The Croatian U21 team had a perfect six wins, zero losses and zero draws up until today. In a match against statistically inferior Austria, Bišćan decided to field five center-backs, a defensive midfielder and no wingers. This mistake showed on the pitch as Croatia had trouble spreading their game out and clogged the middle of the pitch. Not to mention, Bišćan made only 2 out of 5 possible subs (one being at the 90th minute), in a game where we desperately needed more offensive punch. Dion Beljo, a 6’5 prolific scorer who has been one of the best players in the entire HNL this season, was left on the bench, as well as Martin Baturina (a midfielder) being subbed on for Antonio Marin (an attacker) when we needed a goal to secure the victory.
However, Croatia’s individual quality shone today. The tactics and offensive output lacked, yet we were visibly the better squad. Here’s a little run-down on how every player performed today in Varaždin:
Dominik Kotarski- 6.5/10: Kotarski didn’t get too much action as he received 2 shots on goal, but he displayed good ball distribution and positioning throughout the match.
Josip Stanišić- 9/10: A near perfect display for the Bayern Munich defender, as he recorded an incredible 6 tackles, 3 interceptions and 3 clearances. He also won 100% of his duels and had 91% pass accuracy.
Mario Vušković- 7.5/10: Vušković performed well today, making 7 clearances and recording 92% pass accuracy. However, he was less defensively involved than his two defensive partners as he had 0 tackles and only one duel all game.
Josip Šutalo- 8/10: Šutalo also had a great defensive game and didn’t allow the Austrians any chances to create, as he recorded 8 clearances, 6 interceptions and 3 tackles. He also had 104 touches and got a shot on target.
Bartol Franjić- 7.5/10: The captain had a decent match today, being deployed as a left wingback under Bišćan’s odd formation. He completed 5 out of 7 attempted dribbles and participated in 15 duels, winning 12 of them.
Boško Šutalo- 6.5/10: Although defensively amazing in today’s match, Šutalo is awful in the attack. As a right wingback, you’d expect fluid movement and speed up the pitch, supporting the team in attack. Šutalo was just the opposite, as he seemed to even have trouble placing himself to cross the ball. He was clumsy and very static in offense. We desperately need a better option to support the right flank as no winger was deployed today (thanks, Bišćan).
Ante Palaversa- 7/10: Palaversa nearly ended the match when he rang a bullet of a shot against the crossbar. Other than that shot, Palaversa displayed a solid defensive match and controlled the tempo of the game decently well.
Luka Sučić- 5.5/10: What did Sučić do today other than lose almost all his duels, jog around and lob the ball from the right side to the left side of the pitch? Not much, to be honest. He seemed static, lazy and unmotivated today. He made many back and side passes and almost seemed out of place. I found his reaction time to be quite slow, and always resorted to a simple pass when receiving the ball.
Lukas Kačavenda- 8.5/10: This kid is a bulldog. Unfortunately, this hurt him today since he got two yellow cards and we had to play the last 10-15 minutes with a man down. I wasn’t overly upset, because I love his style of play. Kačavenda is a relentless presser and a very very good dribbler. He created two or three great scoring chances from simply gliding past his opponents in Modrić-like manner. For an attacker, his 7 tackles on the game are almost unheard of. He was also involved in 22 duels, showing his willingness to fight for every ball.
Antonio Marin- 6.5/10: Other than being pretty active in duels, Marin really didn’t do much today. I can’t blame him though, since he was deployed in an odd second striker/ winger/ attacking midfielder role. It almost seemed like even he didn’t know what Bišćan wanted from him today.
Roko Šimić- 6.5/10: Again, similar to Marin, Šimić had an average game due to the lack of support on the offensive end. Bišćan entered this game as if we were going up against Manchester City or Bayern Munich, not U21 Austria. So our players tried to dictate the tempo of the match whilst playing a defensive system and formation, and it just didn’t work. At least if you’re gonna play this way, start Beljo and cross the ball into him with a guy like Marin or Kačavenda behind him who can clean up well and possibly score. I believe a duo of Beljo and Vidović (who’s with the U19s), would have been perfect today. Anyway, Šimić made some nice passes and looked hungry today, just seemed like he didn’t really know what to do considering the lack of support. There seemed to be a big gap in the offensive midfield today.