Written by Robert Uvanović
It’s been a long (and at times dark) three years since the 2018 World Cup, but we’re all about to finally embark on another journey with the Vatreni in five days time. Euro 2020 will be a tournament like no other for many reasons, not just because it’s happening in 2021 and will be the first major sporting tournament since the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because it will see 11 (initially 13) different nations host matches.
Originally proposed by UEFA to “celebrate the 60th birthday of the Euros” when no one other than Turkey wanted to host, UEFA’s insistence on keeping the current format in the middle of a pandemic is certainly anything but fan-friendly. Croatia have already decided they will base at home and travel to the UK, rather than be subject to Scotland’s more stringent COVID protocols, while it’s very unlikely that we’ll see many checkers in the stands due to Scotland’s COVID visitor quarantine protocols. Will it make an impact? Only time will tell, but UEFA have certainly made this tournament far messier than it needed to be.
With so many open questions, we all want to hear how CroatianSports nation is feeling heading into the Euros. Are you feeling optimistic or has Armenia and Belgium got you feeling down? Will the Vatreni make it two successful tournaments in a row? Is this the last hurrah for Modrić? The CroatianSports team has jotted down their predictions for the Euros below, but what do YOU think? Join in and let us know your thoughts below!
1. What would constitute success for Croatia at Euro 2021? Which round do they need to reach?
Kvartuč: As reigning World Cup Finalists, Croatia would need to reach the quarterfinals for the EUROs to be considered a success.
Vukmanić (Vuki): Of course, I’d love to see us win it but realistically a successful tournament should be to reach the quarterfinals. If we match up with a top team in the round of 16 and lose, I would accept it if we actually play well and get beat, but not if we play stupid tactics or if VAR makes calls against us.
CroatiaU14: A successful tournament run in my eyes would be a close loss to a powerhouse team (Portugal, France, etc.) in the round of 16. As we are experiencing a rebuilding stage, making it out of a semi-tough group and losing to a strong team would be a decent run in my eyes.
Markus: With the current form of our NT and the changes that need to be made, I would be pleased with a quarterfinal finish. The minimum expectation for this summer’s event would be a date in the round of 16.
Uvanović: Contrary to some, I think Euro 2021 being delayed a year hurt Croatia as we’re in between generations, and as someone on the site had referenced, I too fear a repeat of the ’02 World Cup with many of the ’98 old guard. Success for me would be finally winning a knockout round match in the Euros and making it to the quarterfinals; anything more than that is a bonus, but anything short of that must constitute a failure with the talent available.
2. Croatia – England: what’s the score?
Kvartuč: 1-1;The game will end in a 1-1 draw with Croatia getting another late 2nd half goal from Perišić.
Vukmanić: 2-2; We take the lead, then blow the lead only to score in the last 10 minutes to tie.
CroatiaU14: 1-1; I predict that we will tie 1-1. Kramarić will finish a sitter early in the match, and England will tie the game in the second half.
Markus: 1-1; A stalemate with an early goal by Foden, and late super-sub equalizer by Brekalo.
Uvanović: 2-1 England; I hate to be the pessimistic one of the group and as much as I don’t want to see it, I can see England cruising in a semi-packed Wembley with a repeat of the scoreline from the Nations League in 2019, as Croatia struggle to deal with England’s pace.
3. What’s our Starting XI v. England?
Kvartuč: Livaković, Gvardiol, Ćaleta-Car, Vida, Vrsaljko, Brozović, Modrić, Perišić, Vlašić, Rebić, Kramarić
Vukmanić: Livaković, Barišić, Ćaleta-Car, Vida, Vrsaljko, Brozović, Modrić, Rebić, Kramarić, Perišić, Petković
CroatiaU14: Livaković, Barišić, Ćaleta-Car, Vida, Vrsaljko, Brozović, Modrić, Perišić, Kramarić, Brekalo, Petković
Markus: Livaković; Gvardiol, Ćaleta-Car, Lovren, Vrsaljko; Brozović, Modrić, Perišić, Vlašić, Rebić; Petković
Uvanović: Livaković, Barišić, Ćaleta-Car, Vida, Vrsaljko, Brozović, Modrić, Perišić, Vlašić, Rebić, Petković
4. How far does Croatia go?
Kvartuč: Round of 16. The Vatreni get a tough draw out of Group Stage and have to play Portugal, France, or Spain in the Round of 16.
CroatiaU14: Quarterfinals. I think Croatia will go out in the quarterfinals after finishing second in our group and beating either Poland or Sweden in the round of 16.
Markus: It depends where we finish in our group. My brain says, a 2nd place finish takes us to the quarters and a 1st place finish will cut our summer short in the round of 16. My heart says all the way to the final in a rematch victory versus France 😉
Uvanović: Round of 16. Sadly, I think we experience another Round of 16 heartbreaker and our lack of stability at the back costs us dearly. Until the final whistle blows, we still always believe though.
