For two straight seasons, a Croatian has lifted the Champions League trophy. In 2013, Mario Mandžukić did it with Bayern while Luka Modrić helped Real Madrid gain their record 10th title in 2014. The 2014-15 rendition of the tournament begins Tuesday.
This season, there will be a total of eight Croatians vying for the Champions League crown. Here’s a breakdown of all the players and their chances of getting out of group stage.
Although Luka Modrić and Real Madrid have started out slow in La Liga this season, expect them to not only make it out of group stage this year, but to still be in the tournament come April as semifinalists. There is way too much talent on this team, as well as experience, not to make a run at a back-to-back title. There will be plenty of pushback from the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea or Bayern Munich later in the tournament, but Real will get their mojo flowing later in the season when it’s do-or-die. In Real’s group: Dejan Lovren and Liverpool as the Reds bring back night football to Anfield. Expect both clubs to finish 1-2 ahead of Basel and Ludogorets.
Mario Mandžukić won a title at Bayern Munich, but now the Croatian striker is looking to get Atletico Madrid over the hump as last year’s La Liga champions were oh so close to winning their first Champions League title, only to unravel in the final minutes against Real Madrid in the Final. Atletico will top the group, which consists of Juventus, Olympiakos and Malmo.
Ivan Rakitić is back in Champions League for he first time since leaving Schalke. But this time around, he has much, much more firepower around him. This is a revamped Barcelona side which will have Messi, Suarez and Neymar running at opposing defenses. Barring injuries, this Barcelona team will make a run at the title. They should easily top the group with little say from PSG, Ajax or APOEL. Wunder-kind Alen Halilović has also been added to the Barcelona Champions League roster. Although he’s not expected to play, if Barca can lock up a knockout round berth early, we can see Halilović play in some junk time late in the group stage.
In 2011, captain Darijo Srna got Shakhtar Donetsk to the quarterfinals before being ousted by eventual champions Barcelona. At age 32, this may be Srna’s last chance to make some real noise in the tournament as Shakhtar were given a kind draw alongside FC Porto, Athletic Bilbao and BATE. Shakhtar could finish top two in this group if they play solid football at home. Shakhtar is perfect in Ukraine through the first six matches of the season. If they can get a generous lead atop the table in the upcoming months, that should ease the stress of playing doubles in the same week.
Danijel Subašić is currently Monaco’s #1 keeper. But that can change quickly. Monaco have only earned four points from the first 5 matches of the young Ligue 1 season and currently sit in 19th place. Monaco let Falcao go to Manchester United on loan and could find scoring difficult in a tricky group which consists of Zenit St. Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Benfica. 18 year-old Tin Jedvaj has already scored two Bundesliga goals with new club Bayer Leverkusen. With double duty coming up, Jedvaj could see some time in Champions League play. Expect Zenit and Bayer Leverkusen to progress.
Finals projection: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
Croatia vs. Antwerp
Cannot see Albania or Armenia finishing ahead of the Serbs in Group I. Also, Denmark are not a “powerhouse” and the Pork Chops need a “healthy” Ronaldo in order to amount to anything.
But at the end of the day I hope you’re right because if they do not qualify for this tournament that will be comedy GOLD!
Check out the story about the 2 teenage bosnian muslim girls from austria that joined isis and got raped and killed.
Any Croatian that converts is scum. Her parents failed her.
cnn has been running a story on its front page all day about a danish citizen turned jihadist turned double agent for the cia. he set up one of the most wanted terror leaders in the world with a croatian wife who was a convert to islam. interesting story
Ziva, I agree on the knock out stage, even with the change in format for 2016. But all I keep hearing and seeing how great our players are. Modric with assist in CL today. Goals by Kovacic, Mandzukic, etc. Our midfielders playing at Madric, Barca, Inter and so on. With that, expectations should be semis. I know it won’t happen. But the way they get pumped up by people, anything less should be a dissapointment.
And I too agree with you on Lovern. Not so sure about him.
I agree with your main point. But I don’t think Serbia is guaranteed to qualify from that group.
Last qualifying cycle they faced Croatia, which they couldn’t cope with. Now they are up against an Albania side capable of doing damage (just ask Portugal). Well, next time Serbia might wanna think twice before starting wars with neighbors. Because it looks like it’s commin’ back to haunt ’em!
I’d still say it’s a major success.
We were favoured by most against Ecuador (’02), Australia (’06), Turkey (’08), and Mexico (’14), and failed to deliver the goods.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
call him fuckwit bernie i mean.. u can fuck him if u like i guess too
to be honest Tomic has many more problems than being a daddy’s boy
u should just fuck him Fuckwit Bernie it’d make more sense all round
Ziva – knockout stage wouldn’t be a huge success considering there are now 24 teams in the tournament and 16 make the knockout stages. I’d say it’s expected they reach the knockout stages and anything past that (final 8) a good/great result.
