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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Saturday, 12 February 2022

Mateo Kovačić Wins FIFA Club World Cup Trophy with Chelsea

February 12, 2022 - English Premier League side Chelsea won the Club World Cup trophy on Saturday against Palmeiras, giving Mateo Kovačić the trophy for the third time in his career. 

Chelsea footballers defeated Palmeiras 2-1 (1-1) in a dramatic outcome only after extra time in the Club World Cup final. With a goal scored by Lukaku in the 55th minute and a penalty by Kai Havertz in the second half of extra time, Chelsea became world champions. Kovačić was subbed out just before the match went to extra time, in the 91st minute. 

Thomas Tuchel returned to the bench after recovering from the coronavirus, while Edouard Mendy, who became the African champion with Senegal, returned to the goal after Kep was brilliant in the semifinal. 

The Blues' stopper trio remained the same, with left-back Hudson-Odoi replacing Alonso. Instead of Jorginho, Kante started with Kovačić in the middle. Mount replaced Ziyech in the attack, while Havertz and Lukaku retained their starting positions. However, after half an hour, Mount came out for Pulišić.

Chelsea chased revenge in this tournament after they failed to win the Club World Cup in their only appearance so far in 2012. Brazilian club Corinthians won 1:0 then. All European clubs won the Cup after that year - Real Madrid four times, Bayern twice, and Barcelona and Liverpool once.

Recall, Kovačić has already won two Club World Cup titles with Real Madrid. Now, after winning the Champion League with Chelsea last season, he has taken the world title with the club he joined in 2018. Kovačić was also brilliant in the Club World Cup semifinal against Al-Hilal, completing 90 percent of his passes. The English media praised him after the match for another great performance. 

African champion Al Ahly won third place at this year's Club World Club Cup, convincingly beating the Asian champion, Saudi Al Hilal 4-0 (3-0) in the match for third place.

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Thursday, 10 February 2022

FIFA 'Man of the Match' Mateo Kovačić on Fire for Chelsea at Club World Cup

February 10, 2020 - Mateo Kovačić was named the FIFA 'Man of the Match' of the Club World Cup semifinal on Wednesday between Chelsea and Al Hilal.

It didn't go as Chelsea fans would have expected, but the Premier League club topped the Asian champions Al Hilal in the World Cup semi-finals on Wednesday night. The 1:0 victory was thanks to a Romelu Lukaku goal after a blunder by the opponents. Havertz recorded the assist, reports Jutarnji List.

There were many opportunities for the London club, but also any close moments in the second half as Al Hilal went aggressively to get the equalizing goal. Instead, they failed, primarily because of brilliant defending by Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, still the highest-paid keeper of all time.

Interestingly, although Lukaku scored the only goal, and Kepa defended miraculously in the second half, FIFA chose Mateo Kovačić as the player of the match!

Screenshot_2022-02-10_at_10.56.58.png

The Croat is currently on fire for Chelsea. Not only did he score the potential goal of the Premier League season against Liverpool in January, but he recently wore the captain's armband for the club, too. He has been so good that assistant coach Zsolt Low (as head Tuchel has COVID) called him "the great leader of Chelsea".

"I may have made some, let’s call them, unforced mistakes that I don’t normally make, but it’s good, and I’m happy. I have to point out Kepa. He is a world-class goalkeeper, blessed to have as many as three great goalkeepers at our club. As for the match, it was tough. It’s the World Cup semi-finals; we knew it would be that way. We should have scored the second goal; that would have relaxed us even more," said Low after the match.

Chelsea will play against South American champions Palmeiras on Saturday at 5 pm to fight for their first Club World Cup title in club history. When they won the Champions League in 2012, they played another Brazilian team, the Corinthians, in the World Cup final. Chelsea lost 1:0.

"We know how passionate Brazilian fans are. We are looking forward to that match, but it will be at least as demanding as this one against Al Hilal. It would be great to win another trophy. However, this is not easy to come by. You must first qualify for the European Champions League, then win it, and then pass the semifinals of the World Cup," said the Croatian national team player after FIFA presented him the player of the match award.

