Friday, 2 December 2011


Croatia finally took their place in next years European Championships after defeating Turkey 3-0 in the play offs. Ironically the win buried the ghost of Euro 2008 where Croatia's most talented squad of the last decade shorn of star Eduardo Da Silva was defeated by their opponents on penalties after claiming three wins during the group campaign.

Ivica Olic came back in the nick of time to show he can still be a big threat and big help for Croatia and put in a hugely mobile attacking display alongside Mario Mandzukic. Nikica Jelavic, Nikola Kalinic and Ivan Klasnic have refound form at domestic level and will be good back up. Eduardo and Mladen Petric will also be fighting hard for their place. Ivan Perisic and Ivo Ilicevic are favorites to join Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar as attacking midfielders in the squad, but don't rule out Mato Jajalo who is playing well with Koln. Milan Badelj would appear to need a transfer to step to the level. At present alongside Drago Gabric he stands to miss out.

Daniel Pranjic was recalled to the squad and may have a chance as Croatia only has Ognjen Vukojevic and Tomislav Dujmovic as reliable defensive midfielders. However he needs to switch clubs as out the picture at Bayern Munich. Pranjic can also cover left back. Dnipro's Ivan Strinic may need to do more to bed down his left back slot as could miss out with Vedran Corluka moving across to put in a hugely accomplished display there. Corluka is certain to travel and Dinamo Zagreb's Sime Vrsaljko and especially Domagoj Vida may now be trusted at right back allowing Corluka to switch position and Darijo Srna to move back onto the right wing where he has played his best football for Croatia.

Rather than making slots for players Coach Slaven Bilic may now be prepared to let his squad fight it out for roles in his side leaving Ivan Rakitic and Niko Kranjcar in direct competition for the left wing slot. In the long run when Croatia need to rotate this could prove in the countries interest. In attack there will be a scramble with Klasnic and Petric not likely to give up easy on one last chance to represent their country at a Euro finals. Both have the quality to rack up a high goalscoring tally this season with Klasnic already on 6 and Petric having started brightly at HSV.

If Croatia have a worry it is in central defence and central midfield. Luka Modric is the teams star, but alongside him Dujmovic and Vukojevic are no Niko Kovac still. In defence Josip Simunic is making gutsy displays to roll back the years when he played alongside Igor Tudor, Robert Kovac and Dario Simic. However Croatia now longer have centre backs of that quality. Dejan Lovren's performances at club and international level are in and out despite the fact he is a talent. Gordon Schildenfeld has done well when called upon, but he is playing week to week in the German second Division despite being with the leaders Eintract Frankfurt. It is likely Croatia will have to go to the finals without a top rate centre back and that will be there weakness. Rostov's Stipe Pletikosa between the sticks is also welcome.

If there were to be any surprise packages in Croatia's squad it is only likely to be in the form of central midfielder Jerko Leko who can offer experience or Hertha Berlin's captain Andre Mijatovic. Manuel Pamic as alternative left back also stands a chance as is strong at Sparta Prague. The only other player really making waves is Darko Bodul with 10 goals already this season, but this is in the Austrian league.