: Croatia

Thu, 31 May 13:29:00 2012

Croatia may have been just seconds away from the last four at Euro 2008, but their chances of emulating that success this summer in Poland and Ukraine look remote.

Croatia Jelavic - 0

The Croatians face tough Euro 2012 group stage opposition in holders and world champions Spain, Italy and a newly resolute Ireland.

Their path to the quarter-finals in 2008 was considerably easier.

Having beaten co-hosts Austria, Poland and eventual runners-up Germany four years ago, the Croatians took the lead against Turkey in the final minute of extra time of a pulsating last-eight clash in Vienna.

As thousands of Croatians celebrated, they conceded an equaliser with the last kick of the game and then lost the penalty shootout.

Their confidence dented, Croatia failed to reach the 2010 World Cup and endured a patchy Euro 2012 qualifying campaign before gaining revenge against the Turks in a play-off.

They finished second behind Greece in their group before producing their best performance of the campaign in a 3-0 win in Turkey in the play-off first leg and confirmed their passage with a goalless draw in Zagreb.

Many of the Euro 2008 squad remain and form the backbone of the current team in which goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, defenders Josip Simunic and Darijo Srna, midfielders Niko Kranjcar and Luka Modric and striker Ivica Olic are regulars in Bilic's preferred 4-4-2 formation.

Especially influential are 30-year old captain Srna and playmaker Modric, who has flourished at Tottenham Hotspur for most of this season until he and his team faltered in the closing stages of the campaign.

Like most Balkan teams, Croatia have plenty of natural talent. What separates them from their regional rivals, however, is the ability to play well under pressure.

Since gaining independence from the former communist Yugoslavia in 1992, the Croatians have qualified for seven of nine major tournaments and stunned the world when they reached the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup in France.

Coach Bilic was one of that team, which included Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki and Davor Suker, all of whom enjoyed impressive careers and won the Champions League.

The present generation is led by Srna, Modric and Brazilian-born striker Eduardo da Silva, who has made a successful return to international football after an horrific career-threatening injury while playing for Arsenal.

They possess some of that 1998 talent and guile, but may lack adequate replacements for ageing key players. This could be a weakness for the squad.

Bilic's team may struggle to match the Spaniards and Italy for pace and crisp one-touch passing. So, should they fail to beat Ireland in their opener in Poznan on June 10, hopes of a last eight place may be wrecked.

Weaknesses exposed in the qualifier were made more obvious in February's 3-1 home defeat by Sweden in a friendly, when AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic exploited a flat defence with deadly ease.

Croatia's build-up play is usually crafty, but against top-level opposition it can be slow and predictable, another weakness they must overcome if they are to progress by harnessing their spirit and determination in the tournament.

Croatia were just seconds away from the last four at Euro 2008, but their chance of emulating that success this summer in Poland is remote. - 2

This article was originally published with an incorrect photo - the problem was identified and corrected within 20 minutes. We apologise for any distress caused by this error.

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Reuters

Comment 15 - 35 of 35

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  1. Thank you Eurosport for iissuing apology. It is the­ right thing to do..

    From Tomislav, on Fri 1 Jun 18:17
  2. Go Corats and win this cup. For the Publsher ­ Publisher of Serbian falg should be punished, because­ this was not a mistake. It was done on purpose and­ probably because he/she hates Croatian people for­ whatever reason only he or she knows. I don't know­ how can someone spell, write or mix Serbia and Croatia­ while searching for the picture meant for publishing.­ It is not even similar. What a fool! Learn geography,­ national flags and all other stuff a reporter/publisher­ should know before you write such an article. This is­ embarrassing. Cheers to all Croats!

    From Ivan, on Fri 1 Jun 10:14
  3. GO CROATIA! WIN IT ALL The only decent thing for Euro­ Sport to do is .to apologize to the Croatian nation­ and team for the flag incident. Very careless and­ ignorant thing to do....Shame..shame..shame on you Euro­ Sport. Very unprofessional.

