Written by Vedran Ćavara
There he was, heading two beautiful goals into the net against Ireland, putting a dagger into their hopes of winning the game. The ‘he’ I speak of, is of course, Mario Mandžukić. Mandžukić was a doubt to start the EURO’s at forward for Croatia, with most pundits believing that Bilić would instead start Ivica Olić at striker. In an interesting twist, I’ll tell you how the two of them are further intertwined. Of course we all know that Olić was injured and Mandzo got his turn to show his attacking skills and made the most of his opportunity.
Currently playing for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, Mandžukić is vastly undervalued as a player and a striker. Firstly, he absolutely torched and tormented the Irish defense as he has also done in the Bundesliga, winning the ball and holding it up until his teammates arrived in support. This is the style of play of top center forwards of old, winning aerial duels and waiting for support to arrive while holding up the ball.
To further reinforce the point of Mandžukić’s aerial prowess, one must look no further than the actual goal scoring record in the Bundesliga this past season. Out of a total 12 goals that he scored for Die Wolfe, seven of them were headers. That’s a whopping statistic. Not only is he capable with the ball at his feet, but also in the air, and having scored two goals on one of the biggest stages in the world, Mandzo is suddenly a man in demand. Two shots, two goals, 100% conversion rate. His first goal came out of nothing and he showed the world that he can score a goal out of nothing, with Shay Given’s goalkeeping aside.
Reverting back to this club, the case is a rather interesting one. Recently, Ivica Olić agreed to a two year deal with Wolfsburg. One would think that this would be a good thing, having two players that played with each other on the national team playing together, now playing together at the same club. Not so if you are Felix Magath, manager of VFL Wolfsburg. Magath decided, even before Olić arrived, that Mandžukić was surplus to what Wolfsburg need. Thus, Olić’s arrival further pushed Mandzo out the door. In a cruel twist of fate, his two goals only increased the 14 million pound transfer fee Wolfsburg want, though the player has made no demand to leave the club.
In a way however, this might be a move he deserves. Mandžukić is in the prime of his career, and you better believe a big club is looking at him as a cheaper alternative, to those other expensive French and German players being sought after. But you can bet that as time goes on and the more goals he scores, his price will go up as will his demand. However, for a player that doesn’t catch all the headlines, he’s surely made a name for himself relatively quickly.
That easily could have went over but props to Manzo for putting it in. It was two feet away from net though so I’m not going crazy here but I think we have found our strike force for years to come in Jelavic and Mandzukic.
What did u say, haha madzukic is a killer in the box. He played very well, i still dont like him outside the box though
FYI this is my new and official CS profile.
Harry Redknapp is indeed leaving Tottencrap.
Slavonac from Canada is becoming my new favorite poster. You can handle this argument against Lebo, all I know is Gomez is an incredible talent that actually knows how to put a strike on the ball unlike Manzo.
REALLY?? I thought that Redknapp himself admitted that such stories were only rumors.
not sure where to post this but I just read Redknapp is gone from Spurs!
yeah, there is truth to what you are saying…i think Mandzo is still learning who he is as a player…he has transformed in the past 1 1/2 years. he is far more responsible defensively now, he’s faced a little adversity and has overcome being a player coming off the bench and proving to be a little more consistent…I still think he needs more time to be the player he really can be!
Gomez has a pretty good goal scoring record…and at the end of the day…thats all that matters for a forward…when they score…zavrsio je svoj posao…they are primarily in that position to score goals…and there are very few proven all out goal scorers as they are hard to come by! Mandzo isn’t a goal scoring machine…at least not yet…but he brings a lot of other details to his team…that was what I was comparing…you make some great points…good posts!
The Champions League final, as well as 3 or 4 games before, had left a bad taste in my mouth with this guy.
He showed how truly terrible he could be in the Champions League final. Unlike Mandzo, all he has to do is stay up top. He’s got great service from Robben, Ribery, Lahm, Muller, etc etc etc. So in that instance, he doesn’t ever have to show us how bad he is with controlling the ball up the pitch.
His large size makes him so awkward with the ball in tight spaces. He can turn as much as he wants, but his awkwardness usually gets the best of him and he’s too discombobulated half of the time to put away his chances.
