Croatia may claim to be in defensive crisis at present with few recognised defenders coming to the fore both home and abroad. In 2002 however Croatia claimed a wealth of defenders who unfortunately for the Balkan state all aged at the same time and are heading into retirement during the coming year. During the transfer window, former Bayer Leverkusen star Boris Zivkovic retired, joined by ex Verona defender Mario Cvitanovic, both aged 34. In the summer both Dario Simic and Robert Kovac are expected to hang up their boots, followed by Mario Tokic who is providing one last stint in HNL1 with NK Zagreb.
The last of Mirko Jozic's defensive stalwarts Stjepan Tomas is aiming to continue his career having left Rubin Kazan, but at 33 may struggle to obtain a two year deal. With Hjorve Vejic and Ante Seric recently being put on the Hajduk Split scrapheap, only Josip Simunic and Ivica Krizanac remains the last experienced Croatian international centre backs playing at the highest level.
Although Dario Knezevic returns to the squad, it would appear coach Slaven Bilic is not willing to trust Germinal Beerscott's Tomislav Mikulic, Sturm Graz Gordan Schildenfeld or Eskirespor's Luka Vucko at present and may turn his attention straight to promising youngsters Domogoj Vida and Dejan Lovren.
The depature of players such as Tokic, Kovac, Seric, Tomas, Simic, Zivkovic, Cvitanovic, Igor Tudor and Vejic from the squad however is part of problem which has only just occured for Croatia after 10 years of defensive depth.