    From Melanie, on Fri 1 Jun 2:06
  4. This is no accident Eurosport did this in order to­ have as many clicks on their website I work a job­ where I meet people who work for Eurosport and if you­ people from Eurosport does not make an apology to­ Croats I will hit anyone who has anything to do with­ Eurosport

    From batistuta, on Fri 1 Jun 1:22
  5. Izgleda da su mitomanski cigani usli u 20. stoljece i­ "napokon" otkrili internet! stravica!

    From Marin Kristi?, on Fri 1 Jun 1:11
  6. that you put any flag should not complain so much ....­ but to put such a salt to the wound thousands of­ mothers who have lost their children .... you are not­ normal and moral ...... my brother is murdered and­ tortured by the Serbs and you equating us with the­ Serbs as aggressors

    From Mario, on Fri 1 Jun 0:15
  7. on behalf of the Croat people looking to the person who­ published the shame .... to resign or be fired from­ work ... it is a mistake and an insult to the whole­ world not to talk to them ... Clean your face ... .

    From Mario, on Fri 1 Jun 0:08
  8. I can not believe such an error Eurosport ... it's­ like you're 45 in the Second World War put the­ German flag instead of England and declared himself the­ aggressor ... shame on you .... EuroSport!!

    From Mario, on Fri 1 Jun 0:02
  9. fack eurosport

    From mi?ael, on Thu 31 May 23:17
  10. Shamo on Eurosport.I am Italian with my summer house in­ the Island of Korcula.The are great people and they­ should not been crticised as they have been.An apology­ from Eurosport is required.

    From corrado m, on Thu 31 May 22:57
  11. Comment hidden due to its low rating. Show

    šta je šokci,šta ste se napalili!!!pa ljudi malo­ pogrešili,a vi odmah paljbu po njima!!!!:)nek vide­ kakoo ste vi tolerantni narod!!!hahahda nećete­ i njih da prozovete da su agresori,A USPUT SU VAM­ ULEPŠALI STRANICU SA SRPSKIM ZASTAVAMAAA!!!

    From Mirjan, on Thu 31 May 22:23
  12. Its not weard that they make mistakes because no-one­ cares about us small countries and our wars...shame on­ you and your learning of the european history...its­ important that WE WILL NOT FORGET !!! (sorry for bad­ english)

    From Dra?en, on Thu 31 May 21:31
  13. Thank you for shoving what kind of idiots there are­ working in the Eurosport. I just terminated my­ Eurosport contract. Your "brilliant idea" was­ something like putting the Nazi flag under the Israeli­ team´s profile. Well done!

    From nicolas, on Thu 31 May 20:50
  14. @yup, your a typical delusional serb with a cry wolf­ mentality. First of all every country in the former­ artificial state of jugoslavia Voted democratically to­ part ways and establish their true original identity.­ "all the atrocities committed against serbs" ­ i.e ? Serbs have a very short memory don't you­ remember Vukovar, Srebrenica Sarajevo. As for­ beltenebros comments " the great serbian nation­ will rise again" Just to warn, you your country­ is the armpit of Europe you should be very proud. ­ p.s. You can judge a country by it's tourism­ rate!!

    From Frank, on Thu 31 May 20:25
  15. Shame on eurosport , last time I visit your gypsy­ website

    From Frank, on Thu 31 May 18:52
  16. I just can't believe you did that.. i know that­ England loves Serbia, but why to provoke whith such­ obvious way.. You should be ashamed, God know what­ could happend to you if you'd swich some of Middle­ East flags..

    From Ana Fabijanic, on Thu 31 May 17:50
  17. Comment hidden due to its low rating. Show

    Jebali smo Tajci

    From Jasna Pesic, on Thu 31 May 17:47
  18. apologiese to all croats!!!! shame on you

    From Tin, on Thu 31 May 17:24
  19. you are not normal

    From Tin, on Thu 31 May 17:23
  20. Shame on you!!! Stupid and anneducated nation­ (England).All respect to Republic off Scotland!!!

    From Davor Baschiera, on Thu 31 May 17:13
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