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!

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

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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"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.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

U-21 Euros: Croatia Falls to Portugal in Game 1 of Group D

March 25, 2021 - Croatia falls to Portugal in their first match of Group D at the U-21 Euros at Bonifika Stadium in Koper, Slovenia.

The Croatia U-21 national team opened the group stage of the European Championship in Slovenia against Portugal at 9 pm on Thursday evening. Croatia plays in Group D against Portugal, Switzerland, and England. 

In the first game of Group D on Thursday, Switzerland shocked England, complicating the group even before Portugal and Croatia kicked off. 

Lineups

Portugal: Costa - Correia, Queiros, Leite, Dalot - Fereirra, Florentino, Fernandes - Trinaco, Tomas, Pote

Croatia: Šemper - Šverko, Erlić, Vušković, Bradarić - Bistrović, Moro, Franjić - Majer, Kulenović, Ivanušec

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Slobodan Kadic

Recap

90' The ref added 6 minutes

84' Ten minutes without a chance.

74' The game came to life, but Croatia has not yet managed to create an opportunity to get back in the match.

69' GOAL! Fabio Vieira scored just minutes after entering the game. He came in brilliantly from the back and received the ball with space, calmly beating Šemper.

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Slobodan Kadic

68' Bišćan introduced Babec and Musa instead of Moro and Majer. He seems to be going for three points with two strikers.

61' Nothing exciting in the last six minutes apart from a series of lost balls on both sides.

55' Several counterattacks on both sides, but none ended in an opportunity to score.

49' Majer shot poorly from the edge of the penalty area and went far from the goal.

46' The second half has begun.

End of the first half.

43' Great attempt by Vitinha from about 25 meters from Croatia's goal, but Šemper was solid

41' Kulenović shoots from the edge of the penalty area, but Costa defended.

38' Gedson Fernandes found his way in front of Šemper, but shot from a tough angle and missed the goal frame.

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Slobodan Kadic

34' Pote fired from the edge of the penalty area

32' Nikola Moro's shot was saved by the Portugal goalkeeper.

29' Portugal dominates the pitch. They've only had one chance so far, but are constantly pressing.

25' Great opportunity for Portugal! Queiros headed and hit the post.

24' Two chances for Portugal, but both times blocked by Croatian stopper

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Slobodan Kadic

21' Portugal was more dangerous for a few minutes but without a good chance. The best chance was Majer's four minutes ago.

17' Lovro Majer shot from the edge of the box, but Costa was ready and defended nicely.

15' Croatia is trying to set itself high and press the backline of Portugal

12' There haven't been any notable opportunities yet 

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Slobodan Kadic

8' The game is a bit messy at the beginning, no team can keep possession for long, although it seems that Portugal is a bit more interested in the ball. Croatia will obviously not play for possession today.

4' There are no great opportunities at the opening of the match, but the game is quite open with a lot of sprints on both sides.

1' The match started.

Source: Index.hr

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

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Slovenia Tops Croatia 1:0 in Ljubljana

March 24, 2021 - Slovenia tops Croatia 1:0 in the first round of qualifications for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Wednesday.

The 2018 World Cup finalists opened their qualification campaign at Stožice Stadium in Ljubljana against Slovenia on Wednesday, after which they will play Cyprus (Saturday, 6 pm) and Malta (Tuesday, 8:45 pm) at Rujevica Stadium in Rijeka. Slovakia and Russia are also in Croatia's group.

Croatia had recorded six wins and three draws in nine games against Slovenia so far. 

Zlatko Dalić decided on an offensive lineup against Slovenia, playing a 4-3-3 formation. Modrić was in a more offensive role in front of the midfield, and Andrej Kramarić, Ivan Perišić, and Nikola Vlašić started from the first minute.

