Slaven Bilić and his team said that this result would show them where they stood in European ranks- and what I saw from this match is that they have a lot of work to do if they want to do any damage in this year’s EuroCup. Croatia was playing at home with their ‘A’ team starting roster while Netherlands were without stars Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
The Dutch got off to a quick start when Johnny Heitinga scored a beautiful header off a set piece piece in the 9th minute to give his side the early lead. I thought Croatian goalie, Stipe Pletikosa, should have challenged the ball in the air as Heitinga made contact on the corner of the 6-yard box. In the 36th minute, poor defense by the Croatians gave enough time for a Dutch player to run the ball down before it made it out of bounds quickly passing the ball to Klaas Jan Huntelaar who ‘megged’ Pletikosa between the legs for a second Dutch goal.
Croatia had few solid scoring chances during the game which they could not capitalize on. Eduardo had a great chance in the first half as he ran towards the backpost only to get there a step too late as the ball went off his toe over the goal as he slid. Petrić could not find any open space on a Dutch blunder late in the 2nd half which led to a Croatian indirect kick 8 yards from goal. In the previous play, a Dutch defender slid to clear the ball but knocked it towards Edwin van der Sar who picked it up. In the most promising chance for Croatia, Darijo Srna sent a beautiful 25-yard free kick on its way only to have van der Sar get a finger on the ball to force a corner kick. Jan Vennegoor tacked on an 88′ minute goal to seal the 3-0 win for the Dutch.
The usual intensity that our players play with just wasn’t there tonight even though each team were booked 3 times making for a pretty physical ‘friendly.’ Croatia played flat; but I think this will light a firecracker under their asses to wake them up from the triumphant England match. We haven’t accomplished anything since ’98 and I hope our performance wasn’t due to the ego we gained from taking 6 points from a mediocre England team in qualifying. Croatia still has a lot of work to do to prove they can be consistent. The ‘Poljud Curse’ still remains as the national team has never won in Split. I understand that they didn’t play well and it was cold, but the atmosphere was nothing like it is in Zagreb. The 6,000 fans that traveled to London for the England match were 10 times louder than the 35,000 that were their today. So no more games at the Poljud since we can never find a good result in Split. Hopefully our players come out with a bit more energy against Scotland in March. Croatia then plays its last friendly before Euro 08 starts against Slovenia in May.