Thursday, 26 November 2009


Following Croatia failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup coach Slaven Bilic has looked to a new crop of players to come into the first team for the campaign for the 2012 European Championship qualifying. Mate Bilic, Tomislav Dujmovic, Nikica Jelavic, Dario Knezevic and Ivan Perisic have already been drafted in the set up. But who are the other names pushing for international recognition based on their performances during the first half of this season.

At 29, Andre Mijatovic is hardly a new face. However the Arminia Bielfeld defender has been in good form as his side aim a quick return to German's top flight. Dinamo Zagreb's Dejan Lovren is also pushing hard to take over from his club teammate Robert Kovac in the international set up. Lovren performed excellantly in Croatia's final World Cup qualifying match with Kazahkstan. He is also hugely versatile able to play all across the backline. Slaven Bilic will also be pleased with the development of Osijek's robust defender Domogoj Vida who struck the winner in the Under 21's victory over Slovakia to put them top of their European Championship qualification group.

In midfield Drago Gabric played a solid match in the recent friendly with Leichenstien and offers an alternative to the talents of Dario Srna, Niko Kranjcar, Ivan Rakitic and Daniel Pranjic in the wide positions. Gabric's recent form for Turkish club Trabzonspor should see him step ahead of Hajduk Split's Anas Sharbini in the pecking order. In central midfield Croatia have long been looking for an alternative to Luka Modric, who is widely regarded as the heartbeat of the team. Kaiserslautern's Ivo Ilicevic has sited as a potential national team player and is having his best season to date with the German Bundesliga 2 leaders. The 23 year old is hugely talented and creative and hopes to step up this term when Croatia need him. Ilicevic however will receive fierce competition from Milan Badelj who along with Pedro Morales has been Dinamo Zagreb best player this season. Badelj has been trained in the same way as Modric, playing in the centre in a 4-4-2 system with the ability to run at opponent and supply defence splitting passes.

New young strikers have been few and far between for Croatia. In the Under 21's Nikola Kalinic is employed largely on his own whilst partner Perisic is regarded as a midfield player rather than a striker. With Ivan Klasnic, Igor Budan and Ivica Olic having now turned 30, Croatia will be looking for fresh faces in the forward line. Daniel Cesarec will come in contention should he keep up his form with Asteras tripolis. However Mario Mandzukic, Kalinic, Darko Bodul, Ahmad Sharbini and Bojan Vrucina all appear to have gone backwards in their progress, allowing Cesarec and most notably Nikica Jelavic to come to the fore. Jelavic has scored 15 goals already in all competitions and is set for continued inclusion in the squad for the upcoming matches.