Euro 2012 Preview: Croatia

Euro 2012 Preview: Croatia
COACH
BEST SHOWING
QUALIFICATION
CURRENT WORLD RANKING
HIGHEST WORLD RANKING
LOWEST WORLD RANKING
TOURNAMENT ODDS
Slaven Bilic
Quarter Finals 1996,2008
Group F Runners-Up (Won play-off)
8
3 (Jan 1999)
125 (Mar 1994)
50/1 (bet365)


FIXTURES
June 10th – Republic of Ireland (1945 BST, Poznan, ITV)
June 14th – Italy (1700 BST, Poznan, BBC)
June 18th – Spain (1945 BST, Gdansk, BBC)


Croatia have had a tough time of it since the Turks managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the 2008 quarter finals.The retirement of Niko Kovac hit them harder than they’d like to admit but his presence as anchorman was sorely missed as was the protection he provided the Croatian defence with England managing to put 9 past them in 2010 qualifying for the World Cup.

Slaven Bilic lost a bit of his sparkling reputation following the 2010 failure but has restored some of it although they are not the side they were in 2008.

The Croatian side has moved forward from the rigid 3-5-2 formation that Balkan countries traditionally employed to a 4-4-2.

The vastly experienced Stipe Pletikosa returns in goal with Josep Simunic and Gordon Schildenfeld in the centre of defence with Ivan Stinric and Vedran Corluka as the full backs.


The defence is a weakspot for the Croatians as Schildenfeld and Simunic won’t win many races against pacy attackers and as Greece showed in qualifying they are very vulnerable to set pieces.Dynamo Kiev’s Ognjen Vukojevic will be paired alongside Luka Modric in midfield with captain Darijo Srna on the right who also provides a threat with his crosses and set-piece expertise and Niko Kranjcar on the left.

Modric is a fine player and will be the man Croatia look to for creativity with his range of passing from an advanced position or even in deep lying positions.

Veteran Ivica Olic has been ruled out through injury and his energy,work rate and his ability to create opportunities for his strike partner will be sorely missed.


ONE TO WATCH – IVAN PERISIC
Although I don’t expect Perisic to be part of the starting line up, I do think he could have a few cameos from the bench like he has for Borussia Dortmund this season.

He possesses strength, vision and is good with both feet and given his relatively small stature is surprisingly good in the air.

Compared to Aljosa Asanovic, the 23 year old Dortmund man can play as an attacking midfielder or out on the wing if the Croats choose to push Srna into a more central role.



HERE COMES D-JUDGE

The times have changed for Croatia and there’s not a lot of hope held for them in the run up to this tournament.The problem Slaven Bilic has is a lack of balance to his team, overloaded with attacking options, his defensive ones are painfully thin and they’re woefully lacking at the back in pace or the ability to defend setpieces, a flaw that the other three teams in the group will thrive on and look to punish.

That being said on their day Croatia can give any team a run for their money and they swept aside Turkey fairly easily to qualify in the play off.
Their first game is key to their hopes of going any further, if they can beat Ireland they have hope, if not they’re going home after the group stages.

VERDICT
They can cause teams bother but I really can’t see them going through to the quarter-finals
.

Danny (D-Good)
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @DGood83


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