Thursday, 5 May 2022

Croatian Footballer to Play in Champions League Final for 11th Consecutive Season!

May 5, 2022 - Croatia continues its impressive Champions League final series. For the eleventh year in a row, Croatia will have a representative in the Champions League final, confirming it is a superpower in the European football world. 

But just how rare is this feat? 24 Sata reports that apart from Croatia, only Brazil, Spain and France had players in the last ten Champions League finals!

After Real Madrid beat Man City in extra time on Wednesday night's semifinal, Croatia captain Luka Modrić locked his spot in his fifth Champions League final. Luka has also won in all four so far - twice against Atletico, once against Juventus, and once against Liverpool. If he wins with Madrid in Paris on May 28, he will take home his 20th trophy with the Royal club. 

The last final without a Croatian footballer was in 2011 between Guardiola's Barcelona and Ferguson's Manchester United at Wembley. After that, a series started: Ivica Olić 2012, Mario Mandžukić 2013, Luka Modrić 2014, Ivan Rakitić 2015, Luka Modrić 2016, Luka Modrić and Mario Mandžukić 2017, Luka Modrić and Dejan Lovren 2018, Dejan Lovren 2019, Ivan Perišić 2020, Mateo Kovačić 2021, Luka Modrić 2022.

Out of 19 Croatian footballers in the Champions League final, 11 of them have celebrated the title. 

The first was Josip Pirmajer (for Partizan in the 2-1 defeat in 1966 against Real Madrid) and Ivan Ćurković (defended for St. Etienne in the loss to Bayern in 1976).

Ivan Iko Buljan, the legendary Hajduk footballer, was a member of the trophy generation of HSV, which reached the final in 1980 and lost to Nottingham Forest 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The first Croatian to become the European champion was Robert Prosinečki, who defeated Marseille (5-3, 0-0) with Red Star in Bari in 1991 after penalties. Prosinečki was the first to take the shot and was accurate from the penalty spot.

Alen Bokšić won the Champions League with Marseille in 1993, when they celebrated against Milan 1-0 with a goal by Basile Boli. Bokšić also played against Juventus in the final in 1997 and lost at the same Olympic Stadium in Munich (3-1). 

Zvonimir Boban lifted the Champions League trophy in 1994 when Milan beat Barcelona in the final (4-0). A year later Boban played the final with Milan but lost to Ajax.

Davor Šuker had a great summer when Croatia won bronze at the 1998 World Cup and he took home the Golden Boot in France. That spring, Real became European champion for the seventh time. The winning goal against Juventus (1-0) was scored by Predrag Mijatović in the 66th minute. In the 89th he was replaced by Šuker.

Dario Šimić spent his best football years at Inter and Milan. Milan played in three Champions League finals while Šimić was on the team, though he did not play in any of the finals. 

Igor Tudor was a solid link in the Juventus defense in the 2002/2003 season, in which they reached the Champions League final. In the semifinal, they knocked out the mighty Real, which marked the end of an era. Juventus played 0-0 against Milan in the final at Old Trafford and then lost on penalties. Tudor played until the 42nd minute when he was injured and Birindelli came on.

Dado Pršo and Monaco managed to advance to the final in 2004, where Mourinho's Porto (3-0) became famous, having also won the Europa League a year earlier. Pršo will still remember the four goals he scored in the group, in Monaco's 8-3 victory against Deportivo.

Igor Bišćan experienced the most incredible Champions League final when Liverpool came back from 0-3 against Milan in 2005 and celebrated after penalties. Bišćan, despite his significant role that season and excellent quarterfinals against Juventus and semifinals against Chelsea, watched the game from the box. Benitez did not include him in the team for the final.

Three Croatians were part of the Bayer Leverkusen side that reached the Champions League final at Hampden Park in 2002 and lost to Real Madrid 2-1 after Zinedine Zidane scored his most famous goal to win. Boris Živković played the whole match. Marko Babić entered the first minute of extra time in the final against Real. The third Croat in Bayer's squad was Jurica Vranješ, but he did not enter the game in the final.

