Tuesday, 18 May 2021

New Croatia Assistant Coach Vedran Ćorluka On His New Role

May 18, 2021 - The new Croatia national team assistant coach Vedran Ćorluka was officially presented by coach Zlatko Dalić at a press conference in Zagreb ahead of EURO 2020.

Although there was a lot of speculation, Croatian football player Vedran Ćorluka officially announced the end of his playing career and was confirmed as the new Croatia assistant coach on Monday. 

"I did not plan it, but the moment has come," said Ćorluka at the press conference at which coach Zlatko Dalić presented the list of players for the upcoming European Championship.

Dalić introduced Corluka as a new member of the coaching staff.

"I am extremely honored that the coach invited me to help him. Two months ago, I got a call from the coach, he mentioned the idea to me, and we quickly agreed. I also talked to my teammates, and I hope I can help as I helped when I was a player," said Ćorluka while Dalić explained his decision.

"I advocate the vision that the national team must have former players who went through the national team. I did not have that honor, but Dražen (Ladić), Vedran (Ćorluka) and Ivica (Olić) did. Their experience is important to me. I expect Vedran to point out some things to me, to think in his own way. I expect quality advice, criticism, things I don't see," the coach pointed out.

Ćorluka pointed out that the EURO is now in the foreground, and he also revealed his plans.

"Now the EURO is in focus, and after that, we will see. Now I see myself in that; I will enroll in a coaching academy. My former club has expressed a desire to join their staff, and that is the path I want to take," said Ćorluka.

Ćorluka has played for Lokomotiv Moscow since 2012, and on Sunday, he played his last game.

"The last couple of weeks have been quite emotional. We won the Cup, and yesterday I played the last game for Lokomotiv and the last game of my career. It was hard yesterday, but today it was easier," he admitted.

He also revealed when he decided to retire.

"At one point, one realizes that's it. I didn’t plan it, but there came a moment when I decided on my own. I still enjoy football, but I think it's time to come home, to find myself in a new role, in some new joys of life."

When asked what grade he would give himself for his career, he was clear.

"I have never regretted some missed opportunities, so I give myself a rating of 10 out of 10," he said with a smile.

During his career, Ćorluka played for Dinamo, Inter Zaprešić, Manchester City, Tottenham, Bayer Leverkusen, and CSKA Moscow.

He won a total of ten trophies. He was the champion with Dinamo in 2006 and 2007, and he also won the Super Cup in 2006 and the Cup in 2007. In the Lokomotiv jersey, he won six trophies - the Russian Championship, four Cups, and the Russian Super Cup.

He scored four goals for Croatia in 103 games, and he had the crown of his career in 2018 in Russia, where he won world silver in the Vatreni jersey.

Source: HNS, HRT

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Monday, 17 May 2021

Zlatko Dalic Announces Preliminary EURO 2020 Croatia Player List

May 17, 2021 - Coach Zlatko Dalic has announced the preliminary EURO 2020 Croatia player list. 

The Croatia national team has entered the last month of preparations for the European Championship, which opens on June 13 at Wembley against England at 3 pm.

Coach Zlatko Dalic has known the starting lineup and the list for the Euro for a long time. UEFA's rule change gave him three additional positions and he can now take 26 players to the tournament.

Dalic announced their names today at 1 pm, accompanied by the coach of the U21 national team Igor Bišćan, who will reveal his team against Spain for the U21 Euro semifinals in Maribor on May 31.

"We are gathering on May 25 in Rovinj. Only a dozen players, and on the 28th another dozen of them. After that, Kovačić will come, and then the young members of the national team. I must say that this call is not final."

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Croatia layer list:

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livaković - Dinamo, Lovre Kalinić - Hajduk, Simon Sluga - Luton, pretpoziv: Ivica Ivušić

Defenders: Šime Vrsaljko - Atletico Madrid, Domagoj Vida - Bešiktaš, Josip Juranović - Legia, Dejan Lovren - Zenit, Duje Ćaleta-Car - Marseille, Borna Barišić - Glasgow Rangers, Mile Škorić - Osijek, Joško Gvardiol - Dinamo. Pretpoziv: Uremović and Pongračić

Midfielders: Luka Modrić - Real Madrid, Marcelo Brozović - Inter, Milan Badelj - Genoa, Mateo Kovačić - Chelsea, Nikola Vlašić - CSKA Moskva, Mario Pašalić - Atalanta, Luka Ivanušec. Pretpozivi: Moro, Majer and Bašić.

