Dragan Skočić’s squad ahead of the U21 Euros features many top-end talents and all the big names Croatian fans want to see. But the main concern is the fact that just four defenders have been called up in a 21-man roster.
It seems as though the starting back-line is already set with David Čolina and Niko Sigur (who just recently chose Croatia over Canada) at the left and right flanks, and the duo of Nikola Soldo and Bartol Franjić anchoring the defence. Perhaps a defensive-midfielder could replace an injured center-back but the lack of at least two defensive back-ups is a puzzling choice.
On the bright side, this has allowed for more forwards to be called, which are undoubtedly where the stronger talents are found in this squad. The presence of five high-ceiling strikers in this squad makes one wonder which one of them is the most deserving of that starting role come June 21st?
For starters, the most likely pair on the wings will be Biuk and Stojković, with Gabriel Vidović also being capable of adapting his play to the wing. Skočić’s dilemma however, lies in the choice he must make for the number 9 spot…
- Dion Drena Beljo
Beljo is the likely front-runner as the machine from Augsburg has already been called up for the senior NT ahead of the Nations League semi-finals and has finished off his Bundesliga season on an absolute tear.
- Matija Frigan
Frigan has been a revelation this season for Rijeka and the HNL and can very well rival Beljo for that top spot in the U21 NT come late June. He will likely be the second or third choice as Beljo is performing in a stronger league and Frigan is still quite young and will most likely feature in one more tournament with the Mladi Vatreni.
- Roko Šimić
Šimić was once the undisputed starter for this squad but after a hot and cold spell in Zurich, the young striker will see his starting spot challenged by Beljo and Frigan. However, he still holds an impressive stat-line of scoring a goal every second game for the U21 team and perhaps he will always perform when playing in checkers.
- Marin Ljubičić
Ljubičić’s loan at LASK started off ridiculously strong as he was putting up Haaland-esque numbers in the Austrian Bundesliga. He has since cooled off but still has a very high ceiling and offers even more quality to this already offensively gifted squad.
- Gabriel Vidović
It is quite unlikely we see Vidović in the striking role considering there are four other strikers on the squad, so he will most likely be used on the left-wing whether it be as a back-up or starter.
Considering Skočić’s evident offensive ambitions, the predicted midfield three is Baturina, Kačavenda and Pršir, however any combination of Baturina-Kačavenda with a defensive midfielder should work within this squad.
It is important to note that a top 3 result at the UEFA U21 European Championship this summer results in automatic qualification to the 2024 Olympic Games men’s Football.
Do you think Skočić made the right call by omitting 2-3 defenders in order to call 2-3 extra talented attackers?
Croatia 3-1 Ukraine
Croatia 0-1 Spain
Croatia 1-1 Romania
Most likely finish:
- Group Stage (20%)
- Round of 16 (25%)
- Quarters (30%)
- Semis (15%)
- Top 3 (7%)
- Champions (3%)