Matjaž Kek also played in a 4-3-3 formation, showcasing two players from the Croatian First League in the starting 11, namely Osijek's Damjan Bohar and Dinamo's Petar Stojanović

Lineups

Slovenia: Oblak; Stojanović, Blažič, M. Mevlja, Balkovec; Bijol, Lovrić, Kurtić; Iličić, Šporar, Bohar

Croatia: Livaković; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Barišić; Kovačić, Brozović; Vlašić, Modrić, Perišić; Kramarić

Recap

Slovenia and Croatia kicked off at 8:45 pm in front of empty stands. Croatia maintained possession for the better part of the first 15 minutes and even had a few chances. Kramarić shot from the top of the penalty area in the 7th minute, only to be saved by Oblak, while Vlašić hit the inner post 3 minutes later.

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Slobodan Kadic

Slovenia, however, capitalized on one of their first attacks, and Sandi Lovrić scored for the 1:0 Slovenia lead in the 16th minute.

It all started from a weak ball played back by Perišić. Vida's clearance eventually found Lovrić, who was left alone to score from 15 meters. 

Croatia had a few more chances in the first half, particularly from free-kicks, but nothing resulted in the equalizer. The match ended 1:0 for Slovenia at the half. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Dalić subbed on Dinamo superstar Mislav Oršić for Borna Barišić (who was booked with a yellow card) to start the second half. 

Croatia attacked aggressively at the start of the second half, with Mislav shooting on target for an easy Oblak save.

In the 64th minute, Josip Brekalo was subbed on for Andrej Kramarić, hoping to add fresh legs to the offense. 

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Slobodan Kadic

In the 69th minute, Ante Budimir came in for Vlašić, and Pašalić for Kovačić 10 minutes later.

Croatia had no problem pushing the attack but struggled immensely with finding the back of the net. It didn't help that Slovenia boasts one of the best keepers in the world. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Spanish ref Antonio Mateu Lahoz added 3 minutes of injury time. Oršić hit wide of the goal in the final seconds for the Slovenia win. 

The match against Slovenia was Luka Modrić's 134th, equalizing Darijo Srna for the most national team caps ever. 

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

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Vatreni Spectacle: Six Croatia National Team Games in 8 Days!

March 24, 2021 - A Vatreni spectacle begins tonight, as the 2018 World Cup finalists kick off their 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia for the first of six Croatia national team games in 8 days. Recall, the Croatia U-21 side begins the group stage of the European Championship tomorrow, too!

The coronavirus pandemic, which erupted around this time last year, ultimately postponed the 2020 European Championships, which were to be played across Europe last summer. 

According to the latest information, it should be played from June 11 to July 11, 2021, in 12 cities, in 12 different European countries. No official announcement has been made about the tournament yet.

The postponement of the Euros also moved the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, which begin a bit earlier, or today for Croatia and Slovenia. 

But that's not all.

The U-21 European Championship begins in Slovenia and Hungary, which kick off tomorrow for Croatia. 

The Croatia A selection will open the qualifications for the 2022 World Cup on Wednesday against Slovenia in Ljubljana at 20:45. The famous Spaniard referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz will lead the match at Stožice stadium. Fans in Croatia can watch the broadcast on Nova TV from 8 pm, with a studio show.

The Slovenia national team is led by the well-known Matjaž Kek, once the successful coach of Rijeka. Of HNL players, Dinamo's Petar Stojanović and Osijek's Mario Jurčević, and Damjan Bohar are in their lineup. 

Croatia will also play against Cyprus on March 27 and on March 30 against Malta in this microcycle. Both matches are played at Rujevica in Rijeka. All matches will be played without an audience. In addition to Croatia, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Malta, the group also includes Russia and Slovakia.

Croatia is the absolute favorite of the group. Ante Rebić and Bruno Petković will not be in the squad due to injuries, but Šime Vrsaljko is looking forward to returning. Recall, Vrsaljko is back in the national team after two and a half years and major injuries.

"We will definitely miss Petković; he was in good shape. With him, our game system is different, and we will have to change that a bit now," said coach Dalić.

However, despite the absence of Rebić and Petković, Dalić has Mislav Oršić, who is playing the best football of his life, and Kristijan Lovrić, who is not far behind.

"I have already said, Mislav deserved this round, and he will have minutes. But I have to wait to talk to the players because we haven’t been together for a long time and I don’t know the condition of each of them. Things are changing now, and he played 120 minutes against Tottenham and also played against Gorica. He can help us, and I have to be smart, wise, deploy strength and energy, so we don’t run out because it’s a hellish cycle," said Dalić.