Ivica Olić played two Champions League finals with Bayern: 2010 against Inter (0-2) and 2012 against Chelsea, but never won. Moreover, at the Allianz Arena against Chelsea, Olić missed a penalty in the shootout. Chelsea won 5-4 (1-1). Danijel Pranjic was on Bayern's lineup sheet in two finals, 2010 against Inter (0-2) and 2012 against Chelsea (4-5 - 1-1), but did not play.

The only Croatian to score a goal in the Champions League final for two clubs is Mario Mandžukić. In the German final between Bayern and Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in 2013, Mario scored the first goal in the 2-1 victory. In 2017 he played in the final and scored for Juventus in the 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid with a stunning half-scissor kick.

Luka Modrić, on the other hand, is the only Croatian footballer to have won the Champions League four times. Real beat Atletico 4-1 in the 2014 final and again in 2016 after penalties. They beat Juventus in 2017 4-1 and Liverpool 3-1 in 2018.

In 2015, Ivan Rakitić scored the first goal in Barcelona's 3-1 victory against Juventus.

In the 2016 final against Atletico, Mateo Kovačić remained in the stands, and in 2017 and 2018 on the Real bench. Last season he went to the final with Chelsea, kicking out Real. He entered the match in 2021 in the 80th minute.

Dejan Lovren played for Liverpool against Real in Kyiv in 2018 and assisted in their 3-1 defeat.

In Lisbon in 2020, Bayern beat PSG 1-0, and Ivan Perišić played from the 68th minute.

Croatians in Champions League finals:

  • 1993. Alen Bokšić (Marseille)
  • 1994. Zvonimir Boban (Milan)
  • 1995. Zvonimir Boban (Milan)
  • 1997. Alen Bokšić (Juventus)
  • 1998. Davor Šuker (Real Madrid)
  • 2002. Boris Živković, Marko Babić, Jurica Vranješ (Bayer Leverkusen)
  • 2003. Dario Šimić (Milan), Igor Tudor (Juventus)
  • 2004. Dado Pršo (Monaco)
  • 2005. Igor Bišćan (Liverpool)
  • 2007. Dario Šimić (Milan)
  • 2010. Ivica Olić, Danijel Pranjić (Bayern)
  • 2012. Ivica Olić, Danijel Pranjić (Bayern)
  • 2013. Mario Mandžukić (Bayern)
  • 2014. Luka Modrić (Real Madrid)
  • 2015. Ivan Rakitić (Barcelona)
  • 2016. Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid)
  • 2017. Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid), Mario Mandžukić, Marko Pjaca (Juventus)
  • 2018. Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)
  • 2019. Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)
  • 2020. Ivan Perišić (Bayern)
  • 2021. Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea)

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Friday, 18 March 2022

Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić to Meet in Champions League Quarterfinals

March 18,  2022 - Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić will meet in the Champions League quarterfinals as Real Madrid and Chelsea face off next month. 

The draw for the Champions League quarterfinals was held today at the headquarters of the European Football Federation (UEFA) in Nyon.

The draw was open and there were no seeded teams or “protected” pairs. Any team could be drawn against any other team.

Certainly one of the most interesting pairs is the clash between the current European champions Chelsea and the most trophy-winning European club Real Madrid. It will be a clash between two of Croatia's best footballers - Luka Modrić and Mate Kovačić. Last season, Chelsea and Real Madrid met in the semifinals and the English club advanced with a 3:1 aggregate. 

Manchester City will play against Atletico Madrid, Villarreal will meet Bayern, while Benfica will play against Liverpool.

The semifinal pairs were also drawn immediately. The winner of the Manchester City - Atletico Madrid match will play against the winner of the Chelsea and Real Madrid match. 

In the second semifinal, the winners of Benfica - Liverpool, and Villarreal - Bayern Munich will play.

