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martes, 13 de mayo de 2008

EURO 2008: CROATIA (This article is available in English and Español)

Croatia is one of the teams that it can go very far in the competition, since it is in an easy group and, alongside Germany, it should be classified for the 4th finals, where it will play against a team of group A, which has good teams-the Czech Republic, Turkey, Switzerland and Portugal-but they are not clear favourites for the European title; so Croatia will have many options to win the 4th final´s game and to arrive to the semi-finals of the Championship, where anything is possible. Croatia is a very balanced team, because in the Slaven Bilic´s team we see a combination of players with experience like Simic or the Kovac´s brothers, with the youthfulness of the new Balkan pearls as Niko Kranjcar or Luka Modric; and in any case, whenever we speak of the Croatian soccer, with very technical players, being a team that it received not much goals thanks to the defensive players(it received 9 goals during the 15 classification´s games) and that it attacks fast and with danger, since the offensive players have a lot of quality and they can score a goal in anytime.
As we say the hallmark of the defensive line is the vast experience of the players, because if we look at the members of the Croatian defence players, we can see that they have played in a big European club, thus, Croatian has good goalkeeper as the veterans Sparta Moscow´s goalkeepers Stipe Pletikosa (67 games played with the Croatian National team), the experienced and sober Vedran Runje-I did not understand because he did not continue in the Olympique Marseille 4 seasons ago, since he used to play well, but we know that Marseille is synonymous of chaos during the last years-and another good goalkeeper, the Panathinaikos´s Mario Galinovic. The Croatian goalkeeper will also be protected by very experienced players as the central defender Robert Kovac (34 year´s old and 71 games with Croatia and he has played in important teams like Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Juventus Turin and Borussia Dortmund) and Dario Simic (32 year´s old, 97 games played with Croatia and he is playing in Italy since 1999- 3 seasons with Inter Milan and 6 season with AC Milan-)-these two central defender will have a good substitute, the promising Dario Knezevic of Livorno-. Along with Kovac and Simic the defensive line will be integrated by 2 good backs, both have good level both offensively and defensively ( we will see as left back the veteran and experienced Josip Simunic -61 matches with Croatia and extensive experience in the Bundesliga, since he plays there since 1999- and as right back, we will see one of the sensations and discoveries of the season, the sensational Manchester City´s right back, Vedran Corluka, who is player with a lot of technical quality, with a lot of projection and that this year he arrived to Manchester City thanks a 13 million euros´s transfer from NK Dinamo Zagreb and the truth is that it was a very good acquisition, because this young man -22 year´s old- played perfectly in the Premier League and now he has a permanent place in the Croatian National team – all the football´s fan should follow the career of this player, because he will be one the best European right backs in the following seasons-)
In front of this good defensive line, Bilic will use a defensive midfielder with a lot of experience as Niko Kovac-he is 36 year´s old and he has played 74 games with Croatia and after a successful career in the Bundesliga (he played in Germany since 1991until 2006 in teams as Herta BSC Berlin, SV Hamburg, Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen), he is playing his last years in Austria-in SV Salzburg-, where he will play one more season. This will be his last major tournament with the Croatian National team and he will have a complicated work, because he will be the only player with the function of the destruction of the rival team's game, since the rest of the midfielders are playmaker´s player, as for example the Shachtjar Donezk´s right midfielder Darijo Srna, or the key player Niko Kranjcar (he is an excellent player with a lot of quality with both feet and with big mobility, good shot and good vision of the game. Now there is no doubt that he must be in the EURO-in the past, Kranjcar had critics, who said that he played with the Croatian National team because his father, Zlatko Kranjcar, was the National coach- and as an important player for this team)and the new pearl of the Croatian football Luka Modric, who is a very technical player with a great vision of the game, with ability and good shoot, scoring a good number of goals –he scored 13 goals in 24 games this season with NK Dinamo Zagreb-. This offensive midfielder, as Corluka, will be one of the player that the football´s fan should follow with particular attention during the tournament, because he is a super-class and he must show that he is ready to be a key player in an important tournament and therefore to see if he is ready to play in club as Tottenham, where he will play next season after a transfer of 21 million euros. In addition to these 4 players, who are the key players of the team, Bilic will have on the bench other good midfielders as the experienced AS Monaco´s player Jerko Leko, who can play both in the side and in the middle, the skilled Schalke 04´s offensive midfielder Ivan Rakitic (this player,as we commented in other articles of this blog, started the season very well, but he has shown a lower level gradually during the season, but anyway he is a player with quality and the rival teams must pay attention on him), or the skilled SC Heerenveen´s left midfielder Danijel Pranjic or the young central midfielders: the AS Monaco´s defensive midfielder Nikola Pokrivac and the NK Dinamo Zagreb´s star Ognjen Vukojevic, who is on the agendas of teams as Bayern Munich, Schalke 04 or Celtic Glasgow.

Finally, we will speak about the Croatian offensive line that it will be decimated by the absence of the best striker of the country, Eduardo Alves da Silva, who suffers an important injury after a tremendous kick of the Birmingham City´s player Martin Taylor. It will be a sensitive absent because the Croatian-Brazilian shows an excellent level when he plays with the National team (13 goals in 22 goals) and he is the reference in the attack of the team, but we should not underestimate the other team's forwards, because they have a good level too, especially the Werder Bremen´s player Ivan Klasnic, who is gradually recovering from his kidney´s transplant and he begins to recover his features- he is a good striker with great mobility and technical quality and good definition- that he showed when Werder Bremen had the famous "Double K" (Klose-Klasnic).Besides Bilic has other good strikers, as the classical “9” Ivica Olic ( he is always a guarantee in order to scorer goals, as he has shown in Hamburg SV, CSKA Moscow and NK Dinamo Zagreb) and the correct Parma´s striker Igor Budan and skilled Borussia Dortmund´s stiker Mladen Petric- he has a strong shot, scoring a correct number of goals this season in the Bundesliga (13 goals) - and the young HNK Hadjuk Split´s striker Nikola Kalinic, who has a great technical quality and perfect definition and the is on the agendas of several important European clubs as Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Schalke 04, Panathinaikos or Dynamo Kiev.
In short, Croatia is a good team and as it showed in the decisive game against England at Wembley, it can win any game and it arrives to this Euro in order to try to do the same as Denmark in 1992 or the Czech Republic in 1996; so It will try to be the Tournament´s surprise.
Cheers,
J&F
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