The Mladi Vatreni play their first game of the qualification campaign against Azerbaijan U21 today at 1:00pm EST.
The only surprise selection is starting 17 year old Salzburg talent Roko Šimić over 19 year old established Hajduk striker Marin Ljubičić. Either it’s because he has impressed more in training or because Ljubičić is being rested (we are playing Azerbaijan, after all). Krizmanić makes the XI over Nikola Soldo, and the unfortunate injury of Bayern star Josip Stanišić has caused us to play Boško Šutalo out of position at right-back. This could be a problem area considering Šutalo is a natural center-back and doesn’t have great pace or agility going forward. Former wonderkid Antonio Marin is back with the U21s and will be starting in the midfield alongside Luka Sučić and Bartol Franjić. Expect Marin to play a more advanced role than his two counterparts, kind of like an attacking midfielder. The formation may also just be a 4-2-3-1 with Marin at AM and Sučić + Franjić as the CM’s. The official formation was not released at the time of this article. The attack is our strongest point, with Kačavenda, Biuk and Šimić all considered serious threats to the Azeri, with Antonio Marin and Luka Sučić also being potential goalscoring threats going forward.
Update: We’re playing a 4-1-4-1. GK: Pandur; LB: Čolina, CB: Krizmanić, CB: J. Šutalo, RB: B. Šutalo; CM: Franjić; LW: Kačavenda, AM: Marin, AM: Sučić, RW: Biuk; ST: Šimić.
The Mladi Vatreni start off with a 2-0 victory. There were a lot of positives in this win, notably Antonio Marin and Luka Sučić’s performances. Stipe Biuk also looked very promising whenever he had the ball, but his end product has been weak so far this season. With this being a new group, it will take a few games for everyone to gel together, and in the future we will need a more convincing victory over a team like Azerbaijan.