@lika Joey……..Not true. Doper Cilic is a good kid. But, I refer to him as that name because he got busted and suspended for doping. Remember, every name I have assigned to some of the athletes we comment about have some truth to it. Doper Cilic was busted for doping, Daddy’s Boy Tomic had issues with his daddy, STD Corluka has had issues with STDs, Serb Subasic is a serb, Wedding Boy decides to schedule a wedding during the Dinamo-Hajduk game. Do you need any more examples?????
My job for this site is not to say positive or negative things about our own people. It is to comment about Cro sports and society. You may not agree with what I have to say all the time, but you do read it.
Bobby V, thanks interesting story about the benfica fans. I had no idea.
Definitely agree with Ziva on Lovren.
It wasnt long ago that Simunic and Schildenfeld were deemed more reliable.
ziva, you never ever have a positive thing to say about your own people. How is doper Cilic today? I can tell you… a classy champion!
Allen, your bang on about ziva…betting???? you have no money your a man in mamas basement…in other words nigger rich!
Not at all. I enjoy soccer and I enjoy betting.
When i watch a game that includes a hrvat, I make note. Again , if a hrvat has a good game or bad game, I just make note of it. I would be watching the games and betting on the games even if there were no hrvati playing.
That’s fair but then don’t say you don’t care about how the players play on club level. You clearly do if you take the time out to watch some of their games. Hypocrites are worse than jock sniffers/homers. I think your smart enough to know that.
I am here to provide nonbias commentary. The ombudsman, if you will, of the site.
I keep the homers and jock sniffers in check, or at least try to.
Jorge Mauricio “Gullit”, Ana Rita Fernandes (Rita) and Laurentino Soares (Tino) – these three Benfica fans were part of a group of 9 members of the No Name Boys, which traveled with 6 others in a van from Portugal to Croatia, to attend the first Champions League match of the 1994/95 competition between Hajduk Split and Benfica on 14 September 1994.
The three were killed in a car accident on the way home, near Badajoz in Spain
On this day was born a frank and sincere friendship between the No Name Boys (Benfica’s supporters) and the Torcida and that lasts even today.
Hajduk held a five minute moment of silence at their next match while Benfica supporters unfurlled a large “Freedom For Croatia” banner at theirs.
Since 1994, the Croats accompanied the No Name Boys several times in away games in European competition, and at the Stadium da Luz (of Light)
On one occasion, all the Torcida came down from the stands during a game in Lisbon and embraced the No Name Boys in a show of solidarity on the field during halftime of one of the matches.
The 20th year anniversary was on Sunday.
It’s funny Ziva tells us he doesn’t care about how our players play for their club, yet when something bad happens to one of our key players. He immediately speaks up.
Never change, never change….
BTW, I blame Mingolet a bit more for taking a bad angle. Lovern did get beat though.
I know a lot of you guys are Lovren fans. I don’t see it yet.
Man, did he screw up again on the backline and got smoked by his man in this CL game. Very similar to the Man City game a few weeks back
Semis is a bit optimistic. France being the home team, Germany is a given, one would assume Spain bounces back with all the talent in that pipeline. All three of those teams would easily be considered more of a favorite to reach the semis. I would consider a knockout round a huge success.
Brilliant assist by Luka:
Ziva, did I stutter? With this talent they should be able to make the semis. However, we’ve seen this past world cup what an inexperienced coach plus players not giving it their all like they do for their club teams means. So yes, you are right I will be disappointed. Just like I was this past WC. Only difference, unless I see real changes during qualifications I won’t be surprised this time around.
Croatia vs. Antwerp
Never said it would be easy for them to qualify.
Although, I find it quite hard to believe that they will not finish at least in third place in their group in order to qualify for the playoff round where there will be no “significant” opponent waiting for them.
My main point in all of this is that they are not as talented as the overall perception suggests. Whether or not they qualify for Euro 2016 is immaterial.
By them not making the Euro tournament since 2000 speaks volumes!
A good sign here, but if they really wanted to bring about change they should not attend the next national team home game. If needed, a boycott should take place to get rid of Puppet Suker. While most boycots don’t work, it would gain media attention leading up to the next match and the repka and Puppet Suker would have to answer uncomfortable questions from Cro and foreign media about the attempted boycott.
@No Heart……semis are a success to you???????? We have not won a knockout round game since 1998 and for you only a showing in the semis is a success. Well, get ready to be disappointed.
While we may not think of HRV as the Balkans……it is.
Anyone who has visited and has had to deal with Croatian govt. and Croatian customer service knows full well we are part of the Balkans.
It would be the same as a person from West Virginia saying he is not a hillbilly…….YES HE IS
@Patrick Amen brother, amen !
@Istria – couldn’t the same be said about “so called” amazing midfield and striker?
What if Cro, like Serbia had been in pot 3, instead of either 1 or 2, would we have qualified for the past 2 tournaments? We did miss out recently as well. And when was the last time we advanced in a tourney?
Question for all, what would you consider a success for Euro 16? With our talent, I say semi finals. Quarters, maybe. But I believe they have the talent to make it to the semi finals. Now can the coaching and playing come together?