Thomas Tuchel's assistant, Zsolt Low, also spoke in selected words about Kovačić:

"Kova has a lot of experience. He played a handful of games like this. He is important to us on and off the field, and today he did everything. He didn’t stop running; he didn’t stop fighting and always found the best possible solutions for the team. We are thrilled that this kind of player is at our club; he is a great leader." 

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

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Zlatko Dalić on Future Croatia Captain and Modrić's Successor

November 16, 2021 - Zlatko Dalić hinted at who should replace Luka Modrić as the future Croatia captain - and he happens to be one of the biggest European stars this year. 

A tearful Zlatko Dalić was seen at the final whistle after Croatia secured their spot at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Dalić admitted that this dramatic ending to the World Cup qualifications was moving and he was delighted to lead Croatia to defend the World Cup silver next year. 

In an interview with Nova TV, Dalić was full of emotions. 

"One of my biggest victories; it meant a lot to me. Especially because it was the final, played in front of a full stadium, and it took us to Qatar. I was just emotionally broken. This time I couldn't stand it with so much pressure and stress. We wanted Croatia to qualify; we prevailed, in those moments I couldn't control myself, everything was released."

He announced that Croatia could move to a system with three players in the back.

"We will try a formation with three defenders. We will need to prepare very well for the World Cup. There will not be many terms to play, we have to expect great things from Croatia, but we cannot get a result without these older players."

There has been a lot of talk about returning Ivan Rakitić to the national team.

"I am in contact with him. Ivan did not have the opportunity to be with us because of Covid-19; now was the chance to thank him, and we invited him to Split. He retired, so we will see. If the need arises, we will talk, but one should look at our youth. However, Ivan said that if the need arises, he is there."

Dalić then praised Mato Kovačić.

"I have to point out Mateo Kovačić. He is Modrić's successor; he should become the captain of the national team. He is the biggest winner in 2021; he is the European champion, he plays great for the national team, he goes to the top, he cannot be replaced when he is healthy."

Modrić does not want to rest.

"Modrić wanted to play against Malta, I even wanted to replace him at half-time, and he wanted to play more. Luckily these young players can learn from him. The younger ones will progress much faster with the older ones like Modrić, Lovren, and Brozović."

Ivo Grbić was in goal for Croatia's last two games. 

"We changed the goalkeeper, we estimated that he is in better shape, but Livaković is still number one in the national team, and it is up to him to work and prove himself again. We have no problems with goalkeepers. Grbić deserved to defend, and Livaković must be even better to remain number one.

I have been leading the national team for five years. No money or contract can ruin this for me. Of course, there were difficult moments, but I forgot all that. What I experienced is irreplaceable. The fans are our strength," concluded Dalić.

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

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Mateo Kovačić Wins 4th Champions League Title!

May 29, 2021 - Mateo Kovačić and Chelsea are the champions of Europe after defeating Manchester City 1:0 in the final tonight. 

Mateo Kovačić is the European champion with Chelsea! The Croatia national team player played the last 15 minutes in Chelsea's Champions League final win against Manchester City (1:0).

Kovačić had previously won three consecutive Champions League titles with Real Madrid, but never entered the pitch in any of the finals. He has thus played the Champions League final for the first time.

"Winning the Champions League is impressive. I did it three times with Real Madrid, but unfortunately, I never played in those finals. Despite that, I was there. And it's the team that wins. We all win and lose, as a team. Playing in the final would mean a lot to me," said the 27-year-old before the final, and coach Thomas Tuchel fulfilled his wish by bringing him on at the end of the match.

Croatia has had a Champions League winner every year since 2013, and Kovačić has extended this series for the ninth season. First, Mario Mandžukić celebrated with Bayern in 2013, followed by Luka Modrić with Real and Ivan Rakitić with Barcelona. After that, Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić were the best in Europe three times in a row, but Liverpool and Dejan Lovren broke Real's dominance in 2019. Last year, Ivan Perišić was better than PSG in the final against Bayern.

