It was a devastating blow to us all when we found out that Eduardo would miss the European Football Championships this summer. However, now that we know he will make a full recovery within 10 months and that his career is not in danger, we need to start talking about who will replace him for the rest of the year and most importantly Euro 2008. Here are the candidates given that we expect Mladen Petrić to keep his spot as striker in the starting roster:
Ivan Rakitić– The 19 year-old has been our attacking midfielder for his first 6 games with Croatia only scoring 1 goal. He’s more of a set-up man than a goalscorer but a very smart player who could capitalize on the move from midfield to striker. 2%* chance Ivan gets the spot.
Ivan Klasnić– The 28 year-old Klasnić has been left off the Croatian roster since 2006 due to 2 kidney transplants. He has 8 goals for Croatia in 26 appearences since his debut in 2004. He has had the reputation of coming up short for Croatia compared to his dominant performances in the German Bundesliga for Werder Bremen. Could this be the year of “The Return of Ivan Klasnić?” He has my vote! 33%* chance Ivan gets the spot.
Ivica Olić is probably the safest man to put atop with Mladen Petrić. He has the most experience with 9 goals in 51 appearences but has been known to be ‘shaky’ in the clutch. 45%* chance Ivica gets the spot.
Boško Balaban has been with Croatia since 2000 and has 10 goals in only 35 appearences. He’s never really been a consistent member of the team on the field. Balaban has the experience but I don’t think he has the finishing touch Croatia will need in Austria this summer. 9%* chance Boško gets the spot.
Igor Budan has had success with his Serie A team Parma since 2006. Budan has scored 14 goals in 35 games for his Italian club but has only been capped by Bilić 3 times since his February 2007 debut in a friendly vs. Norway. He could show results but has no goals or experience on the international level. It would be a crapshoot in my opinion. 4%* chance Igor gets the spot.
Mario Mandžukić is still a baby in terms of international football. The 21 year-old Dinamo Zagreb striker has only been called up once for the Croatian senior team; so who knows what he really has to offer until we let him play. 1.9%* chance Mario gets the spot.
Nikola Kalinić has been playing well for Hajduk and the Croatian U-21 team but has not yet been called up to the senior side. Could Bilić call up an uncapped 20 year-old for the Euro Championships?- don’t count on it. 0.1%* chance Nikola gets the spot.
Now, if coach Slaven Bilić doesn’t find anyone he particularly likes for the job, he can always play a 4-5-1 formation with Mladen Petrić as the lone striker. This option can result in Croatia playing defensive, Italian-style soccer but I don’t think Bilić would sink that low. Croatia qualified to win the whole thing; not play for ties! Chance Bilić plays the 4-5-1; 5%*.
I have set up a poll on the right side of the CroatianSoccerReport.com main page. It will run for the next 3 weeks and I would like all of you to participate in it. Who deserves the spot to replace our fallen Eduardo?
*- Does not indicate actual probability. These numbers were put together based on trends over the past 2 years.