England (Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea) and Spain (Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Villarreal) will have three clubs in the quarterfinals, and Germany (Bayern) and Portugal (Benfica) will have one each.

Five Croatian footballers remain in the competition - Luka Modrić (Real), Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea), Šime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), and Bayern's reserves Josip Stanišić and Gabriel Vidović.

The first quarterfinal matches are scheduled for April 5 and 6, and the return matches are on April 12 and 13. The semifinals are on April 26 and 27, and the return matches are on May 3 and 4. The final is on May 28 at the Stade de France in Paris.

After the Champions League draw, the draw for the Europa League quarterfinals and semifinals follows from 13:30.

The eight best clubs in the Europa League are from Germany (Eintracht and Leipzig), and Italy (Atalanta), Spain (Barcelona), Portugal (Braga), France (Lyon), Scotland (Rangers), and England (West Ham) will have one representative each in the quarterfinals.

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Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Champions League Playoffs: Dinamo Loses to Sheriff, Moves to Europa League

August 25, 2021 - Dinamo loses to Sheriff in the Champions League playoffs and will compete in the Europe League competition instead. 

Dinamo failed to qualify for the Champions League group stage after playing 0:0 against Sheriff in the return match of the playoffs in Zagreb. Sheriff won the first leg 3:0 in Tiraspol.

Dinamo failed to make up for the three-goal deficit, and the Moldovan club thus qualified for the Champions League group stage for the first time.

Dinamo did not find a way to break through the Sheriff's defense led by goalkeeper Athanasiadis, whom Dinamo failed to get by in both matches.

Sheriff unexpectedly started attacking from the first minute, and in the 4th minute, Thill hit the post.

Dinamo had their first chance only after ten minutes. However, Ivanušec missed a good opportunity, and Petković's attempts were defended by the Moldovan goalkeeper Athanasiadis, and the teams went into halftime without goals. 

Sheriff's goalkeeper defended Oršić's shot in the 52nd minute, after which the match calmed down completely. Dinamo's attacks could not penetrate Sheriff's defense.

"We did our best, but we failed. I’m sorry to the wonderful fans, but hopefully, there will be a win in the Europa League. We knew we had to put more pressure than in the first game, but Sheriff deserved the Champions League," Duje Cop said after the game.

Mislav Oršić thanked the fans for their support.

"I don't know what to say; it's hard to analyze the game. They were better; that’s the only thing that matters. After that, we have to turn to the Europa League, and the HNL," said Oršić.

"We reached the last third, but in the end, there was always something missing," added Dinamo's winger.

"Maybe someone will say that this is a failure, but we are in the Europa League in which we did great things last year," concluded Oršić.

Daniele Orsato from Italy refereed in front of 8,100 spectators at the Maksimir Stadium.

Source: HRT

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Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Champions League Play-offs: Unrecognizable Dinamo Falls to Sheriff in 1st Match

August 18, 2021 - The Champions League play-offs got off to a rough start for Dinamo Zagreb, who looked unrecognizable against Moldovan club Sheriff in match 1 in Tiraspol.

Croatian champions Dinamo suffered a brutal defeat in the first Champions League play-off match against Moldovan club Sheriff in Tiraspol. Sheriff won 3:0 thanks to goals by Traore (45', 80') and Kolovos (54').

Sheriff completely outplayed Dinamo and deservedly gained a big advantage before the return match in Zagreb next week. 

"A disappointing game; Dinamo was not Dinamo today," said coach Damir Krznar. 

"We failed to impose ourselves in our idea of possessing the ball. We failed to gain control of the match, against an extremely aggressive opponent. They didn’t give us air; they didn’t let us breathe; they won all the long balls. Sheriff was the one who had more desire, more strength, more energy today, and they taught us a lesson in fighting spirit and will, and in the end, deservedly won," Krznar pointed out.

