CROATIA FACE BRAZIL

The World Cup is one of the prestigious sporting tournaments in the world. It has the highest viewership record amongst any major tournament. This summer’s tournament will be held in Brazil. As the host nation, Brazil will be involved in the opening match of the tournament. They will be up against Croatia, who are one of their group opponents. Mexico and Cameroon are the other group opponents, but the privilege of playing in the opening game has made Croatia manager Niko Kovac extremely happy.

Croatia missed out on the last World Cup at South Africa. Hence, they will be looking to do well in this edition to make use of one of their best generations in a long time. Kovac says that representing his nation at a World Cup is in itself a great privilege, while the opportunity to be part of the opening game is even better. Brazil are undoubtedly the favourites to progress from the group, but Kovac reckons that it will be an even fight between Mexico, Cameroon, and Croatia for the final qualifying spot.

Kovac will be hoping to find his best team as soon as possible after narrowly making it into the World Cup. The nation has had just one win in the last five matches after they recently could only manage a 2-2 draw with Switzerland in a friendly.

“We said immediately after the draw that opening a World Cup is a privilege and an honour for every national team. We are proud to take part in that game, to play in an amazing atmosphere and we will give our best to present Croatia to the world in the best possible light. Brazil is not a favourite only in our group (Group A). Brazil is a favourite of the entire championship, and Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon will fight for the second place in the group, namely a ticket to the next round,” Kovac said.

KOVAC JOINS FIFA WORKSHOP

The head coach of the Croatian national team, Niko Kovak travelled to the workshop which was organized by FIFA at the Brazilian island of Santa Catarina. The reunion involving all of the coaches of their respective national teams serves as preparation for the upcoming World Cup.

Croatia will start their World Cup schedule by playing against Brazil at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo in their opening match which is scheduled to be played on June 12.

Croatia was pitted in Group H for the 2016 Euro and they have to play against Italy, Norway, Bulgaria, Malta and Azerbaijan. According to Niko Kovac, Croatia are favorites on winning their group along with Italy.

“Together with Italy we are favorites to win the Group H”, Niko Kovac said after being notified that Croatia will meet Italy, Norway, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Malta.

Ahead of all the international matches that Niko Kovak has to deal with Croatia, there has been 2 new arrivals into the staff of the team that will be picking up roles as scouters as well as taking up additional responsibilities which include recording matches that Croatia will have to play against for the World Cup and monitoring their live matches.

‘’I am satisfied with the agreement, especially because their football philosophy coincide with those of the coaching staff. Both were excellent professionals with a recognized career abroad, excellent understanding of football and I am confident that the expert panel will provide valuable information’’. Niko Kovac stated.

The arrival of these new scouters into the team is hoping that can it help Croatia on pushing forward and getting positive results out of their upcoming international fixtures.

QUALIFIED!

Croatia managed to qualify for the World Cup 2014 in the most nail biting circumstances. As a result, manager Niko Kovac says that he is not thinking too much about the tournament right now, but says that every team wants to do well since the competition comes around only every four years. Croatia were at their peak during the Euro 2008 when they qualified for the tournament at the expense of England. In subsequent tournaments and qualifying campaigns, they have been rather average. They were in danger of missing out on the 2014 World Cup due to a poor qualifying campaign.

This resulted in the appointment of Niko Kovac just five weeks before the conclusion of the campaign, but he managed to produce stunning turnaround and get the nation into the tournament. The final match against Iceland finished as a 2-0 win for the national team and it also confirmed Croatia’s progress. Kovac has now stated that the five weeks leading up to the final qualifying match were the most nerve wracking he has experienced in his career.

At the World Cup itself, the nation has to do extremely well if they are to progress out of the group. They have been grouped alongside hosts Brazil. Mexico and Cameroon are the other teams.

“I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere. The Brazilians are well known for getting into the party mood. The fans will be passionately involved regardless of whether the host nation are playing at the time. We’ve scraped in by the back door. But we’ll go there looking to perform. We won’t just be there as tourists. You only get a shot at the World Cup every four years so we want to leave behind a lasting impression,” said Kovac. Croatia kick-off the competition with a match against Brazil on the 13th.

