Written by Vedran Ćavara
Something funny happened during Croatia’s 2012 EURO campaign: our expectations were suddenly raised, and the team made us proud. Here are a few observations I’ve made. Feel free to disagree.
–Slaven Bilić made this team into a bona fide unit that played within themselves. They worked hard for each other and defended as a team.
–Ivan Strinić did a great job defending. Not only did he do that, but he also provided wonderful service and crossing from the wings.
–Gordon Schildenfeld and Vedran Ćorluka made up a hell of a center back pairing. Tall, strong, winning aerial duels as if they had worked together for ages. Remember, Ćorluka is a natural right back.
-I was dead wrong about Stipe Pletikosa and I admit it. He couldn’t have saved Pirlo’s free kick and was stellar against Spain especially. I’ll have my crow deep fried.
-Croatia can hang with anyone. We put eight guys back against Spain, time and time again, and should have won the game if not for Ivan Rakitić missing a wide open header. Credit to Iker Casillas for saving that one. We went after the best team in the world without any fear.
–Mario Mandžukić has the killer touch and knows how to finish. Rumor has it that Everton FC want to pair him with Jelavić. They sure performed well together at the EUROs. Anyone else notice how nicely Mandžukić tracks back and defends for a striker?
–Ivan Rakitić needs improvement. His shooting and defensive work rate aside, the lad needs to improve on his passing and ball control.
–Luka Modrić has “IT”. He has the skill and ability, but needs to show up more often in the first half for Croatia. He did brilliantly in the second halves of games during the EURO’s. He’ll look good for Real Madrid next year, at least according to Mate Bilić.
–Ivan Klasnić was a player lots of people were asking to be included in the squad. “Killer” might have some left in him, but he clearly wasn’t needed.
-A HUGE SALUTE to Ivica Olić for giving us great memories and great goals throughout the years. His heart and hustle will be missed. He recently announced his retirement from the National team, but if Štimac were to make a strong case for him to come back, Olić would definitely have to consider it.
–Danijel Pranjić hustled when he was on the field, but the guy needs a change of venue before his career ends.
–Niko Kranjčar didn’t show much, but that might be because he didn’t get any playing time the past season at Tottenham. Hopefully playing at Kiev will re-envigorate him.
Something everyone can agree on is that these boys made us all proud and they played their asses off. It’s a damn shame we didn’t go further. Let’s hope Štimac doesn’t mess up what Bilić has put in place for the Croatian national team.