In the European qualifiers, 55 national teams were divided into five groups with six teams each and five groups with five teams each. They will play two matches against each other in each group. Ten group winners will qualify directly for the World Cup, and ten runners-up and two Nations League teams will play additional qualifiers.

These 12 national teams will be divided into three groups, with four national teams vying for three more World Cup spots.

Schedule for Croatia A team
Slovenia - Croatia (Ljubljana, March 24, 8.45 pm Nova TV)
Croatia - Cyprus (Rijeka, March 27, 18.00 Nova TV)
Croatia - Malta (Rijeka, March 30, 8.45 pm Nova TV)

The Croatia U21 national football team traveled to Slovenia on Monday to play all three matches of the European Championship group stage.

Coach Igor Bišćan is convinced that the young Vatreni can play good games and fight for a place in the quarterfinals, regardless of its rivals - Portugal, Switzerland, and England.

"We have two days until the first game; we have to do the best we can. We have three games in a week; we will need to find a way to be ready for demanding matches. We believe in ourselves; we went through tough qualifications, which was positive for our character and mentality. In that positive atmosphere, I hope we can ensure getting out of the group," he says.

The Croatia U-21 national team will play all three matches in the group in Koper at the Bonifika Stadium, also without spectators. They play their first game on Thursday, March 25, against Portugal at 21:00, led by referee  Bartosz Frankowski from Poland. Croatia's matches at the U-21 Euros will be broadcast by HTV 2.

Bišćan's side will face Switzerland on March 28 and England on March 31. England is certainly the favorite of the group.

"We are ready for something bigger. There are no weaker teams at the European Championship, but Croatia also has its qualities, and we want to reach the quarterfinals. We are a little tired, but the greatest pride is to play in the European Championship. We are not afraid of anyone; we are going to show who we are and what we are," said striker Sandro Kulenović.

The group stage of the U-21 European Championship will be held from March 24 to 31, 2021, and the winners and runners-up from each group will advance to the next stage, which will be played from May 31 to June 6, 2021.

Nine group winners and the five best second-placed teams, including Croatia and the hosts of the tournament, Hungary, and Slovenia, qualified for the final tournament. Sixteen national teams in the draw were divided into four groups of four national teams.

Schedule for Croatia U-21 side at the Euros in Slovenia and Hungary:
Portugal U-21 - Croatia U-21 (Koper, March 25, 9 pm HTV 2)
Croatia U-21 - Switzerland U-21 (Koper, March 28, 18.00 HTV 2)
Croatia U-21 - England U-21 (Koper, 31 March, 18.00 HTV 2)

Source: 24 Sata

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

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Ivica Olić is New CSKA Moscow Coach!

March 23, 2021 - The latest Croatian football news - Ivica Olić is the new CSKA Moscow coach!

The former Croatia national team assistant of Zlatko Dalić accepted the offer of his former club, said goodbye to the coach and national team in Zagreb on Monday, and traveled to Moscow, where he signed a new contract today.

"The 41-year-old Croat is coming back to the Army Men club after 15 years.

PFC CSKA and Ivica Olić have reached an agreement on the appointment of a Croatian specialist as a head coach. Ivica will start working on March 23 — he will be introduced to the team, and he will hold his first training session.

Olić is well known in Russia for playing for Red-Blues. Croat played 116 matches for PFC CSKA from 2003 to 2006, in which he scored 44 goals.

Ivica, as a player, won 3 championship titles, 2 Russian Cups, 2 Super Cups, and the UEFA Cup with Army Men. We wish him great success also as a coach!

Welcome home!" said CSKA on its website, officially presented Olić to the public. 

On Monday, Zlatko Dalić came to the Hitrec-Kaciana field training with only one assistant, Dražen Ladić, fitness coach Luka Milanović, and goalkeeper expert Marjan Mrmić. 

Zlatko Dalić said that Olić's departure to CSKA is an honor for Croatian football.