Strikers: Bruno Petković - Dinamo, Ivan Perišić - Inter, Andrej Kramarić - Hoffenheim, Josip Brekalo - Wolfsburg, Ante Rebić - Milan, Mislav Oršić - Dinamo, Ante Budimir - Osasuna. Pretpozivi: Lovrić and Livaja.

The Croatia national football team will gather on May 25 at the beginning of preparations for the Euro, which will traditionally be held in Rovinj. After the friendly against Armenia, the national teal will have a final check on June 6 against Belgium in Brussels, from where they will travel to the base camp in St. Andrews on June 8. 

The UEFA EURO 2020 will take place between June 11 and July 11, 2021. Croatia plays in Group D (London/Glasgow) with England (hosts), Scotland (hosts), and the Czech Republic.

Croatia opens its EURO campaign on Sunday, June 13, against England (15:00, London). On Friday, June. 18, Croatia plays. The Czech Republic in Glasgow, Scotland (18:00). Croatia's final group stage match is against Scotland on June 22 in Glasgow (21:00). 

The top two in each group plus the four best third-placed teams go through to the knockout phase. The round of 16 is scheduled from June 26 to 29. The quarterfinals are held on July 2 and 3, the semifinals on July 6 and 7. The final will be played on July 11 at Wembley Stadium in London. 

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Saturday, 8 May 2021

Croatian Footballer Borna Sosa Switching National Teams?

May 8, 2021 - Borna Sosa, one of the most talented young Croatian football players and a member of the U21 national team, received German citizenship in a secret operation of the German Football Federation and is expecting an invitation from the coach Joachim Löw for the European Championship.

As Index.hr finds out, the German federation has been following the 23-year-old Stuttgart left-back for a long time and is preparing the ground for him to join Germany. Sosa was eligible for a German passport because his mother, Vesna, was born in Berlin.

Croatia could thus lose a great talent that has excelled in the Bundesliga ever since he arrived from Dinamo in 2018 in a transfer worth six million euros. Three years later, Sosa is one of the best offensive defenders in Europe. This season, he played 26 games for Stuttgart and recorded as many as nine assists. Ahead of him in that category is only Cuadrado from Juventus, who shared ten assists. According to Transfermarkt, Sosa is worth 12 million euros, and a transfer to Bayern is planned for the summer.

Croatia has not had such a player in the left-back position for 20 years. And it could be lost in the blink of an eye. 

When Sky Sport first published the news about the German Federation operation and Borna Sosa, the Croatian Football Federation had not been informed. The first HNS operative Marijan Kustić read the news in the media, the U21 national team coach Igor Bišćan said he knew absolutely nothing about it, and Zlatko Dalić sounded resigned.

"Everyone has the right to choose whether to play for Croatia or wherever they want," Dalic told Index, announcing that the official position of the Federation would soon be published on the web.

“We are following Borna, he is on a wider list, and we want him to continue with good games for Stuttgart to get even closer to the A national team,” HNS briefly reported.

Meanwhile, the German Bild announced that Sosa is already on the wider list of Germany for the Euro. When the legendary German striker Oliver Bierhoff, today the German national football team director, spoke up, it became clear that he had been negotiating with the young Croatia national team player for a long time.

"We know who he is, and we have been following him for some time. We believe he has the qualities and potential to play for our national football team. We are always looking for solutions in advance. That means we are thinking about him for the European Championship," Bierhoff said. 

Sosa himself confirmed that he is in negotiations with the German Football Federation (DFB) about possibly playing for Germany.

"Yes, I spoke with the director of the national team Oliver Bierhoff. We talked about everything, not only about the European Championship but also about my future if I play for Germany," said Sosa.

Zlatko Dalic included Sosa on the wider list for the first time before the World Cup in Russia. Still, only this season was the young player a serious candidate for the A national team. In Stuttgart, he missed most of the first season due to injuries when the club was relegated to the second division. During the two seasons, Sosa played only 24 games. He had problems with his pubic bone, back, adductor, ligament rupture in the knee joint, concussion, and edema in the knee. He missed the final of the championship in which Stuttgart expressly returned to the first league, and such was the progress of the defender whom the Stuttgart sports director called the new David Beckham. At the end of 2020, he signed a new contract until 2026.

"In the almost two and a half years since I came to Stuttgart, the club and the city have grown close to my heart. Positive things are happening in sports as well, so I hope we can continue to develop together in the future," Sosa said when signing the contract.

He was a standard member and occasional captain of the young national team, for which he played 19 games and won a place at the Euros. Due to a red card he earned in the qualifying match against Scotland, he had to miss the first two matches of the U21 Euro, and coach Igor Bišćan was counting on him for a key match against England.