Source: Index.hr 

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Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Mateo Kovacic Named Player of Season by Chelsea Fans

August 26, 2020 - Mateo Kovacic thus joins the prestigious company of Ruud Gullit, Gianfranco Zola, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petar Cech, Didier Drogba and Eden Hazard.

There was no dilemma for Chelsea fans who voted Mateo Kovacic the best player of the London club in the 2019/2020 season!

A nice and, certainly, encouraging recognition for the Croatia national team member who has recorded several impressive matches in the last 12 months, but also consistently played at a high level, which was also recognized by the Chelsea fan club.

Chelsea awarded the Croatian on their website with the following message:

"Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the club's annual awards are being unveiled exclusively online rather than at the usual ceremony dinner. Following the conclusion of the season, supporters cast their votes and today's series of announcements culminates with Kovacic revealed as our men’s winner.

He will be presented with the trophy at Cobham having topped the voting after an outstanding 2019/20. He was a key member of our midfield in his first season as a fully-fledged Blue, having made his loan move from Real Madrid a permanent switch to Stamford Bridge last summer.

Only two players made more than Kovacic’s 47 appearances over the course of the season, a fact made even more impressive by the fierce competition for places and frequent rotation in midfield. He also scored his first two goals for the club, both low drives from the edge of the box, in consecutive weeks in November against Valencia and Everton.

Over the course of the campaign the Austrian-born Croatia international seemed to have a telepathic understanding with his team-mates, whoever he was playing alongside in midfield, whether as part of a central three or a deep-lying pair.

He began the season in fine form, starting seven of our first eight matches, and even when left out of the line-up as part of Frank Lampard’s rotation, he still managed to make his mark, with his impact from the bench key in helping us break down a stubborn Newcastle side at Stamford Bridge in October.

It was as we entered the winter that it really became clear how important a player Kovacic was going to be for our season, though, as his precise passing, reading of the game and strong pressing allowed him to dictate the tempo of matches, while his bursts forward carrying the ball from midfield launched countless attacks.

As well as beginning moves, Kovacic has also been helping to finish them, addressing one of the criticisms he faced in his first season in England. In addition to his first two goals he also provided three assists, including one delightful pass to tee-up N’Golo Kante against Manchester City in late November, and he was high up the list in terms of chances created, only behind Willian and Mason Mount for Chelsea when the season was paused during lockdown.

The man wearing our number 17 shirt did his popularity no harm with two stand-out performances against London rivals Tottenham in the Premier League either side of Christmas, and looked likely to be a big miss for Lampard when he limped off with an injury during our FA Cup win over Liverpool in March.

However, the timing of lockdown meant Kovacic was unavailable for just one match, returning from his Achilles problem in time to be named in the starting line-up for our first game when football resumed in June, helping us to make it a winning restart against Aston Villa.

Another injury suffered at the start of July forced him to sit out a couple of games, but when he returned it was in arguably his best form yet for Chelsea.

He started all of our last six games in all competitions, and his performances helped us secure a top-four finish in the Premier League and reach the FA Cup final."

Bravo, Kova!

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Thursday, 20 February 2020

VIDEO: Zlatko Dalic and Mateo Kovacic Announce EURO 2020

February. 20, 2020 - In October 2017, Zlatko Dalic was named coach of the Croatia national football team. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he took Modric & Co. to the World Cup final. Now, he’s leading the team through the next major International competition - EURO 2020.

The European Football Federation (UEFA) presented the Croatia national team in a video ahead of EURO 2020, featuring coach Zlatko Dalic and midfielder Mateo Kovacic.

“A lot of things have changed. It’s completely different from working at a club. I’m working for my national team, my country. That is what is truly priceless for me,” said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic at the start of the video, and continued:

“We’ve had an amazing time and we’ve done well again. The situation wasn’t great when I came here. There were a lot of divisions and negativity surrounding the national team. We played matches in empty stadiums. There were fines and problems with our fans. Now whenever we play, the whole country stops and watches. For me, that’s the most important thing. The Croatia national team has finally returned to its people.”