"We are glad when big clubs hire Croatian coaches," the coach pointed out.

Nikola Vlašić, who is currently with the Croatia national team, will play under Olić. According to the media, CSKA would like to bring back former players Elvir Rahimir and Miloš Krasić.

Zlatko Dalić is not looking for Olić's replacement in the national team now because this is a quick gathering with not much time for training. Dalić will certainly find a new solution and strengthen his professional staff for the Euros this summer. 

Source: Jutarnji List

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

2022 World Cup Qualifications: Zlatko Dalić and Croatia Gather in Zagreb

March 22, 2021 - Coach Zlatko Dalić and Croatia gather in Zagreb ahead of the March 2022 World Cup Qualifications.

The Croatia national football team gathers in Zagreb today before starting the qualification cycle for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. They will kick off their qualification campaign against Slovenia (Ljubljana, March 24), Cyprus (Rijeka, March 27), and Malta (Rijeka, March 30).

Coach Zlatko Dalić is looking forward to the gathering after a four-month break.

"After four months, we are together again. It makes us all happy; we can't wait for the national team's actions," said Zlatko Dalić, who lost Dinamo striker Bruno Petković on the eve of an important match against Slovenia. He will miss all three upcoming matches.

"After Ante Rebić dropped out of the original list due to injury, Bruno Petković, who injured his shoulder during yesterday's game against Gorica, has now dropped out. Unfortunately, we were left without two important players in the attack. Bruno has been in very good shape lately, and his injury has significantly disrupted the preparation for the match against Slovenia. We will miss him, but I hope for a quick recovery to at least help Dinamo in the Europa League. With Bruno, our game is different, but what we have, we will make work. Let's continue to put together a team without him and Rebić. Fortunately, everything is fine with the arrival of Perišić and Brozović from Inter; we expect them at today's training. All in all, we have three important matches ahead of us, of which the most demanding is against Slovenia, especially since we will gather only in the evening, and we will play on Wednesday. However, it's the same for our opponent."

The goals are well known.

"Our goal is known, and we do not deviate from it; it is qualifying for Qatar. So, we have to win points, and with what dynamics, it is less important; the most important thing is to qualify. It is important to start well; I expect us to be very motivated, responsible, and serious because that is the only way we can get a result. ”

Dinamo winger Mislav Oršić drew attention to himself with a masterful hattrick against Tottenham in the Europa League round of 16.

"I have already spoken several times about Dinamo and Mislav, about their great form and game. Oršić deserved to be in the national team, and of course, he will have minutes. Everything I thought about, everything I planned, falls into the water when someone gets hurt. So, I’ll wait a bit, talk to the players. We haven't been together for a long time; I don't know all the players' conditions. We were thinking about doing things one way, but now things are changing. We will have to make some modifications, and Mislav is certainly in the narrowest circle for the match against Slovenia. He had a difficult game against Tottenham, he played 120 minutes, he played against Gorica again, so I have to think about that. In any case, Mislav is a crucial player, who with his form and quality, can help, and I expect that from him. We have three games; we have to be smart and wise to distribute the players' strength and energy. We must not wear out because we have a hellish cycle, and the players come from an equally hellish rhythm anyway, so they are not in optimal condition. We have to be careful about that.”

Dalić's assistant, Ivica Olić, is one of the most serious candidates for the new coach of CSKA Moscow.

"Olić and I spoke about this on Saturday. I will be sorry if Ivica Olić leaves the national team and my staff. He means a lot to me and helps me. However, if Ivica decides to take this step, he will have my full support and my help in every way. It is a big challenge for him, it is a big club, but it is also a big thing for the Croatia national team and football. If he stays, I'll appreciate him even more. No, I wasn’t thinking about whether someone would replace him; we’ll see what happens. I am not thinking about new solutions, I am waiting for the situation to develop, and then I will decide. "

The match against Slovenia is the most difficult exam in March.