Index adds that coach Zlatko Dalic told Sosa that he would debut for the A national team against Malta at the beginning of the qualifying cycle for the World Cup in Qatar. The dates coincided with the U21 national team at the Euro, and Bišćan asked Dalic to give him Sosa, which he needed in the crucial match against England. That was the turning point.

Dalic could not reject Bišćan.

Sosa was not at the camp before the match against England on March 31, in which the young national team fought for a historical placement in the quarterfinals. He sent a medical report and a certificate of injury to Bišćan. Croatia went further with Bradarić's goal, and the scenes of celebrations between Bišćan and the players toured Europe. Sosa was not a topic, although only four days later, he played for Stuttgart against Werder, played 90 minutes, and recorded an assist. He also played in the next round for 90 minutes against Borussia Dortmund. He then paused for the next three games in the championship due to injury.

Bišćan did not suspect that there was a problem, but everything became clear to Dalic. Sosa was never promised a spot at the Euros, but Dalic let him know that he is seriously counting on him and that he will have a place on the wider list where he can show his worth.

Dalic already has a complex list for the Euro, but will the possibility of losing Borna to Germany change that now? Only time will tell. 

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Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Vedran Corluka to Become Croatia National Team Assistant Coach!

May 5, 2021 - Croatian Football Federation president Davor Suker has confirmed for Russian media that Vedran Corluka will work alongside Zlatko Dalic as the Croatia national team assistant coach! 

Sportske Novosti reports that Vedran Corluka is returning to the Croatia national team, confirmed the Croatian Football Federation president Davor Suker for the Russian Sport24 ru. The former Croatia national team player will replace Ivica Olic in the position of assistant coach in Zlatko Dalic's coaching staff. 

"Vedran had a phenomenal career with the national team. That is why we decided he would be an assistant to Zlatko Dalic at the European Championships. It is our joint decision. I am very happy that Vedran will be with the team. I am sure that a person like him will unite the team and will help young players," Suker said.

Corluka has been in Russia since 2012, where he plays for Lokomotiv Moscow, and announced that he would say goodbye to that club at the end of the season. He did not say what he would do next, but joining the Croatia coaching staff suggests he has coaching ambitions. Is this the end of his playing career or will he continue to play after the Euros? We will probably get an answer soon. Corluka retired from the Croatia national team after the 2018 World Cup.

Recall, before Russia, Dalic brought on Ivica Olic as an assistant, mostly to be a link with the players he competed next to not long before. Dalic also wanted Darijo Srna to join his coaching staff.

Thus, the idea of Corluka joining the coaching staff is not so surprising. Olic took over CSKA Moscow in March, leaving Dalic with a hole to fill. We are still waiting for the coach to decide exactly who will make up his coaching staff at the Euros and whether there will be even more new names.

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Thursday, 29 April 2021

Croatia Friendly Against Armenia Scheduled in Velika Gorica ahead of Euros

April 29, 2021 - A Croatia friendly against Armenia has been scheduled in Velika Gorica on June 1 as part of the national team's preparations before heading to the Euros this summer.

The Croatia national football team will play a friendly match against Armenia in Velika Gorica on June 1 at 6 pm before leaving for the European Championships. The decision was made by the Executive Board of the Croatian Football Federation, and the match was confirmed by Uefa.

Velika Gorica is the tenth city to host the strongest Croatia football team, after Zagreb, Rijeka, Split, Osijek, Varaždin, Pula, Vinkovci, Šibenik and Koprivnica. Before the Vatreni visit, Velika Gorica will host the Cup final between Dinamo and Istria in 1961 on May 19.

The Croatia national football team will gather on May 25 at the beginning of preparations for the Euro, which will traditionally be held in Rovinj. After the friendly against Armenia, the national teal will have a final check on June 6 against Belgium in Brussels, from where they will travel to the base camp in St. Andrews on June 8. 

The UEFA EURO 2020 will take place between June 11 and July 11, 2021. Croatia plays in Group D (London/Glasgow) with England (hosts), Scotland (hosts), and the Czech Republic.

Croatia opens its EURO campaign on Sunday, June 13, against England (15:00, London). On Friday, June. 18, Croatia plays. The Czech Republic in Glasgow, Scotland (18:00). Croatia's final group stage match is against Scotland on June 22 in Glasgow (21:00). 

The top two in each group plus the four best third-placed teams go through to the knockout phase. The round of 16 is scheduled from June 26 to 29. The quarterfinals are held on July 2 and 3, the semifinals on July 6 and 7. The final will be played on July 11 at Wembley Stadium in London. 