Mateo Kovacic was also interviewed in the video.

“Our coach is a very calm man. He is leading Croatia in the right direction, exactly as it should be. He’s making good, intelligent decisions, and I hope it continues like that,” Kovacic said, and Zlatko Dalic added:

“I didn’t get here by chance. I worked hard for 12 years, I got some good results. I built my name, built my career. What we are now achieving makes these years the best of my career.”

“In Euro 2008 and 2012 we had big opportunities and in 2016 we conceded in the last minuteagainst Portugal. Bad luck followed us for years, but it led to the incredible high of 2018.  Hopefully we’ll have more of those experiences,” said Kovacic.

"We must have quality, be persistent, work hard and be aware that we have got results as a team, not by standing out as individuals. That’s what’s important. I know we will be under pressure but we are used to that," Dalic concluded.

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Saturday, 16 November 2019

How Mateo Kovacic Improved Under Frank Lampard

November 16, 2019 - Chelsea has been doing well this season. They currently sit 3rd in the Premier League, a point ahead of the current champions, Manchester City, but eight behind the current leaders Liverpool. Many thought that with inexperienced Frank Lampard as the manager and a transfer ban, the Blues might collapse this season. However, they have proved their doubters wrong, so did Mateo Kovacic. 

The 25-year-old Croatian midfielder re-joined Chelsea last summer in a reported £45million deal after spending last season on loan at Stamford Bridge. Despite the transfer ban, many Chelsea fans didn’t welcome the news with excitement, but Kovacic massively improved his game under Lampard. 

Last season, everything was so predictable. Under Maurizio Sarri, either Kovacic or Ross Barkley would start the game and one would be replaced with another in the second half. Although the Croatian made 21 Premier League starts under the Italian, he completed 90 minutes just twice. Fast-forward to this season, Kovacic looks to be on the right track. In the same competition, he completed 90 minutes six times already and Barkley is nowhere to be seen. Both Kovacic and Jorginho have stepped up their game and the Chelsea fans enjoy their partnership, which wasn’t the case last season. 

The Croatian lacked the final product, producing just two assists from 25 chances created while he also failed to score under Sarri and Lampard so far, with his last goal for club or country coming in January 2017 for Real Madrid. Despite not scoring for almost three years, Lampard improved Kovacic’s game. 

“I’m looking forward to working with him a lot. He was an amazing player and he showed last season that he is a good coach as well,” the Croatian told Chelsea’s official website in July. 

“I’m looking forward to learning how to score from him because he scored quite a lot and me not so much last season! I’m maybe not exactly the same type of midfielder as he was, but he had some strong abilities, especially scoring goals. 

“He was a hard worker, so I’m looking forward to being better in this aspect, in working hard, fighting on the pitch and scoring goals.” 

It has to be said that N’Golo Kante’s injury helped pave the way for Kovacic’s frequent inclusion in the starting eleven and he has done more than anyone expected to fill in for the French midfielder. The 25-year-old has shown himself to have excellent defensive work-rate, running back into his area in Kante-like style, giving his all to help Chelsea’s back four. 

In 12 Premier League games so far this season, only Cesar Azpilicueta (28) and Jorginho (27) have made more tackles than Kovačić’s 25 though the Croatian’s have come at a better rate of 

2.82 per 90 minutes. The best evidence of Kovacic’s improvement is his display in 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace last weekend. Kovacic rivaled Christian Pulisic for the man-of-the-match award in Saturday's game, and the likes of BBC even acknowledged his efforts on the pitch by announcing him as the man-of-the-match. He played more passes and recovered the ball on more occasions than anyone else on the pitch. 