What he does do well is one timers, which in essence is his job. It’s not pretty, but he seems to always get that touch or header in. Sure, he’s bigger than Mandzo and probably that much better because he plays with such great talent day in and day out. If you play with people that are better than you, that’s what’s going to happen. I’m just standing up for Mandzo in the fact that he doesn’t need to be all these things people are asking of him. All he needs to do is finish and win balls.
Pranjic has only been good at left back in 2 games for croatia Germany 2-1 euro 2008, and Croatia Poland euro 2008, now games where he was terrible Croatia Austria 1-0 Croatia Turkey 1-1* penali,Croatia England 2 times, Croatia Ukraine 2-2, Croatia Bjelarusia 1-0, Croatia Norway most recent 1-1, Croatia Georgia 2-1, Croatia Kazakstan 2-1,Croatia Slovenia 3-2 2008, Croatia Turkey 0-0, Croatia France 0-0 2011, and more but these gaem stand out Strinic may not be world class but he hasnt done anyting wrong the problem with him was the Kranjcar played Not Perisic LM and their for he looked bad becaue Kranjcar never back tracked.
Agree with Lebo, he beat me to the punch.
Why is everyone getting sensitive with Mandzukic all of a sudden? Who said he ever needed to be a Ronaldo or a Messi for us? No one. He does what he’s good at: scoring with his head.
Mandza is the Croatian Crouch.
Everyone has a different role on the team and his is to score. I don’t care if he does it with his bimbo for godsakes.
But to say the man can dribble and take defenders one on one is crazy.
Re: Wolfsburg assists.
Alot of his assists come from his own headers following set pieces that are re-deflected towards goal for the score. They are not done deliberately.
Big body. Big head. Big nose. If he scores for Croatia. It’s all good. We will see how much impact he can bring against Italy in the first 45. If not bring in Dudu for some quick passing, IF we need a goal.
Question: Would you be happy with a draw at the end of the day? I would not. Go for the italian jugular.
sorry Matthew but I disagree…I love super Mario but Gomez is a far better player thus far in his career, more talent and Mandzo has a long way to go to prove he can be held in that category…different players.
@ Matthew Lebo
“If Mandzo is a one dimensional bad player, than I guess we can put Mario Gomez in that category too. Same type of player, but one has more goals than the other.”
It took Gomez Euro 2008, WC 2010, and now Euro 2012 to finally register a goal for his country at a major tournament. It took Mandzukic one game in a major tournament to score two goals. I am not saying that Mandzo is better than Gomez in any way shape or form but the midfield support that Gomez gets from his national team and his club are fantastic! The midfield @ Wolfsburg is garbage as you already mentioned.
Mandzo played great against the Irish, let’s hope that he plays great again tomorrow!
All things being equal, our key to success or failure tomorrow is how we deal with Pirlo!
If Mandzo is a one dimensional bad player, than I guess we can put Mario Gomez in that category too. Same type of player, but one has more goals than the other.
All that matters to me is that he’s putting balls into the back of the net, and that’s all he has to do. You can’t expect him to do everything, and it’s actually great that he doesn’t. That’s why we have other players in the team to fill the role of ball handler.
Mandzo did two great things in that game. He controlled the ball from the air and got it to his midfielders. He also put in two fucking goals. So be that as it may that he’s not some dynamo at forward, but I think Vedran has more than a valid point here. Also, again Vedran is right in the fact that Magath and Mandzo don’t get along. Have you seen that team? I’d be mad if I had to deal with that midfield as well.
It’s just so wrong that we have to use Webb as such a determining factor in this game. I realize that refs are a factor, and we need to take that this into consideration, but Webb takes the ref process and evaluation to another dimension and stratosphere! Webb will make a mockery of the game tomorrow and screw the game for either us or Italy.
You cannot win with Webb as he will either:
1 – Hand out yellow cards like candy or none at all. In the second scenario the game gets totally out of hand as players do whatever they want as he has let too much stuff go on without punishment previously. Another Webbism is that he will give out an early yellow to someone and he will tell them that he will not give out another if they play it cool. What ends up happening is that they do pretty much whatever they want the remainder of the game without caution. He does that all the time but if you need to see an example refer to Karagounis in the second Croatia Greece match.