Source: HNS

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Tuesday, 30 March 2021

2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Croatia Tops Malta 3:0 in Rijeka

March 30, 2021 - In their 3rd qualifier for the 2022 World Cup, Croatia tops Malta 3:0 in Rijeka.

Croatia met Malta at Rujevica Stadium in Rijeka in the 3rd round of Group H of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Zlatko Dalic's side had a shocking display in Ljubljana on Wednesday, losing to Slovenia to open the qualifications and immediately complicated their road to the World Cup. Recall, only the group winner qualifies directly for Qatar.

Two days later, however, Croatia changed tactics and managed to defeat Cyprus in a comfortable win. Mario Pašalić scored the only goal for the Vatreni during the first half. It surely wasn't Croatia's best performance, but it was enough to secure the team's first three points.

Dalić repeats the 4-3-3 formation used against Cyprus but decided to give many of his players some rest. From the last game, only Livaković, Ćaleta-Car, Pašalić, and Budimir returned the squad. Vida, Kovačić, and Vlašić made a comeback to the starting lineup after being benched the last match. Juranović, Melnjak, Badelj, and Oršić started for the first time. Vida replaced Modrić as the captain.

Lineups

Croatia (4-3-3): Livaković, Juranović, Ćaleta-Car, Vida, Melnjak; Kovačić, Badelj, Vlašić, Pašalić, Oršić; Budimir

Malta (3-4-3): Bonello; Shaw, Pepe, Borg; Mbong, Guillaumier, Kristensen, Camenzuli; Teuma, Satariano, Pisani

Recap

Croatia put a lot of pressure on the opposite team from the start, and it was Vlašić who got the first shot of the game in the second minute that went out, but very close to the post. Both teams started quite aggressively.

In the 14th minute, Vlašić again showed up to dribble past two defenders and put a very dangerous cross into the box. Pašalić hit the ball with a great header, but the shot went against the crossbar. This was Croatia's clearest attempt during the first half. 

Despite the early pressure from Croatia in the first 18 minutes, it didn't seem like enough to take the lead or dominate the ball possession. Shortly after, the Croatia midfield seemed to find the patience necessary to initiate the attacks in a more orderly manner, getting 64% of the possession in the 25th minute.

Although the Croatia side became the superior team in terms of possession and attempts afterward, the Malta defense did not give ground. Once again, a nice combination between Budimir and Vlašić in the 31st minute of the game gave the latter a great chance to put an interesting cross in the box, but no one was there to tap it in.

They continued to look for scoring opportunities through the end of the first half, but despite Vlašić's great first half and Oršić, Pašalić, and Kovačić's individual display; the visitors did not lower their arms and defended their goal fiercely.

Just one minute was added to the end of the first half, but the result did not budge. Both teams reached the halftime break drawing 0-0.

The Vatreni began the second half just like the first one, searching for the lead by pressuring their rivals from the start. And who else but Vlašić, who in the 46th minute shot to goal to complete his third attempt of the night, however, saved by the keeper.

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Slobodan Kadic

A couple of minutes later, another great opportunity came for the home team when Juranović's long ball reached Oršić, and the Dinamo midfielder found himself in a 1v1 situation with the goalkeeper. Oršić tried to lob the keeper, but he managed to stop the shot.

In the 53rd minute, Dalić decided to make a triple substitution. Modrić came on for Badelj, Brekalo for Pasalić, and Perišič for Budimir.

In the 58th minute, Barišič replaced Melnjak in the left-back position.

Reaching the first 15-minute of the second half, Croatia struggled to find more attempts. However, in the 61st minute, Barišić's entrance delivered more offensive situations, and he managed to put a beautiful cross that found Perišić completely alone in front of the goal. The veteran player scored the first goal of the game and became Croatia's fourth all-time scorer.

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Slobodan Kadic

It looked like Croatia lowered the pressure after the goal, but the referee gave the Vatreni a penalty in the 75th minute due to a handball in the box. Luka Modrić, who became the Croatia player with the most appearances for the national team last match against Cyprus, scored the second goal of the match and his first in the qualifiers.

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Slobodan Kadic

In the 78th minute, Lovrić replaced Oršić.

In the 90th minute, Brekalo scored for 3:0, which was the final score of the match. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia will visit Russia on September 1 for their fourth game of Group H.

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Slobodan Kadic

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Monday, 29 March 2021

Surprise Luka Modrić Press Conference: Loved Ones Take Place of Journalists in Touching Video

March 29, 2021 - A surprise Luka Modrić press conference was held after he recorded 135 appearances for the Croatia national team - the most ever! 