His numbers this season testify to one of the broadest skillsets in the Premier League. The Croatian has completed the seventh-most dribbles and has the best dribble success rate of all players with 20 or more dribbles. He also ranks seventh for passes in the opposition half and has the fourth-best passing accuracy of all players with 350 or more opposition half passes. 

The Times even wrote the following after the game against Palace last weekend: “Kovacic is integral to the way Chelsea move the ball quickly from back to front and more often than not manage to bolt the door when they have to deal with an opposition counterattack.” 

If Kovacic improves his goalscoring record, only the sky will be his limit. On the other side, it will be interesting to see what Lampard will do once Kante is fit again, which he will be once the international break is over. With Mason Mount being outstanding as well, the English manager will have a lot to think about when they face the Premier League champions, Manchester City, next Saturday. 

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Monday, 1 July 2019

Mateo Kovačić Officially Signs for Chelsea, Sets New Croatian Transfer Record

Although Chelsea was banned from signing new contracts this year, the Premier League club managed to keep Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovačić thanks to his loan from Real Madrid. 

It's official - English Premier League club Chelsea have officially signed Mateo Kovačić for 45 million euro, which should be the club’s only signing this summer, HRT reports on July 1, 2019.

The Croatian representative has thus signed a five-year contract, which will take him through 2024. Despite Chelsea's transfer ban, Kovačić was able to sign as he spent the last season at Stamford Bridge on loan from Real Madrid. Kovačić’s transfer has set a new record for the biggest transfer of a Croatian footballer. With this signing, Kovačić has broken his own record of 28 million euro, which is what Real Madrid paid to sign him from Inter in August 2015.

 "I really enjoyed my season on loan with Chelsea, I feel comfortable at the club and like London and the Premier League very much. I am very happy to be able to join permanently. "We had a successful year, winning the Europa League and I hope I can make a big contribution in the coming seasons," said Kovačić.

"Mateo proved that he is a capable player last season and we are delighted to be able to welcome him on a permanent basis. “He already possesses extensive experience at club and international level and we are sure he will be a big success with Chelsea over the next five years,” said Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia.

Kovačić played 51 games for Chelsea last season and achieved 92 percent in successful passes. He won the Europa League with the Premier League club and in the next season, he has a good chance at becoming one of the club’s leading players. 

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Thursday, 30 May 2019

Mateo Kovačić Enters History After Europa League Title with Chelsea

Mateo Kovačić entered prestigious company after claiming the Europa League title with Chelsea on Wednesday night in Baku. 

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovačić became only the second Croatian footballer to win the Champions League and the Europa League! Before him, only Ivan Rakitić has succeeded, reports Gol.hr on May 29, 2019, 

Kovačić celebrated in the Champions League last season with Real Madrid, while this season he won the Europa League with Chelsea. Rakitić had a different path. He first won the Europa League with Sevilla, and then won the Champions League in the ranks of Barcelona.

Kovačić has also won his fourth European trophy in a row, something not even the best of the best footballers can boast. Recall, in the last three seasons he won the Champions League title with Real Madrid, and on Wednesday the Europa League title with Premier League club Chelsea.

The Chelsea midfielder also became the ninth Croatian footballer to celebrate the UEFA Cup or the Europa League. Thus far, Mladen Ramljak, Luka Peruzović, Mario Stanić, Ivica Olić, Ivica Križanac, Darijo Srna, Ivan Rakitić, and Šime Vrsaljko have done the same. 

Chelsea has won the Europa League for the second time in history. However, Sevilla still holds the record and has celebrated the title five times. 

Recall, Chelsea won the competition for the first time after defeating Benfica in 2013.

Mateo Kovačić played excellent in the Chelsea jersey in the final, collecting 76 minutes and participated in the first three Chelsea goals. Kovačić also achieved 91% of successful passes. Kovačić completed a 3 in dribbling, with Hazard only at 5. Kovačić also held 7% of possession, with Xhaka only at 8.4%.

Twitter even went crazy for Kovačić last night after his stellar performance. You can read some of the comments of praise below. 

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