"First of all, none of these three games will be easy. Today there are no easy opponents. We have to enter every game as seriously, motivated, and disciplined as possible. Of course, Slovenia is the toughest opponent in this first cycle of matches. I appreciate and respect their coach, Matjaž Kek, who did great things with Rijeka and the Slovenia national team. It is a complex team, but we are the favorites, and we have to impose ourselves in Ljubljana. Slovenia has one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Oblak, then the very tough Iličić. They are quite a tall team; they have a good jump, they are aggressive and compact in the block. I expect a really tough match, but we have to show the right face. There won’t be much time for training and preparation, but we’ve been together for a long time, we know each other well, and we have to go for the win. Our goal is known; we cannot escape the role of favorites. We have to start winning points. As World Cup finalists, we are a challenge to everyone, and we must be reminded of the match against Hungary in which we suffered a defeat. Slovenia will be a good, aggressive opponent who wants to win. It's the beginning of qualifications; no one knows who is in what condition, it will be inconvenient. However, there are no key matches, each carries three points, and points are important to us for the final ranking."

Since there is not enough time for more serious training until the match against Slovenia, Dalić indicates that he will pay a lot of attention to the players.

"We will have to talk a lot, solve some things in meetings. There is no time for innovation, but all the players who have played in the Nations League know each other well. We know what we want. We will play against Slovenia with the strongest possible line-up, and we will go against Cyprus and Malta differently. Vrsaljko in the starting lineup? I’m waiting to see his condition. I’m aware he can’t help us in all three games because he’s not in rhythm. However, Šime's arrival is of great importance; he will certainly play at least one game. I am thinking of starting him in the match against Slovenia, but first, I have to see what condition he is in. I will not force it if he is not one hundred percent ready," concluded Dalić.

Source: HNS

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Tuesday, 9 March 2021

U-21 Croatia Player List Released for 2021 Euros in Hungary and Slovenia!

March 9, 2021 - The U-21 Croatia player list has been released by coach Igor Bišćan ahead of the European Championship in Hungary and Slovenia later this month. 

The young Croatia national football team will play at the European Championship after a turbulent qualifying campaign and will soon compete in the group stage against Portugal (March 25), Switzerland (March 28), and England (March 31). A spot in the quarterfinals will be won by the two best national teams from each group.

The list of players for the European Championship includes 23 names, including three goalkeepers.

Goalkeepers: Adrian Šemper (Chievo), Dominik Kotarski (Ajax), Ivan Nevistić (Rijeka)

Defenders: Borna Sosa (Stuttgart), Domagoj Bradarić (Lille), Marin Šverko (Saarbrücken), Joško Gvardiol (Dinamo), Martin Erlić (Spezia), Krešimir Krizmanić (Gorica), Mario Vušković (Hajduk)

Midfielders: Nikola Moro (Dinamo Moskva), Lovro Majer (Dinamo), Kristijan Bistrović (Kasimpasa), Darko Nejašmić (Hajduk), Mihael Žaper (Osijek), Bartol Franjić (Dinamo), Luka Sučić (RB Salzburg)

Attackers: Luka Ivanušec (Dinamo), Sandro Kulenović (Rijeka), Petar Musa (Union Berlin), Dario Špikić (Gorica), Dario Vizinger (Wolfsberger), Marko Divković (Dunajska Streda)

Croatia will face three demanding exams at this year's European Championship. Coach Igor Bišćan believes that his players have something to say in the competition against Portugal, Switzerland, and England.

"England is a category unto themselves, extremely strong and one of the favorites of the whole competition. They all play at a high level, not only relying on physical strength but also adding tactical awareness and technique, and imagination. Their value is close to the world's largest A-selections. Portugal is a copy of their senior team, they cultivate the same combinatorial style, and they are challenging and experienced enough in competitive football. They will take advantage of any carelessness and punish it. They have several individuals from the world’s biggest clubs; they are where our players would one day want to be. They may not have adequate minutes, but their quality is indisputable. England and Portugal should go further. Switzerland is tough, solid, organized, and a couple of players from our region give them a dose of unpredictability. However, we are also good; it will be a demanding group, a real test to see where we are concerning the best and those close to us," he said.

In the first two group games, Croatia will not count on the suspended Borna Sosa, but in cooperation with Zlatko Dalić, they have yielded a solution.