Luka Modrić arrived at the Opatija hotel Milenij conference hall thinking he was there to answer the questions of Croatian journalists via Zoom after the victory against Cyprus. It was also the night Luka became the most-capped Croatia player of all time.

The most important people in his national team career became journalists for a day, instead!

In attendance was Luka's father Stipe, wife Vanja, former Croatia coach Slaven Bilić, former captain and teammate Darijo Srna, former teammates Niko Kranjčar, Marijan Buljat, and Hrvoje Čale, current teammate Mateo Kovačić, former Zrinjski teammate Davor Landeka, national team manager Iva Olivari, and Luka's former coach Stjepan Deverić. 

Reliving dear memories, happy times, the most difficult moments, favorite goals, untold stories, and interesting details, Luka answered to his loved ones in a touching video:

 

STIPE MODRIĆ

Luka, your father, Stipe, here. Tell me, my son, what is your favorite goal for the national team?
"My favorite goal is the one against Argentina, because of everything we did at the World Cup in Russia and because of the importance of the match. Of course, all the national team goals are dear to me, but this one is more special than the others."
Thank you, my son. Daddy loves you!
"I love you too!"

DARIJO SRNA
Brother, I don't think they recorded this recent performance for me in Petrinja; it was my 135th!
"So, I have to play the next game, ha, ha, ha… And I'm still surprised that you went to Petrinja, ha, ha, ha… Now everything is clear to me."
My little Luka, my love, brother… Congratulations from the bottom of my heart! I will ask you one question: What is the most difficult moment in your national team career? I think I know the answer…
"First of all, thank you, brother, for the kind words at the dinner after the game to you and everyone else. You really touched me, and you know I’m not exactly one to show emotion, but I couldn’t help myself. And the most difficult moment is definitely the match against Turkey in the quarterfinals of the 2008 European Championship in Vienna. That defeat hit us; it was hard for us; you know our reactions in the locker room and how hard it was for us. Whatever we did after that, that defeat was always there somewhere… Thank you."

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HNS

SLAVEN BILIĆ
First of all, congratulations to you and yours from the bottom of my heart on this magnificent success; it is phenomenal, keep it up. Wayne Rooney once said when the England national team members said goodbye to the national team: "What farewell, I will rest when I leave football…" I have two questions. Apart from that song I wrote for Euro 2008, which song on the bus annoyed you the most, and which one was your favorite?
"Auuu… Yours, ha, ha, ha…"
I said besides mine…
"Yeah. Honestly, none annoyed me personally, and I liked everything about Croatia. Yours wasn't bad, ha, ha, ha…"
The second question is about business: How are you with Chinese?
"Ha, ha, ha… Not great, but I'll learn if I have to, ha, ha, ha…"

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HNS

MATEO KOVAČIĆ
First of all, thank you for including me in this magnificent meeting. Congratulations on this record to you and your family. We spoke after Cyprus; you know everything. You know that you are my role model, you know how much your advice means to me, and every time I admire the will and desire with which you come to national team gatherings. In that context, my question is: Are you afraid of the day when you will no longer wear the holy jersey?
"Thank you, brother. Yes, I'm afraid. When I think about it, it will certainly be difficult for me because I went through a lot on the national team. That moment will definitely be one of the hardest for me. It will be hard to decide to stop playing for the national team… It makes me uneasy thinking about it. However, one day that decision will have to happen. But okay, while I have young men like you with me who rejuvenate me, there is still time, ha, ha, ha…"

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HNS

VANJA MODRIĆ
Luka, congratulations! We know everything best; we've been through everything with you all these fifteen years. I have a short question: Of all the teammates you played with on the national team, who is your favorite in terms of football?
"Is that your question, or was it asked by one of the kids, ha, ha, ha…? Did Iva set it up? Or Ema? Ugh… That is perhaps the most difficult question for me today. And from a woman, of course, ha, ha, ha… Who will make things harder for you, but a woman, ha, ha, ha… I can't single one out; I've gained friendly relations with a lot of teammates. Maybe there would be several; I can't single one out."
And the second question…
"You have more, ha, ha, ha… Give me something easier, ha, ha, ha…"
Do you know when you will stop playing?
"I see it's not easy with you. I don't know, love. We'll see. You yourself know how much this means to me, how happy I am when I go to national team gatherings. So… You will have to be a little more patient. Anyway, there will be an opportunity to enjoy and be together even more. Don't worry about it."
So… I was the only one who asked two questions without getting an answer to either.
"As usual, ha, ha, ha."
Good luck; I hope we will watch and follow you for a while. Enjoy. The most important thing is that we wish you a lot of health, and you have everything else.
"Thank you. I love you a lot."

