Hrvati from around the world assembled in halls, homes, hotels, and stadiums to watch a match that will be forever emblazoned in the history of Croatia and Serbia. We’ve met in the waterpolo pools and handball courts, but tonight was the night to show who was the best at the most important sport in Europe.
Stimac surprised many with a very attack minded lineup, going with Kovacic, instead of adding Vukojevic or Badelj to shore up the space between the defense and the midfield. The start of the game showed each side’s nerves as the ball was being ballooned around the pitch, and no team really took to possession. Hrvatska was able to settle down and began to dominate possession, putting the ball through the feet of Rakitic and Modric who had excellent games. In the 23rd minute, Stimac’s tactics paid off when the shaky Serbian defense gave up a gift off a free kick. Mandzukic tipped the ball to Rakitic, Rakitic to Olic, and Olic threaded it through two defenders to get to Mandzo for the finish. The stadium erupted and Hrvatska was up 1-0. Hrvatska was not done, as Srna won a free kick 15 yards outside of the area and delivered a beautiful ball into the area. Serbia showed the holes in their defense and let a ball get through a wall of defenders and onto a streaking Olic, who tapped the ball in with his shoulder. Hrvatska went 2-0 into half, and looked to be a much better team. The 2nd half brought a slightly different story, as the Hrvati backed off the gas pedal and almost let two goals get by them. Luckily, Stipe Pletikosa was up to the task and made save after beautiful save to keep the Serbians at bay.
The game, backed with so much turmoil, came without much incident and there weren’t many flares to be seen. Both sides played a respectful game, and there was more hand shaking then any type of anonymity on the pitch. The final stats show
Shots (on target): Hrvatska 9(5) – Serbia 10(4)
Tackles: Hrvatska 35 – Serbia 22
Fouls: Hrvatska 21 – Serbia 28
Possesion: Hrvatska 46 – Serbia 54
Man of the match (for me)- Olic with a goal and an assist, and for running from Hrvatska to the United States. Stari has still got it.
Honorable mentions: Kovacic- for an 18 year old you couldn’t have asked for more from the kid. Composure, vision, and all around grit.
Pletikosa- 4 amazing saves to keep a clean sheet
Rakitic & Modric- Controlled the entire tempo of the game, and lead the team to victory.
Mandžukić goal makes it 1-0
Ivica Olić doubles up the Serbs