Hello CroatianSports.com Nation! My name is Ante and I will be your spiritual and emotional guide during EURO 2021.
It’s been an incredibly long time since we last saw our beloved Vatreni play on the world stage – three years to be exact. And where we last left Luka Modrić and company was at the pinnacle of the game – the World Cup Final. This team is now three years older and without the striker that helped them get to the WC Final: Mario Mandžukić. But what does that mean going into EURO 2021?
Like many of you reading this right now, this Vatreni team makes me go crazy at times, makes me ponder life, but also brings me so much joy. Absolute joy!
So which emotions will it be this tournament?
It was sadness and confusion at EURO 2008. Anger during EURO 2012 and the 2014 World Cup. But absolute jubilation during the 2018 World Cup!
So here we go; and please don’t be upset at the following. This will all work in Croatia’s favor in the long run. Let me explain why.
England will have the game of their lives on Sunday against Croatia. They have to. All the pressure is on them at Wembley as English fans will pack in for the first time since COVID hit. The media is talking them up and they’re facing the same team that denied them a World Cup Final berth in Russia. I don’t know what the score will be but it doesn’t really matter. Every scenario is a win-win-win for Croatia. We’ve already discussed in the past few weeks on the site that finishing 2nd in this group is prime real estate. The would create Croatia’s easiest route the rest of the tournament. Please see Rob’s analysis here on finishing 2nd.
Do I want the Vatreni to embarrass the Three Lions in their Euro opener on home soil? Absolutely! The main reason being so I don’t have to here “It’s coming home!” for the next month. A quiet English supporter is a happy Croatian one.
Scenario #1 Beat England: Boom! Croatia is back! All those miserable friendlies and Nations League matches get wiped away. The Vatreni add another notch to their belt beating England on their home soil in a major tournament. All is good.
Scenario #2 Draw: This would be a great result for Croatia as this group will not be decided during the England match for Croatia, rather against Czech Republic and Scotland. A draw gives Croatia plenty of confidence going into the final two group matches in Glasgow.
Scenario #3 Croatia lose to England: Not the end of the world. As I said, this group will be decided in the other two matches. Consider the England game a bonus match. Modrić and company have needed a good kick in the ass since 2018. And they never received it. UEFA Nations League wasn’t going to get the job done. Neither was a qualifying loss to Slovenia on the road or lackluster friendly performances vs. Armenia and Belgium. But you know what will? A loss at EURO against rivals England in front of the whole world. A loss like that at the beginning of the tournament will only light a fire under everyone’s ass on the team- from Luka Modrić, to Zlatko Dalić, to the kit man. It will only work in Croatia’s favor in the long run.
I feel many Croatian fans out there are too tight going into this England game. Please don’t be. ALL THE PRESSURE is on the English team this Sunday in London. Do they dare get embarrassed by Croatia twice in a row? Imagine that.
The English need a win on Sunday to hold serve against the Vatreni anyways. In this 17-year dance Croatian football has had with the English, it’s their turn to come up with a result. England started this rivalry at EURO 2004 when they defeated Croatia 4-2 in the group stage. Croatia returned the favor during EURO 2008 qualifying; beating England twice to deny them entry to the tournament. They returned the favor in the next qualifying cycle by denying Croatia a berth to South Africa in 2010 – the only World Cup Croatia has missed. But then Croatia pulled the rug from under them in 2018 by denying them a WC Final berth; beating the English 2-1 in extra time of the WC semifinal.
Which other sporting nation of 4.5 million people can say that? Nobody!
Your move England.