Source: HNS

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Sunday, 28 March 2021

U-21 Euros: Croatia Tops Switzerland For First Win in Koper (3:2)

March 28, 2021 - In the second round of the U-21 Euros, Croatia tops Switzerland 3:2 in Koper, Slovenia. 

The Croatia U-21 side played the second round of the European Championship in Koper against Switzerland on Sunday. 

Recall, Croatia lost to Portugal 1-0 in the first round, while Switzerland beat England with the same result. Igor Bišćan's team needed a good result today to stay in the game for the final phase of the competition. In the event of Croatia's defeat and Portugal's victory or draw against England, Croatia will no longer have a chance to pass.

Igor Bišćan made four changes compared to the last game, and instead of Šemper, Vušković, Majer, and Kulenović, he started Kotarski, Babec, Špikić, and Vizinger.

Lineups

Croatia: Kotarski - Šverko, Erlić, Franjić, Bradarić - Babec, Moro, Bistrović - Špikić, Vizinger, Ivanušec

Switzerland: Racioppi - Lotomba, van der Werff, Zesiger, Sidler - Pušić, Sohm, Domgjoni, Toma - Guillemenot, Zeqiri

Recap

The match started with a great opportunity for Switzerland. Zeqiri crossed to Guillemenot whose shot went just past the goal.

But it was Croatia to get ahead first. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Switzerland goalkeeper Racioppi made a weak clearance, Ivanušec capitalized and shot a volley from about 20 meters. Racioppi could not get to the goal line quick enough, and Croatia led 1:0. 

Switzerland was dangerous in Croatia's penalty area, only slightly missing the goal on a few occasions. In the 24th minute, Erlić was unable to continue the match and Bišćan made his first substitution. Vušković entered the pitch. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Guillemenot and Sidler both had chances to equalize for Switzerland, but Kotarski remained solid in goal. Switzerland continued attacking in the final minutes before halftime, but Croatia's defense allowed nothing through. 

The ref added two minutes of injury time, and Croatia led 1:0 at the half. 

The second half started without any changes on either side. 

Moro and Ivanušec had an excellent opportunity to increase Croatia's lead in the 52nd minute, but the Switzerland keeper made two brilliant saves to keep them in the game.

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Slobodan Kadic

Moro, Špikić, and Bistrović combined for another chance which resulted in a corner. 

Croatia was awarded a penalty in the 60th minute, which Nikola Moro scored for 2:0! Not even two minutes later, Vizinger made it 3:0!

Bišćan made changes for the first time in the second half in the 76th minute. Franjić, Moro, and Špikić came out for Krizmanić, Žaper, and Čolina. Moro also suffered an injury, hopefully nothing major. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Switzerland was awarded a penalty in the 78th minute thanks to a Vizinger handball. Imeri scored for 3:1.

Switzerland reduced the result to 3:2 in the 89th minute. Kulenović knocked the ball into Croatia's net.

The match ended 3:2 for Croatia!

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Saturday, 27 March 2021

2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Croatia Defeats Cyprus 1:0 in Rijeka

March 27, 2021 - In their 2nd qualifier for the 2022 World Cup, Croatia defeats Cyprus 1:0 in Rijeka. 

Croatia met Cyprus at Rujevica Stadium in Rijeka in the 2nd round of Group H of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Zlatko Dalic's side had a shocking display in Ljubljana on Wednesday, losing to Slovenia to open the qualifications and immediately complicated their road to the World Cup. Recall, only the group winner qualifies directly for Qatar.

Dalić mixed things up on Saturday, opting for a 4-3-3 formation instead. Duje Ćaleta-Car, Mario Pašalić, Josip Brekalo, and Ante Budimir were new to the starting eleven, while Domagoj Vida, Mateo Kovačić, Nikola Vlašić, and Andrej Kramarić dropped out of the first 11 compared to Wednesday. 

Lineups

Croatia (4-3-3): Livaković, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Ćaleta-Car, Barišić; Brozović, Brekalo, Modrić, Pašalić, Perišić; Budimir

Cyprus (3-4-3): Demetriou; Kousoulos, Soteriou, Laifis; Psaltris, Artymatas, Cham. Kyriakou, Ionanou; Tzioni, Ilia, Pittas

Recap

Croatia was powerful to start the match, pushing the Cyprus defense in the first 10 minutes. Pašalić just missed a header for the Croatia lead in the 4th minute, and Barišić's left side was active in getting Croatia to attack. Croatia totally dominated a weak Cyprus side who seldom touched the ball. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Nearing the 20th minute, Luka Modrić volleyed from 18-meters to hit just over the goal, and Croatia's chances did not stop there. A Perišić lay-off to Brozović saw him miss in what was perhaps Croatia's best chance so far. 