2 – Miss an obvious red card or give out a red that was undeserved.
You’re absolutely right Nepoznat! I pray it is not us!
Webb is best friends with Graham Poll. The ref that gave Joe Simunic three yellow cards in WC 2006 when we played Australia. Poll wrote a book and said some scathing comments about the Croatian players and in my opinion he was way out of line! Webb officiated our second game with Greece and in my opinion he was horrible. Did he cost us the game? People here will say that he did not cost us that game but all I know is that he did not help us win the game either and he did an overall poor of officiating the game.
Webb has been called Manchester United’s best player as he is notorious for calling everything in their favor.
The best way to describe Webb is that he is consistently inconsistent and he has his own agenda. Any match that has tension he just cannot handle. Watch the WC 2010 final if you ever have a chance as he did a brutal job!
How is this not a red card????? http://tinyurl.com/72b44jv
The match tomorrow will have great tension and the worst ref to have in a game that has high tension is Howard Webb.
All this being said, I hope that I am wrong about Webb and that he does a good job tomorrow. Miracles do happen.
@ mihovil . thanks. i don’t knwo too much about webb, bt i remember there being copmliants before here that he was reffing our games. if i recal, he reffed our greece game and that didn’t seem like a very well managed one . if i recall correctly, i’ve also heard people say that he’s a big english soccer fan so he may still harbor some resentment over croatia knocking england out of 2008
unless he screws Italy Mihovil!
It has been mentioned my friend and I almost puked when discovering the news.
In any game where there is tension Webb loses his mind. He will screw this up bad for someone. I don’t see this as a good thing at all.
has it been mentioned yet that howard webb is reffing the croatia -italy game?
Hajduk claims they are committed to playing all their kids and will take lumps that go with it. They really have no choice. The club has no money to even go out and sign some of the top players in the HNL that don’t belong to Dinamo.
Tomasov is no Boksic… until he changes his physique from that of a 15-year-old I believe he’ll continue to struggle against stronger, more physical opponents. I don’t believe he’ll amount to much.
Man, who is gonna be left at Hajduk by the time the season starts?
That dismal story can wait… for now, ajmo Vatreni!
@Tom in Winnipeg………….Tomasov has signed with Dinamo, plus they signed Duje Cop earlier. Not sure if Cop helps them. For Tomasov this is a mait or break it monent in his career. Never really lived up the expectations (unrealistic??) at Hajduk, but had a good start to last season. Then the winter break came and his manager (Sinovcic) and Hajduk had everythign worked out until Tomasov’s side wanted language in the contract that gaurenteed him a starting role with Hajduk. Hajduk told him to go to hell at that point.
some english links: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/714793.shtml
Modric says he is still under contract with Spurs and has no problems with living in London. However, he does slightly hint at a move to Man United.
He goes on to explain how the players go through the extremes of emotions, sad when they concede, overjoyed when they score, same with the fans. It’s a passionate nation, passionate support.
Bilic and players commenting:
Most of them are saying that it will be a much harder game against Italy, but they are ready.
They are also calling Balotelli a crazy man, but Bilic states that they have several crazies on Croatia’s squad as well.
What’s the story on Marin Tomasov… is he going to Dinamo or not?
can anyone post some of the articles from Croatia and what they are saying? the pre-match previews must be out by now
I must say that I was definately impressed by Mandzukic’s performance as I personally would have chosen Olic over Mandzukic as well.
Someone else on this site said it nicely when they said …with Mandzukic’s head and Jelavic’s feet, you have a superstriker.
I was really confident with our forwards. Then even seeing Eduardo coming on near the end of the game…..and knowing that we’re taking quality off the field….but putting just as equal quality on the field.
Bottom line is…..We can score on any team in this tournament.