"We have to start; we have to change the philosophy in a short time; we have to go back to where we were. Everything Dinamo did, they did because they are an extremely hard-working team. Today we weren’t; today we were trying to be a hacker team from the neighborhood," the coach concluded.

Mislav Oršić and Lovro Majer were among those who gave the least.

"This is the worst Dinamo match since I've been here; I don't know what to say, I have no words. Nothing went, from the beginning everything was bad, we even had some shots in the first half, and in the second half, everything fell apart," Oršić said in a statement for Arena Sport.

"All praise to Sheriff, but I think we failed first. We have to look each other in the eyes and prepare as best we can for the return match, prepare for another miracle at Maksimir; I hope we will succeed," concluded Oršić.

Moldova has never had a representative in the Champions League group stage, and after the first 90 minutes of the clash against Dinamo, Sheriff has come very close to achieving just that. Dinamo will have to play a perfect match on August 25 to compensate for this loss. 

Source: HRT

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Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Dinamo Beats Legia Warsaw for Spot in Champions League Playoffs!

August 10, 2021 - Dinamo beats Legia Warsaw in the Champions League 3rd qualifying round to advance to the playoffs! 

Dinamo played Legia Warsaw in the hunt for the Champions League playoffs on Tuesday. The two teams met in Warsaw for the return match of the Champions League 3rd qualifying round. The result of the first game was 1:1 at Maksimir. As a reminder, as of this season, the away goal rule no longer applies.

Bartol Franjić scored the decisive goal in the 20th minute for the Dinamo lead and ultimate win. 

Dinamo was more determined on the pitch from the first minute of the match in Warsaw. Ivanušec and Majer found each other 30 meters from the goal in the 20th minute. Ivanušec put on a brilliant move and played Franjić with a great through ball, who ran into the home team's penalty area and then defeated the Legia defense to score for 1:0. 

To enter the Champions League group stage, the Croatian champion will fight against the Moldovan club Sheriff from Tiraspol. Sheriff knocked out the Red Star as a rival in the last qualifying round for the Champions League. After 1:1 in the first game in Belgrade, the return match in Tiraspol on Tuesday was 1:0 for Sheriff.

The first match between Dinamo and Sheriff will be played on August 17 or 18 in Tiraspol, and the return match will be on August 24 or 25 in Zagreb.

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Thursday, 5 August 2021

Champions League Qualifiers: Dinamo and Legia Warsaw End 1:1 at Maksimir

August 5, 2021 - Dinamo and Legia Warsaw played 1:1 at Maksimir to open the Champions League 3rd qualifying round on Wednesday. 

In the first match of the Champions League 3rd qualifying round, Dinamo played 1:1 against Legia Warsaw in front of 4,597 spectators at Maksimir Stadium.

Dinamo took the lead in the 60th minute with a goal by Bruno Petković, and Ernes Muci equalized in the 82nd minute.

"With a patient game, we took the lead, too bad we didn’t turn it into something more. We had several situations for 2:0, however, Legia sent one shot and equalized," said coach Damir Krznar.

He added that it is psychologically nice to play away with a victory, but also added.

"With 1:0 or 1:1, we would go to Warsaw with the same imperative of victory, so we will position ourselves in the return match."

He pointed out that Legia stood in the block in the first half, but with the changes at the half, Dinamo moved their lines forward.

"That helped us in the transition and pressure."

The good news is that an away goal is no longer an advantage that will help Dinamo in the return match. 

"The fact that there are no more away goals now allows everyone to play more attacking, that is a gain for football," he said.

Regardless of the outcome against Legia, Dinamo has already secured a European competition this autumn. It is only a question of which competition it will be - UEFA Europe Conference League, Europa League, or Champions League.

Namely, if Dinamo wins against Legia, they would have another obstacle on their way to the Champions League, a playoff against Belgrade's Red Star or Moldovan club Sheriff. A win in the playoffs brings the Champions League, and a defeat the Europa League.