Vrsaljko played a beautiful ball into the box that was a hair too fast for Pašalić's head, and Luka missed again from outside the box. 

But then it happened.

Croatia finally found the back of the net in the 39th minute. Mario Pašalić scored from a header for 1:0!  

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia almost made it 2:0 five minutes later, but the ref called it offside. Croatia ended the first half with 71% of possession.

Croatia started the second half with one change - Dalić subbed off Šime Vrsaljko for Josip Juranović.

Croatia's attacking game did not slow down at the start of the second half.

Perišić and Barišić shot in the 51st minute, while Juranović played a stellar ball to Brozović to shoot a few minutes later. Nothing, however, resulted in a goal. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Andrej Kramarić came on for Ante Budimir in the 57th minute. 

Croatia continued to get chances but struggled to find the back of the net. On a good day, it would have been 10:0 for Croatia by now. 

Dalić opted for fresh legs again and brought on Mislav Oršić and Nikola Vlašić for Mario Pašalić and Josip Brekalo in the 66th minute. Ivan Perišić and Mateo Kovačić swapped places 10 minutes later. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Cyprus opened up more and was looking forward, especially for that equalizing goal. Croatia's game was becoming sloppy, and it was hard for them to connect passes. They struggled to maintain a smart attacking game. 

Vlašić shot at the Cyprus keeper in the 80th minute. At least he attempted. 

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Slobodan Kadic

The ref added four minutes of injury time and the match ended 1:0 for Croatia. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia will play Malta on Tuesday in Rijeka at 20:45. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Record 135 Caps Later: Croatia Moments that Defined Luka Modrić

March 27, 2021 - Croatia has a new record holder for the most national team caps in history. TCN's Daniela Rogulj and Jose Alfonso Cussianovich look at the Croatia moments that defined Luka Modrić. 

Luka Modrić began his national team career on March 1, 2006. Fifteen years later, he leads the Vatreni at the opening of another qualification cycle, this time for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

During this March qualification campaign, the Vatreni captain entered Croatian football history for appearances in the national team jersey. After equaling the legendary former Croatia captain Darijo Srna's national team caps on Wednesday, Luka Modrić is now the record holder with 135 national team appearances. 

Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos have more appearances of active players from European national teams. 

As in previous anniversaries, Luka could not celebrate his achievement on Wednesday after Croatia's loss to Slovenia in Ljubljana. You might recall that in his 50th match for the national team, Croatia lost 2-0 to Greece during the Euro 2012 qualifiers, and to mark his 100th capp, Croatia played 1-1 with Finland in Rijeka, a shocker that seriously hurt their chances of going to the World Cup in Russia at all. As if the result wasn't bad enough, the dismissal of coach Ante Čačić overshadowed what should have been a monumental moment for the Croatian footballer. 

We hope that Luka becomes the most-capped Croatia player with a win against Cyprus tonight. 

Croatia national team debut

On March 1, 2006, Luka Modrić debuted for the Croatia national football team. He was included in the team by the then coach Zlatko Kranjčar, who died in Zagreb on Luka's 15th-anniversary with Croatia, on March 1, 2021, at the age of 65.

As part of preparations for the World Cup in Germany, Kranjčar gave Modrić a chance in a friendly match against Argentina at St Jakob Park in Basel. Croatia celebrated 3-2. That match is also special because Lionel Messi scored his first goal for Argentina. 

Croatia took the lead in the third minute with a goal by Ivan Klasnić, but Argentina turned it around with two quick goals by Carlos Tevez (4) and Lionel Messi (6). Darijo Srna equalized in the 52nd minute, and Dario Šimić brought Croatia to victory in the 90th minute. Modrić played until the 84th minute. 

 

"The Dinamo Zagreb starlet was making his first senior appearance in the absence of the injured Robert Kovac and rewarded coach Kranjcar's faith in him with a fine display in the centre of midfield alongside Niko Kranjcar and Niko Kovac. Indeed Modric's performance prompted Kranjcar to muse that his team had not only won a game that night but also "won a player," FIFA wrote about Luka after the match. 