Croatia tallest team at the euros
Croatia was also the tallest team in the euros in 2008 (despite eduardo bringing our avg height down!). As usual, I think this tends to play a big role in the country’s general sporting success despite small population size and weak gdp/capita. Croatia and surrounding areas (bosnia, serbia, montenegro etc) is recorded as the tallest region in the world. In general with sports, being tall helps. Soccer is the one game where being 5’6” can be fine (great small players are many (pele, maradonna, messi, modric etc…), but on average being big still helps as it can compensate for some lesser skill levels (Height obviously matters a lot in things like basketball, tennis, waterpolo, handball etc etc.) Along those lines, ireland, italy, and spain are amongst the shortest teams in the tournament. Obviously it didn’t work out very well for ireland (2 header goals given up). Let’s hope its the same with spain and italy!
@jm Well done on bringing up Madzo’s assists stat as it is very telling that he is not useless with his feet. The reason Magath wants to get rid of him is when he offered him an extension once the season ended his agent requested that his salary be doubled, which upset Magath…
As for Pranjic at LB, Bilic says Strinic meshes better with Perisic than Pranjic…
@ Denis – I’m kinda similar to you when it comes to superstition…i think its better to stay calm and not make huge announcements before a massive game…although I did predict we will beat Italy 3-1…hahaha….
@ Ante K – back in 2006 I had several discussions with my friends regarding Ivica Olic…almost everyone I knew said he was a pylon…couldn’t dribble the ball and he was an embarassment…I was the onlt person I knew that saw his value…everyone else said he couldn’t juggle the ball 3 times…let me say this about Mandzukic…he isn’t playing in Germany cause he can’t dribble the ball and there is a lot more to the game than dribbling! If Mario continues to embrace what he is coached to do…and if he stops with his after the whistle antics, defend and chase down defenders….he will have a good career…many players have been successful scoring goals 2 yards in front of the net or what we call garbage goals…this game isn’t only about who can dribble its a team game…what is important is his other abilities…making a quick pass, making good decisions, playing the system you are told to play…physical abilities have a lot to do with soccer nowadays so I think you should realize that being a successful player doesnt mean you have to have a lot of skill in the sense of dribbling…skill is also measured on 1st touch, pass, cross, heading, stopping and holding up the ball, making intelligent plays…and then…if you have physical ability its even better. Mario is a totally unorthodox player…yeah I agree he looks clumsy…have you ever tried marking a guy like that…its a nightmare…arms flaling, elbows up, you never know what the hell to expect so in a sense it can be a good thing! I’m not a huge fan of his but in his defense…he has his value…not everyone can be Suker…we need work horses!
If Pranjic does get the substitution for Strinic during a game (provided that Strinic starts), Pranjic does provide great energy to the pitch. He resembles a bit like the Mozart Rosicky’s energy around the pitch, though they are in different positions.
Strinic is very good not just for defense but for creating nice crosses and contributing well to the offense itself.
Pranjic is clumsy at defense (as shown in the Norway game), but his explosiveness (and possibly, unpredictability) could overwhelm the opposing midfield, which aids our midfield and the incoming offense.
Since being LB is primarily a defensive job, add Strinic for sure. If speed is needed, I would personally add Pranjic next.
Mandzukic can’t dribble the ball?!?!?
This is why I just don’t’ take Ante seriously when it comes to great reporting. Thats a ridiculous statement, if anything he can’t shoot. Otherwise this guy shows excellent touch on the ball and can clearly dribble. If you want to rip on him, talk about his shooting skills are pretty weak outside the box.
I’m not sold on Mario but at least he has value now something that I couldn’t say at this time last year. Also whoever thinks Pranjic over Strinic is ludicrous. Pranjic would be a mess defensively in the back and simply is too small.
If the rest of our backline (the CBs) were top notch quality in terms of defending then you could afford to play Pranjic. But, right now, Strinic is the logical choice. If we fal behind and have to chase a goal, then you can bring in Pranjic.
@Nepoznat……I don’t think Pletikosa was nervous at all or about as nervous as any other GK would be. Stipe has to realize that our D is not great, so could make any GK a bit nervous/anxious. The goal Ireland scored was not his fault and he cmae out on every ball that he should have come out on. I think there was only one time where he was caught in between (which should be renamed GPS Keleva land). Pletikosa may screw up (we saw Cech do it), but he is by far one of the last things we should worry about with this team.
It doesn’t matter If he can’t dribble this isn’t a show off competition it’s the euro cup. The only thing that matters is scoring and winning and he clearly scored two goals for the win
I don’t get why some of you people still call for Pranjic at LB? lol And against all teams, Italy!? lol First off, give some reasoning before just claiming Pranjic should take over the LB spot.