5. What will be the biggest surprise for Croatia?
Kvartuč: Vlašić finally shines on international duty with an important ‘banger of a goal’ in group stage.
Vukmanić: If Kramarić starts, he scores 4 or more goals in the group stage alone (surprise being everyone says Kramarić plays poorly for us).
CroatiaU14: Ivanušec will come off the bench and provide a lot of attacking force and pressure for Croatia. I believe he is an underrated player who will finally make his mark with the national team.
Markus: Rebić is going to have the tournament of his life! He’s been amazing for Milan these past two seasons and is one of the most underrated forwards in Europe. Brekalo will also have a break out tournament potting 2 goals along with some great performances.
Uvanović: From a player perspective, I think Kovačić finally puts in a few of his best performances in the checkers this tournament. From a team perspective, I think the biggest surprise will be that we struggle against a defensive Scotland playing for their lives in front of their home fans. I also think there is an outside chance that Dalić surprises us and goes more defensive v England, and starts Badelj or Kovačić as CDM, with Modrić taking the true #10 role.
6. Who is Croatia’s Euro2021 MVP?
Kvartuč: Modrić. Modrić. Modrić, Modrić, Modrić. There’s nothing else to say or think about.
Vukmanić: Modrić will play his heart out as usual.
CroatiaU14: Modrić. He still has a full tank of gas left in him.
Markus: Modrić, enough said.
Uvanović: Can’t look any further than Modrić, who will continue to be the best midfielder at the tournament. That being said, we all already know that, so I’m going to go with Rebić scoring a few key goals.
7. Who is your overall tournament dark horse?
Kvartuč: Italy. Sure, the Italians tragically missed out on the 2018 World Cup but that’s only going to make them hungrier. All three group matches are in Rome for them as they play Turkey, Wales, and Switzerland. Italy haven’y lost a game since September 2018 and are currently on a 27-game unbeaten streak.
Vukmanić: I have a feeling Germany will not get further than the round of 16. As for dark horses, I think a team like Denmark could go relatively far depending on match ups.
CroatiaU14: Turkey. Their recent form has been impressive, and I believe they will make the quarterfinals.
Markus: Ukraine will make the quarters or semis while Turkey can be huge dark horses as well.
Uvanović: I don’t know if you can call the defending champs, Portugal, a dark horse, even though they do seem to be under the radar, so I’ll go with Turkey. I think they’ll start fast and win the opening match of the Euros v Italy in Rome, with some other surprises being Holland being the first “giant” to fall and Hungary picking up at least a point in the Group of Death.
8. Who wins it all?
Kvartuč: I hate to say it but France. This team is absolutely stacked and are still hungry from losing in the Euro Final five years ago on home soil to Portugal. France also won EURO 2000 two years after they won the World Cup. History will repeat.
Vukmanić: Portugal. I know they are one of the favorites, but I think some people sleep on how talented they actually are now compared to Euro 2016 when they won.
CroatiaU14: I think that Portugal will win the Euro. Their talent and chemistry are through the roof at the moment.
Markus: The clock on Belgium’s golden generation is ticking and if they don’t get it done this Euro or next World Cup, it’ll be over for them. I don’t think they’ll do it in the WC, so I’m predicting them to win the Euros this summer.
Uvanović: Portugal – I have to agree with Vuki and Croatia U14 here. Obviously, France and England are two teams that will be in the vicinity, but at some point, France’s luck/ability to play poorly and win has to run out. The biggest stumbling block for Portugal their coach’s defensive tactics, which may not suit their expansive, attacking younger generation.
9. Is Dalić still our coach in August 2021?
Kvartuč: No. Whether Croatia does well or not, Dalić has done everything he could for this team by taking a dumpster fire to the World Cup Final in 2018. It’s time for new blood as this current Croatia squad has not strung together any kind of positive results in three years since the WC Final vs. France. He will go down as a legend. There’s no reason to prolong the inevitable.
Vukmanić: Yes. As long as we make it out of the group, the HNS won’t fire him. So, he would have to want to leave.
CroatiaU14: No way Dalić remains coach. It’s time for a new coach who will bring in the younger generation of players.
Markus: It depends on the results at the tournament; sinking out at group stage guarantees him receiving the boot. If we make the Round of 16, he’ll probably lose his position for the overall development and integration of youth. A quarterfinal finish or further and he will be offered to stay, gaining a reputation of getting it done in important tournaments. However, I think Dalić would then resign and take a coaching job for a decent club as he knows his leash is short with the NT.
Uvanović: I don’t think so – we’ll always be grateful to him for saving Croatia in 2018 during our time of need, but I think both parties will decide it’s time to part ways after the Euros and allow Dalić to protect his 2018 legacy.