Euros 2008

After two appearances at the 2006 World Cup against Japan and Australia and a stellar run with club Dinamo Zagreb, Luka was given the confidence of new Croatia coach Slaven Bilić. Luka scored his first international goal one month after the 2006 World Cup in a friendly against Italy. 

A regular for Croatia in the games that followed and a standout player during Croatia's Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, the expectations of the Croatian midfielder were high -  and rightfully so. The promising midfielder continued to impress at the 2008 Euros and began writing history even then. Modrić not only scored Croatia's first goal of the tournament, but it was the quickest penalty ever called and scored in Euros history. 

 

Luka's magnificent performance throughout the tournament earned him UEFA Man of the Match in their following game against Germany. While Croatia's European campaign ended after losing the quarter-final penalty shootout to Turkey (and Luka missed), he was the second-ever Croatian to be included in the UEFA Team of the Tournament after Davor Šuker. 

Croatia captain band 

After veteran defender Darijo Srna retired from international football with an emotional letter following the 2016 Euros, Luka Modrić was named his successor by then-coach Ante Čačić.

"The new captain will be Luka Modrić, and our two vice-captains are Vedran Corluka and Ivan Rakitić," Čačić said at a press conference before Croatia kicked off their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign against Turkey on September 5, 2016.

Modrić captained Croatia only twice before then, the first time in an away draw against Azerbaijan.

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HNS

"It's a nice feeling, I'm proud. Thank you to the coach for the trust, and I hope to justify it," said the new captain. 

"Modrić is our captain, the best midfielder in the world; he is the pride of the Croatia family, a man who presents our homeland at the highest level, with great enthusiasm," Ante Čačić gushed about Luka one year later. 

Little did Luka know that he would be wearing the captain band during Croatia's historic 2018 World Cup final. He is just a few games away from captaining his country in 40 total games. 

2018 World Cup in Russia

There are many things a Croat can’t forget, and the summer of 2018 is certainly one of them. No one thought the national team’s campaign in 1998 could be ever be surpassed, and no football fan expected Croatia to achieve what they did almost three years ago. Although it was definitely an outstanding team effort with Zlatko Dalić’s magic as a strategist, their captain’s inspirational performances will always be remembered.

Luka’s campaign transcended beyond an undoubted footballing demonstration, scoring one of the Croatia team's best goals in international tournaments against a powerful Argentina led by Lionel Messi. Likewise, he perfectly fulfilled the role of a midfielder in defensive and creative functions. The admiration for him also came for his energy and fighting spirit on the pitch, not only commanding the team as captain for the first time in a World Cup but running even when the team came from playing three games that went into extra time. He thus raised his teammates' spirits even when they found themselves below the scoreboard on various occasions, such as against Denmark, Russia, or England.

 

Croatia surpassed the magical generation of Šuker and Boban, reaching the World Cup final for the first time and facing the impressive France squad in Moscow. The 32-year old captain once again gave a stunning display of sacrifice and talent, but it wasn’t enough as France was crowned champion with a 4-2 win against Croatia. No one underestimated Modrić’s performance, and he went on to receive the World Cup Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament. He was included in the tournament's ideal team, and his goal against Argentina was selected as one of the top ten at the World Cup.

Luka Modric wins FIFA's ‘‘The Best’’, and the France Football ‘‘Ballon d’Or’’

2018 was surely a special year for Luka Modrić. Not only did he win his third-consecutive Champions League with Real Madrid (and fourth overall), but leading Croatia that summer to the World Cup final in Moscow earned him international praise and several awards, including the prestigious ‘‘The Best’’, awarded by FIFA to the best player of the year. Luka received the award in September, as he reached 29% of the votes over Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah. He was also included that night in the FIFA FIFPro World11.

And that wasn’t all, as France Football awarded him the Ballon d’Or that same year in December, the most prestigious individual recognition a professional footballer can receive, for all his club achievements and individual performances with the ‘Vatreni’ throughout the year. Luka again put his beloved country in the spotlight, winning the desired trophy over great footballers.

 

Recall, for ten years (2008-2018), the Ballon d’Or had only been awarded to either Lionel Messi (5) or Cristiano Ronaldo (5). Make sure your children or grandchildren know that it was a Croatian footballer to break the streak of two of the best footballers in history!

Croatia and his beloved Zadar later received Luka as a hero.

"Playing like that at the age of 36 shows how serious and responsible he is, a true professional, to keep such a high level of play in those years. For the benefit of Croatian football, I hope that he will remain at that level until Qatar," said coach Zlatko Dalić about Modrić earlier this week. 

And we do too. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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