Second, to all you Pranjic lovers, he’s a bad defender. With our problems in central defense already, we don’t need another glaring hole at LB. I know Strinic isn’t some world class stopper on defense, but he’s a level above Pranjic when it comes to defending. Pranjic should only be used as a LB in an emergency this tournament or if we play some minnow team in a friendly or qualifer. I like what Strinic brings to the team; he can cover his ground on the left side and join the attack and contribute on the offensive end as well. Yes, Pranjic is a better attacking option at LB, but right now we need all the help defending we can, especially vs. Italy.
The other thing is Italy was weaker on their left and stronger on their right. That means we can afford to be more attacking on our right (Srna and Rakitic) but need to be more defensive on the left (Strinic over Pranjic).
That being said if Prandelli switches back to 442, can easily make the case they should against us, and DeRossi back in mid and Giaccherini gets takn out (he is getting hammered in the Italian press) then my point is not valid as they won’t be as weak down the left vs right. They will have better players in their mid but we with have to deal with their diamond in the center of the pitch instead and the fullbacks overlapping
i tend to agree with ziva. the srna-rakitic combo actually worked well on the right side cause rakitic prefers to drift toward the center rather play the ringer role, which allowed srna to run up the flank. the two completed more passes to each other than any other combo. on the left side though, i agree with ziva that perisic is very capable of playing the winger role and putting pressure down the left side. an agressive defender up the wings is not as necessary on this side, and potentially not worth it at all if it comes as a sacrifice to a sounder defense back there
Not mentioned in the article and the comments is what I, admitted Mario hater (for lack of talent and his idiocy), am most proud of. All those bad challenges by Ireland, the kicks, the knees in the kidneys, the punches in the back, elbows etc… None of it set him off. Mneither did his goals. He didn’t lose his temper as he often has before… He didn’t take off his shirt to celebrate his goal as he often does drawing instant yellow and hurting the team. I came away most impressed with his composure. If he really has finally grown up some, then he can focus on improving his game as he lacks for talent in key areas. I agree his height and ariel ability will be a plus against a tiny Italian squad… Especially if he gets good service from Srna, Rakitic and Perisic. This goes for Jela too as that is more similar to the style Everton plays so he should benefit too.
As for Strinic, I agree with Xiva no way can you bring him out of the game. He player well and is better at D than Pranjic and we need help on D. I could see replacing Schifo as he was the worst defender on our side.
I am a tad bit worried about my boy Stipe. He looks very thin now, and he appeared nervous and jittery between the sticks v Ireland ande figures to be tested a bunch more tomorrow
Have to give credit to Mandzukic and Jelavic for the pressure they put on the Irish defenders. The irish gave away plenty of balls because they could not deal with our pressing.
@Nizic….i doubt Bilic replaces Strinic in the starting line up. Strinic is a better defender and Perisic is doing most of the work on the left side.
oh and please use Pranjic instead of Strinic for the Italy game -U-
with mario performance, eduardo has no chance to play in major tournaments, despite being the 2nd top scorer in history so far…
However, i still feel eduardo is more suited to italy game
@ ante kvartuc and the others who call Mandzo one-dimensional
I think people are way too harsh on him as simply a one dimensional player who can only score 6 meters and in. (ante kvartuc) True that is his strength and your subjective analysis may say he can’t do anything else, but he did tally 8 assists in the bundeslig (12 topped the league) as well as his 12 goals. 8 assists is tied for tops amongst forwards in the league. Furthermore, if you look at the assist leaders many played on power teams that scored goals (bayern munich, schalke, dortmund) as oppoosed to lowly Wolfsburg wher super Mario was probably left with few to pass to. I can see why people think he’s just a guy that heads the ball, but his league stats of leading forwards in assists tell a different story and there is no disputing that.
Thanks for the write up! I’m excited by Mandzo’s and Croatia’s performance so far, but obviously sentiment can change very quickly with a weak performance against Italy. Here’s hoping for the best!
