Tuesday, 25 October 2011


After a disappointing Euro 2012 qualifying campaign to date, Croatia has been undergoing change within the squad. Ivo Ilicevic, Nikica Jelavic, Dejan Lovren and Ivan Perisic are all welcome additions to the squad, but are yet to make their mark in a international shirt.

Besides Eduardo Da Silva's injury now over 3 years ago has made it hard for him to lead the attack and responsibility has had to be handed over with himself and Niko Kranjcar playing the supporting forward role. Jelavic has been a strong player in the Scottish league for Rangers, but needs to prove himself against top opposition. Nikola Kalinic as yet is most useful as substitute and Mario Mandzukic who has improved at Wolfsburg is still not trustworthy.

As for the squad players Srdjan Lakic has lost his way since going to Wolfsburg from Kaiserslautern. Although the player needed to switch clubs, Wolfsburg would appear the wrong fit with Mandzukic and Patrick Helmes preferred to him. It is disappointing that the old guard of Ivica Olic and Mladen Petric have dropped off. Olic needs to switch clubs from Bayern Munich where he has been successful. Nevertheless they now are looking to younger guys and Olic may return for one last venture with the national team if he gets a new club that suits him. Going back to Hamburg or to Russia would not be a bad thing for him. Should Dinamo Zagreb get him it would be a massive boost for the currently lightweight Croatian Champions.

Petric is still doing what Petric does for Hamburg, but some bad performances for Croatia encouraged Bilic to drop him from the squad. Similarly Daniel Pranjic, like Olic must leave Bayern and prove himself again. Unjustifiable perhaps he was dropped off the squad. Jerko Leko and Nikola Pokrivac improved their chances by going back to Dinamo, but its not expected they will return any time immediately. Milan Badelj is instead being looked at, but is no holding midfielder. Its essential Ivan Rakitic gets fit again.

One bright spark has been Mato Jajalo at Cologne. Ivica Vrdoljak is also still doing well at Legia Warsaw after a brilliant first season. Darko Bodul has also had a boost since going to Rapid Vienna. Both Vrdoljak and Bodul need to do it at bigger clubs. Petar Sliskovic at St Pauli, Boris Vukcevic at Hoffenheim and Matija Smrekar at Charleroi are as yet unproven talents.

There is in fact not much going on with Croatian players abroad. Igor Budan looks ready for Serie B or home at Palermo. Sasa Bjelanovic is still lending a helping hand in Serie B clubs, currently with 2 goals on board for Verona. Mate Bilic is out the picture at Sporting Gijon. Bosko Balaban also looks about finished at Pananios. Ivan Klasnic is giving his maximum with Bolton Wanderers, but this only masks the lack of young players doing it from Croatia just now.

Forwards actually doing okay currently are at home in Croatia. Zadar's Ivan Santini looks to have a career ahead of him. Leon Benko has got better whilst at Slaven Belupo and Ante Vukusic is still one to watch at Hajduk and Ante Rukavina is having a better season with Dinamo than last time out. Mateas Delic has not got much better at Gangwon however and could be heading home soon with Jeonbuk's Krunoslav Lovrek, who did well out in the Far East. Daniel Cesarec has struggled with Aris and Andrej Keric's loan to Teplice from Sparta is a step backwards. Mario Budimir has been steady at Egotelis but needs to go to the next level.