MADZUKIC NETS

Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic helped Croatia reached the World Cup 2014 finals after scoring in the 2-0 win over Iceland. Croatia failed to reach the World Cup through the automatic places and were involved in a two-legged match against Iceland. The two teams could only manage a 0-0 draw in the first leg, which gave Iceland the advantage as the away team in the second leg. If they had scored one goal, then it would mean Croatia would need to score two in order to go through on aggregate.

Iceland, though, failed to produce magic on the night, as they were defeated 2-0 with Mandzukic as one of the scorers. Mandzukic has developed into one of the finest strikers in the world over the last few years. He is a first-team regular for Bayern Munich. He scored after just 27 minutes on the clock to give the home team an advantage and also help settle them. Srna then doubled their advantage in the 47th minute to give the home fans real hope that they can be at the Brazil World Cup.

“The important thing is that we are through and I am really not thinking whether I will miss any of the games… or how many. I scored one of the most important goals of my life but I trembled after being sent off as I was completely unnerved about the prospect of turning into a villain if Iceland equalised,” said the Bayern Munich striker after the match.

Mandzukic was the hero on the night, but he could have easily turned the villain after receiving a straight red card in the 38th minute. Despite being down to 10 men, Croatia held on for this famous victory.

Croatia will soon learn about their opponents in the group stages, which will help them plan for the World Cup.

CROATIA VS SERBIA

Croatia and Serbia will be meeting each other in a very crucial World Cup qualifying match, which also marks the return of the Balkan derby. This is one of the fears national team rivalries in Europe and Croatia had the upper hand in the reverse fixture. They managed to win the match 2-0 and Serbia will be hoping to get revenge for this defeat. The away match makes it extremely difficult for Croatia to hope for another victory, but manager Igor Stimac is aware that it will be very difficult to achieve. Red Star Belgrade’s Marakana stadium will be hosting this match.

Serbia have already deployed a large amount of police force in anticipation for the troubles amongst supporters. Stimac, though, is hoping for a peaceful match on the pitch. Croatia come into the match with the hope that they can close the gap on team leaders Belgium. Belgium have a two-point advantage over Croatia in the table. Only the winner gets to qualify for the World Cup 2014 automatically, while Croatian will have to be involved in a play-off if the table finishes as it is. Belgium will be having a relatively easy match against Scotland on their hands.

Unlike Serbia, they do not have anything to play for in the rest of the campaign.

“We needn’t worry about Serbia if we play at our usual level and beating them tomorrow would be the ideal birthday present because we will be up against a good team with a huge motive to give their fans something to cheer. We know what the chinks in Serbia’s armours are and we will try to put them under pressure from the off like we did in Zagreb although we won’t throw caution to the wind,” said Stimac said in the press conference ahead of the match.

KNOCKED OUT

LEVEL ON POINTS

Croatia managed to keep themselves level on points with Belgium at the top of the table after a hardfought 2-1 win over Wales. This away victory has helped the team played in their hopes of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The winner of the group qualifies for this competition automatically, while the second placed team has to go through a play-off. Croatia will want to avoid the playoff due to the fact that they could potentially meet a top team like England or France as things stand. Wales manager Chris Coleman warned ahead of the match that his team needs to be wary of midfielder Luka Modric.

Croatia manager Igor Stimac was especially happy at the way his team managed to come back from being a goal down very early in the match. Tottenham winger Gareth Bale opened the scoring with a penalty after just 21 min on the clock. It looked like Wales would secure this unlikely victory just 15 min before the final whistle. However, Lovren scored the equaliser in the 77th minute, which proved to be the catalyst for the winner just 3 min from time. Former Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva scored the winning goal to break the hearts of Wales.

“We made the right substitutions and ground out a hard-fought win after falling behind but it was a strange feeling to chase the game because it’s the first time we had fallen behind in this qualifying campaign. We started with Milan Badelj to rest the young Kovacic, who had a great international debut against Serbia, but Badelj was well below par and we had to make changes in order to move up a gear in the closing stages,” said Stimac after the match. Croatia’s next match will be against Scotland in June.