If Dinamo loses to Legia, they would play in the Europa League playoffs. Winning that round means a spot in the Europa League, and a defeat in the Europa League playoffs, in turn, guarantees a spot in the Conference League group stage. 

Source: HRT

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Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Dinamo Moves into Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round After Defeating Omonia

July 28, 2021 - Dinamo Zagreb won a spot in the Champions League 3rd qualifying round after defeating Omonia 1:0 in the return match in Nicosia, thus confirming their 2:0 victory from the first match at Maksimir. 

Luka Menalo scored the deciding goal in the 79th minute. Dinamo arrived in Cyprus with a two-goal advantage and not only managed to defend the advantage but also recorded a new victory, reports HRT.

In the next round, Dinamo will play against the Polish club Legia. If they win, Dinamo would be left with another obstacle on the way to the Champions League, but also a secured spot in the Europa League. Namely, a defeat in the last qualifying round of the Champions League ensures they'll compete in one of the Europa League groups.

If they lose to Legia, they would play in the Europa League play-offs. Winning that round means a place in the Europa League, and a defeat in the Europa League play-offs, in turn, guarantees a place in the Conference League group.

The first match against Legia will be played in Zagreb on August 4, and the return match in Poland will take place on August 10.

Dinamo traveled to Cyprus with two consecutive victories, against Cyprus in Zagreb and then against Hrvatski Dragovoljac (4:0), which improved the impression of the Blues after losing the opening of the Croatian championship to Slaven Belupo.

The coach of the Croatian champion Damir Krznar is satisfied with moving into the next round of the competition.

"The goal has been met, and that is the most important thing. It was a tough match in which our toughest opponent was the pitch. Understandably, we had problems and difficulties. In the second half, when the field became a bit wetter, our performance was better. I am delighted with the smart and wise game and the result," said the Dinamo coach after the victory over Omonia.

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Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Dinamo Defeats Omonia 2:0 at Maksimir in 2nd Round of Champions League Qualifiers

July 21, 2021 - Dinamo defeats Omonia at Maksimir in the first match of the Champions League 2nd qualifying round.

Shocked after losing at home to Slaven Belupo to open the new HNL season, Dinamo set off on Tuesday against Omonia looking for redemption and to continue on the road that leads to the Champions League group stage. However, the experienced Nicosia team proved to be a powerful opponent, although Damir Krznar sent out the Croatian champion's strongest lineup.

Fortunately, Dinamo defeated Cypriot club Omonia 2:0 (0:0) in the first match of the Champions League 2nd qualifying round on Tuesday at Maksimir.

Lovro Majer scored the leading goal for Dinamo in the 65th minute. Kristijan Jakić increased Dinamo's lead with a header in the 81st minute. The return match is scheduled for one week, July 27. 

Coach Damir Krznar can be happy with the win and worried about the injured Ademi and Ivanušec. How serious their injuries are will be shown by additional tests.

"Behind us is the first half that we finished with a 2:0 lead, but the game is still going on. Therefore, our advantage is grateful, but we will have to do our best to keep it in the second game, but the aim is to increase ou advantage," Krznar said at the press conference and added:

"Omonia did not surprise us. They did what they normally do, extremely organized in the 4-4-2 system on the defensive; throughout the week, the basic instruction was - be patient. We are a better team, but every team against such teams can have problems. Ademi's injury also contributed to the weaker first half.

Ivanušec is fine, Ademi does not look good at first glance, but we will know more after the examination. He is tormented by his quadriceps and limp, and Ivanušec received a blow to the chest and ran out of air. It's okay now. Ademi did not recognize whether it was from a tackle or the muscle gave way," said Krznar.

The winner of this round will advance to the 3rd qualifying round and play against the winner of Polish club Legia and the Estonian champion Flora, while the defeated teams will move to the Europa League's 3rd qualifying round. 