"Sosa is too important, good and high quality not to count on him, and it is to be assumed that the last game in the group will be important. If the last game does not decide on something, he will join the A-selection, which speaks volumes about his form. I am glad that Dalić gave us Bradarić, we are cooperating very well, and he showed a correct attitude. We have a great situation with high-level players," Bišćan explained.

Some players also bring experience from the last European Championship, but this will be somewhat different due to the format change.

"That experience can help, but unfortunately, we don't have Boško Šutal due to a foot injury, and it really hit us, as we are the thinnest on the right defender. A tournament like this is a nice experience for every young footballer's career and an opportunity to present his talent on a phenomenal stage. This competition is specific; there is no time to play. We gather on Monday and Tuesday, and the match is already on Thursday - it should be more suitable for individually stronger teams. At the same time, it does not allow others to cancel that advantage. He who is ready from the first second to switch from the club rhythm without stumbling will do well. I'm sorry that there are no fans, Koper is close, but it's best to get out of the group, so maybe something will change for the quarterfinals," concluded Bišćan.

Source: HNS

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

Monday, 8 March 2021

Zlatko Dalic Announces Croatia Squad for the Upcoming 2022 World Cup Qualifiers

March 8, 2021 - Coach Zlatko Dalic has announced the Croatia squad for the upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifiers later this month. 

HNS reports that Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalić has announced the list of players for the start of the FIFA World Cup European qualifiers. Recall, the final tournament will be held in Qatar at the end of 2022.

The 2018 World Cup finalists will try to win a spot in Qatar through Group H of the European Qualifiers against Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Malta. Only the winners of the ten qualifying groups will qualify directly for Qatar, while the second-placed national teams - with two more national teams from the Nations League - will play in the playoffs.

The Croatia national team opens the qualification away in Ljubljana against Slovenia on March 24, followed by a double program in Rijeka - on March 27 against Cyprus and three days later against Malta.

Dalić invited 24 players and sent preliminary invitations to Ivo Grbić, Milo Škorić, Marin Pongračić, Tomo Bašić, and Kristijan Lovrić.

"There are no surprises on the list; this is a team we built through the qualifications for EURO and last year's Nations League. Although a demanding group awaits us, I have a lot of faith in this team, and we are very optimistic about the new cycle because I am deeply convinced we have the quality to win - and that is, of course, our main goal in these qualifications," said Dalić. 

Dalić wished good luck to the U-21 national team at the European Championship:

"In agreement with the U-21 coach, Igor Bišćan, Domagoj Bradarić will be a member of the young national team in this term, as he cannot count on the suspended Sosa in that position. Domagoj can certainly make a significant contribution during the European Championship, which, as a competition, is a precious experience for a young player. I wish Igor and his team a lot of sports luck in Slovenia!"

"I am glad that at the moment we do not have serious problems with injuries, and I hope that it will remain so until the reunion. We want a good start because of the qualifications, but also as an introduction to the EURO, and for that, we will have to approach this with maximum concentration and togetherness. The schedule is tight; we will not have time for serious training, so the focus will be on good mental and tactical preparation to be at the best possible level given these circumstances. I am an optimist and look forward to the gathering, as well as our team," concluded the coach.

Croatia will gather on March 22 in Zagreb, from where they will leave for Ljubljana a day later. Immediately after the match against Slovenia, they will travel to Opatija, where they will stay until the end of the gathering.

Goalkeepers Lovre Kalinić, Dominik Livaković, Simon Sluga

Defenders: Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Šime Vrsaljko, Borna Barišić, Duje Ćaleta-Car, Dario Melnjak, Filip Uremović, Josip Juranović

Midfielders: Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić, Marcelo Brozović, Milan Badelj, Mario Pašalić, Nikola Vlašić

Attackers: Ivan Perišić, Andrej Kramarić, Ante Rebić, Josip Brekalo, Bruno Petković, Mislav Oršić, Ante Budimir

Callups: Mile Škorić, Toma Bašić, Marin Pongračić, Ivo Grbić, Kristijan Lovrić

What do you think of the Croatia squad for the upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifiers?

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

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