Why do we still use the word Balkan??? Croatia is not Balkan.
Hold the mustard Istria, I wouldn’t say the Serbs have qualifying for Euro ’16 in the bag.
For starters they got Albania to contend with–who recently defeated Portugal. On top of that Albania’s gotta major bone to pick with Serbia. It’s got something to do with hundreds of years of political animosity and ethnic hatred, ya know, the usually Balkan stuff.
There’s also Denmark, who sent 2 teams to the Europa League and has plenty’a up and comin’ talent.
There’s also Armenia, inspired by Dortmund’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan–one of the finest attacking mids in Europe. They also gave Denmark a run for their money in the opening match.
Oh and let’s not forget Portugal. They’re lookin’ to bounce back from the opening match loss to Albania. Plus Portugal’s got you-know-who.
So you see qualifying ain’t gonna be cake for the Serbs. It should be interesting to see who makes it outta this group.
Great Serb talent?
They have no “offensive” midfield talent other than maybe Markovic who is still a major question mark. They have absolutely no strikers and this “so called” amazing defense, that the football pundits and Serbs over glorify and put on a pedestal, while good on paper, is not very good when applied. There is way too much bone headedness being displayed by their back line during qualification play to ever be classified as being great or having quality.
The Serbs will make Euro 2016 for one reason and one reason only and that is because of the Serb rule that was introduced for Euro 2016. The Serbs have not made the Euros since 2000, saying they struggle to make tournaments would be a complete fabrication. They just simply don’t make tournaments at all, specifically the Euro tournaments.
However, they will make Euro 2016 because of the new Serb rule of adding 8 additional qualifying teams to the tournament.
Ah Niko is a bag of cunts
let’s be honest
we need to eat our pride and accept a foreign coach
if anyone can name a croat coach that is worth their name on paper i’ll reveal my true idendity : P
we need a PROPER coach – HRV can’t provide that for now – maybe later but not now
Same appliesd for Niko as the coach. He has to set up his players to succeed. And I know it’s early, but the team has been fairly unimpressive since he took over – unless we’re a man up.
Agree with Ziva and Iggy.
You think any of those club teams and their fans care if Cro does good? Nope.
All I care about is that our players show the will to win like they do for their club teams. Time to stop acting like dirty little kurve and giving their all for the team that pays them.
only thing i care about as far as soccer goes:
HRV quali into 2016
HRV performance in euro 2016
dont give a fuck about any club shit
i agree with ziva
i couldnt give a secondo toss about club soccer
dont give a shit
i care about us, not inter or bayer or what have u
dont give a shit about the clubs
i just want us to do well
fuck clubs, fuck em
Again, who cares what our players do in the CL. Great if they do well, but all I care about is how they play for the repka.
Also…..this week in jock sniffing comes to you from the idiot fan base of Real Madrid. Look at these clowns waiting outside the practice facility trying to get autographs………http://www.index.hr/sport/clanak/nezadovoljni-navijaci-reala-napali-balea-u-automobilu-i-izvrijedjali-kroosa-i-varanea/771704.aspx
Uvijek vjerni homie.
Our champions league players are reaching a critical mass.
Apple and oranges.
Our guys are more impactful for their teams minus a few Serbian defenders.
I pray we have not lost you to the dark side of basementGRAD.
CL/EL exposure means dick, “friends”. Look at our WC roster, bunch of guys playing big minutes in Europe and guess what? We shit the bed. I mean look at the Serb NT, a bunch of great, young talent playing in big boy leagues and playing in tye CL/EL and what do ya know …. they struggle just to make tournaments! I think our struggles go a bit deeper than the leagues our guys play in….
Hope Kovacic leads Inter to Europa league title to follow Srna and Rakitic.
Hopefully Kovacic and Halilovic are playing in Champion’s League next year.
Wolfsburg may even make it too, giving a chance to Perisic.
My DVR will be overloaded with Champion League games most of which I won’t get a chance to watch.
When this site came into existence as the CSR days there were 0 Hrvati in the Champions League.
First Srna leading Shaktar to some epic wins, while playing some big time football.
Then Olic carrying Bayern after Van Gaal tried to marginalize his talent and industry. Single handedly beating Man U.
MANdzukic spearheading the Bayern Beast…that is before peder pep cut the balls off.
Modric delivering the magic that lifted la Decima.
Rakitic driving the Barca midfield, supplying the best attacking duo on the planet, that is until Suarez makes it the best attacking TRIO.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone,” Lovren.
Haliliovic an 18 year old on the Barca Champions League roster!
Jedvaj running wild and free on the right flank for Leverkusen.
Kovačić the true #10 for Inter.
@ Faux Cro
You said it best, Champions League football is what will translate into national team performance. It takes your game to another level.
When you have so many players competing in the Champions league it inspires the next generation of young ballers. They watch the matches and it gives them a stereo type lift. They feel, I am a Croatian baller and we are world class.
This is Excellence Embodied.