Source: HRT

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Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Dinamo Defeats Valur for Spot in 2nd Champions League Qualifying Round

July 14, 2021 - Dinamo defeats Valur for a spot in the 2nd Champions League qualifying round!

Croatian football champion Dinamo advanced to the 2nd qualifying round of the Champions League after defeating Valur 2:0 in the return match of the first round of the competition in Reykjavik. In the first match at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, Dinamo celebrated 3:2.

Luka Ivanušec scored in the 31st minute for 1:0, and Mislav Oršić in the 89th minute for the final 2:0. 

Dinamo won 3:2 in Zagreb last week after having a 3:0 lead and a missed penalty in the 82nd minute, after which the guests scored two goals in the last five minutes of the game. This time, Dinamo did not allow any drama. 

In the second qualifying round, Dinamo will play against Cypriot club Omonia. The first match is in Zagreb next week and the return match in Nicosia.

After Dinamo was weakened in the first match by playing without Croatia national team players, Damir Krznar did not want to risk anything this time, so from the first minute, Mislav Oršić, Bruno Petković, and Luka Ivanušec were in the team. Interestingly, a chance was also given to the Swiss Francois Moubandje, who has not been in Dinamo's plans so far and spent last season on loan at Alanyaspor.

"We can be satisfied; we have achieved our goal, the second round of qualifications follows, against Omonia Cyprus. Now we are shifting the focus to that game, and before that to the beginning of the HNL, i.e., Slaven Belupo. This match - calm, routine, again in some moments with black holes, but considering the beginning, all this is understandable, mostly, all in all - satisfied," said Dinamo coach Damir Krznar after the match.

It was not complete domination as in the first match at Maksimir.

"Valur stood firmly in the block without wanting to open, they increased their line, and that on this artificial grass slows down and makes the game harder. However, we were patient, and after 1:0, the matter was resolved," said Krznar and added:

"They created some chances from our mistakes, and we will have to work on that. But, it cost us nothing, and we move on."

Source: HRT

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Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Dinamo Tops Valur 3:2 at Maksimir in First Round of Champions League Qualifiers

July 7, 2021 - Dinamo tops Valur in the first match of the Champions League qualifiers at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. 

Croatian champions Dinamo defeated the Icelandic club Valur 3-2 in the first round of the Champions League qualifiers. Dinamo had the home pitch advantage, a 3-0 lead, and a series of missed opportunities. However, Valur shocked the Zagreb team at the end with two goals in one minute, leaving it completely open for the return match.

Dinamo was up 3-0 and had a penalty in the 82nd minute, which Ademi missed. Arijan Ademi (8, 72) and Lovro Majer (42-11m) scored for Dinamo, while Kristinn Sigurdsson (88) and Andri Adolphsson (90) scored for Valur. 

The return match is on July 13 in Reykjavik. After that, Dinamo will play against the Cypriot club Omonia if they advance to the second qualifying round.

"One calm, controlled game, and a routine victory turned into one crazy game. Still, in the end, we won. You don't normally have to grind your teeth with victories, but we really have to look into this one. After 3-0 and a penalty and a potential 4-0, we complicated it with a couple of unfortunate reactions and one black hole of 10 minutes. We lived too long in Ademi's missed penalty, and the opponent knew how to use it. The conclusion is simple, we will have to use all available means in Reykjavik and fight for the match we have already won," said Krznar and continued:

"Decreased concentration, a black hole. We conceded two really ridiculous goals, but two goals now have to make us serious and fill the plane for Iceland. Does that mean that Petković, Ivanušec, and Oršić will play? I don't know yet, but it means that all the players we have will be in the frame and will compete for the match. I repeat, it is not drama or panic, but we must be careful and concentrated there."

Dinamo has never started the European season so early. Dinamo was weakened against Valur by not playing its best players who are free after playing at the European Championship.

After a several-month break, the fans returned to Maksimir Stadium. However, only those with a Covid certificate could enter the stadium, and there were just over 1,000 spectators.

Source: HRT

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