I agree with anon both Perisic and Rakitic had great games Mandzo did well against a weak Ireland but Imthink more buzz should have been directed to the two midfielders I mentioned, I know he scored a pair and that’s whare things will be judged from but the wops are on Thursday and we are going to need our mid field to really step it up not like they didnt do well vs Ireland but I don’t think they got enough credit that’s all. -U-
I feel like the buzz should be all about Perisic; he had an exciting game against Ireland and proved to be solid for the German champions this season.
whether the complete player or not.. we only need him to be hot for a couple of weeks… sure the italians will try to stop the headers but pretty sure just looking at him, he is taller then anyone those midgets have…
and we all forget about jelavic… look what he did with that touch… who can say anything about his feet
I’m with Vedran.
I’ve never been a huge fan but I’ve never trashed him either.
He might not be “complete” but he has some nice dimensions to his game.
He’s showed a ton of heart now in a couple of big games for us.
The hacking he took on the big stage from those Irish goons (Richard Dunne) showed me he’s pretty tough for his young age and skinny build.
Let’s not forget his great Dinamo pedigree.
Right about now I am loving this kid!
Guys, please understand that I can take criticism and don’t have a vagina like ZivaIstina.
Color me optimistic, but I think that this is going to be a breakthrough tournament for Mandzo.
Also, it is understood Croatia beat the “lesser” side in Ireland, however, again, I am optimistic.
Mandzukic will be gone, because Magath doesn’t like him. Madzukic has already received and offer from Lokomotiv Moscow and will certainly be keen to switch leagues and earn more pay.
nice article, thanks for contributing. You are always welcome to write for CS.com.
I am a little superstitious and believe in luck and jinxing players/teams. This is why I wouldnt write a piece about Mandzukic after the first game against possibly the worst team in the tournament.
Yes, I was celebrating the win “as if Croatia won the world cup” but once the smoke clears, I know that a win against the Irish is not like beating the germans in the quarters of a world cup.
Yes, Mandzukic was great! I never seen a player that can head the ball like super mario. Hopefully, he continues to produce and lead us to a championship. But, dude has proven in the bundesliga that he is inconsistent.
I understand your point of “holding possession for help”, however, I dont agree with “he capable with the ball at his feet.” Dude isnt great with the ball. Dude has no shot as of right now.
Mandzo is a great player if used correctly, like a Peter Crouch. If not, dude is like Lebron James in the fourth quarter.(It doesn’t make sense I know, but I had to throw Lebron in there after that nice win by OKC.)
I dont mean to rain on Mario’s parade, all I am saying is that he’s limited. A good defense will limit Mandzo in the air and force him to make something happen on the ground where he has struggled.
Croatia hasn’t done anything in the euros yet. We were favored to win against Ireland and we came through. Ireland was expected. Now comes the real test. Everything else is extra and deserves major praise.
As far as Mandzo transferring out… Croatia gets shut out in the next two games and mandzo will be suiting up with Olic up top.
Again, not criticizing your article, just saying its a bit premature to hail Mandzo the new king.
Wolfsburg isn’t dropping him for nothing.
@ Ante – 100% correct – cannot dribble or pass. 7 of his 12 goals off his head is a whopping NEGATIVE statistic. He had a couple of comical efforts in the Ireland game. Once when he overran the ball and almost fell, and another where he senselessly tried to lift the ball over his head, had the ball returned to him and then proceeded to head the ball out of bounds to nobody.
Right, he holds the ball up, he doesn’t dribble. He sure isn’t Messi.
Mandzukic can only score if he gets service to his head. Otherwise all other efforts become futile. No service. No goals. Simple as that. He’s not a game changer either.
And the man CANNOT dribble the ball! It looks like his pre-game dump is still in his shorts when he runs down the right line during the game.
He’s definitely a wildcard though and is very dangerous on set plays because of his vertical.
Over/Under .5 header goals for Mandzukic the rest of the tournament….
Who wants in?
His contract runs for another two years, until the end of the 2014 season, thus, he really has no leverage other than waiting to be sold.
Is he not a free agent soon?
If he simply leaves on a Bosman, he could boost his weekly salary in negotiations since the team would be saving quite a bit without having to pay a fee for his transfer. I wouldn’t sign any extension with Wolfsburg if I’m Mandzo.