Written by Ante Baričević
After an improbable win against a relatively depleted Villarreal team, Dinamo Zagreb will face Greek side PAOK FC today at Toumbas Stadium in Thessaloniki. Dinamo now sit atop the group after one game and could very well leave Greece with a victory and three points. Dinamo’s newest addition to the team, coach Vahid Halilhodžić—nicknamed Vaha—has resurrected the Blue Lions of Dinamo Zagreb in under two months time. Implementing a strict regime that has not been seen in Zagreb since the late 1990’s, Dinamo players have responded surprisingly well. Fueled by the performance against Villareal that would even make the most ardent nun sweat in church during mass, the once written-off dynamic duo of Ante Rukavina and Sammir have been finally finding the back of the net and scoring goals as if they had stolen something.
“I’ll be god damned if you only have a Hajduk reporter.”
-Ante B. to CSR
“Dinamo Zagreb coach Vahid Halilhodžić has warned his players they will have to handle a hostile Greek welcome if they are to build upon their encouraging Europa League start.”
Rukavina has scored four goals since his July debut against Rijeka which is a breath of fresh air for the most successful Croatian club in history. The late-summer signing of Portuguese defender, Tonel, provides even greater depth in defense, joining experienced Argentine national Cufre and team captain Igor Biščan. Youngsters such as Kelava, Kramarić and Barbarić will once again have an excellent opportunity to prove themselves at a reported hostile environment in Thessaloniki.
HOW FAR CAN VAHA TAKE DINAMO?
History will once again be against Dinamo as it has yet to win a game in Greece.
Dinamo’s most passionate supporters, the Bad Blue Boys, will not be in attendance due to an on-going boycott of the team until Executive Vice President Zdravko Mamić decides to step down and abdicate his thrown. Additionally, UEFA has deemed this game as high-risk so visiting supporters will not be allowed to travel to Thessaloniki or Zagreb. It will be a shame since PAOK’s supporters, led by an Eastern Orthodox priest, would have been a worthy adversary for the Bad Blue Boys.
As for PAOK and its players, does anybody really care?
I naprijed Plavi! Nema predaje!