STIMAC PROUD

After managing to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions, the Croatian manager Igor Stimac has praised his team by saying that they did extremely well in the recent 4-0 win over Korea Republic. The team was coming into the match on the back of an unbeaten run, which stretched to 4 matches. Croatia has not lost a match in all competitions since suffering the defeat against Switzerland back in August. This impressive form meant that there was a danger of the players becoming complacent ahead of this friendly match. Stimac has revealed that he requested his players not to become complacent.

Stimac has said that it was extremely important that the players did not lose sight of what they wanted to achieve. It was a confident and great performance from the team from the start to the finish. They opened the scoring in the 32nd minute through a goal from Mandžukić. Srna then scored in the 40th minute to give the team a comfortable lead going into the half-time break. Even with a 2-0 lead in the second half, the players did not lose focus and they extended their lead through a goal from the Everton striker Jelavić in the 57th minute. A goal from Petrić 5 min from time gave the scoreline a comprehensive look.

“We played like we planned. And our full engagement brought a nice victory. I am happy the players accepted and understood what I was saying before the match. We will keep on going without any headache and will not lose sight of our goals, but prepare for what is expected of us,” said the Croatian manager. After this friendly match, focus will be returning to the World Cup qualifying campaign. It will resume in March with matches against Serbia and Wales in the space of five days.

MODRIC STILL ADAPTING

The Croatian midfielder Luka Modric has said that he is still adapting to Spanish football after he quashed the rumours suggesting that he was looking for a return to the Premier league. The 26-year-old moved to the Spanish club Real Madrid in the summer for around £ 35 million. He had been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea before completing a move to the Spanish club, but it has so far not been a great first half to the season for the 26-year-old. Modric has struggled to exert any influence on the team and has made only eight appearances so far this campaign.

He has also scored just one goal, which led to the Real Madrid fans voting him as one of the worst summer signings in Spanish football. He has once again been linked with a return to the Premier league where he was hugely successful with Tottenham. Chelsea are thought to be interested in securing his services. The European champions are on the lookout for a player who will be able to replace Frank Lampard in the centre of midfield. The 34-year-old is widely expected to leave the club at the end of the season. Modric could not be cheap due to the fact that he still has more than four years left on his contract.

“There are a few of us competing for that position and he is adapting to a new club and a new league. I found it difficult in my first season after coming from the Premier League but he is very well integrated, he is a fantastic lad and a great player. I have no doubt he will be important (to us),” said the Real Madrid midfielder Alonso. Madrid have struggled a lot in the league this season and are 16 points behind Barcelona.

MODRIC CALLS ON BALE

The Croatian midfielder Luka Modric has said that he wants the Tottenham winger Gareth Bale to join him at Real Madrid. The 26-year-old Luka Modric recently completed the £ 35 million move to the Santiago Bernebeu after coming extremely close to joining the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in the previous transfer windows. This is his first stint at a major club have he has revealed that he is already enjoying life at the Spanish club so much so that he wants his former teammate Gareth Bale to join him at the Spanish club. Real Madrid have shown a lot of interest in the 22-year-old winger as have Barcelona and Manchester United.

However, due to the recent partnership between the two clubs, it is thought that Real Madrid will be the favourites for his signature. Bale has been extremely significant for Tottenham’s revival on form in recent weeks, as he has played starring roles in the matches against West Ham and Liverpool. He was one of the best players on the pitch in the 4-2 demolition of Manchester United earlier in the season. Such performances have meant that he has grown bigger than Tottenham according to Modric, who has suggested that he should move to the club as soon as possible.

“We used to talk and I know he wants to play Champions League football every season and has a big dream of winning the Champions League. Madrid would be a great club for him to achieve his dreams. I play with [Cristiano] Ronaldo here at Madrid and the way he just runs with the ball with such confidence and defenders back off him is exactly the same as Gareth. To have the both in the same team would be unstoppable,” said Modric regarding the possibility of playing once again with Bale.