A young nation with a massive talent pool that can take the world by storm if properly nurtured Croatia battle the Republic of Ireland, Italy and Spain in Group C to repeat the success the country achieved in the 1998 World Cup. Led by the passionate and charismatic Slaven Bilic the youngest country at Euro 2012 would be banking on a number of upcoming talents to steer the Croats past a tough looking group stage at the expense of either defending champions Spain or Italy come June.
Since the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia have been regular at international tournaments producing stellar performances notably in Euro ’96 and World Cup ’98. Although the late nineties were a golden period for the Croats with the likes of Davor Suker and Zvonimir Boban dominating world football, the small Balkan country always managed to produce a steady flow of talented footballers that maintained the nation’s impressive pedigree at the international level. Known to produce their best football against bigger nations, Croatia would be hoping to repeat that trait once again in a group that has both Spain and Italy for company in addition to the physically strong Republic of Ireland.
Having been in charge of the Croatian national team for the last six years, Slaven Bilic has been a consistent taskmaster enabling his players to form a formidable unit that on any day could be a major threat to any nation with their sweet style of play. Having missed out on qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa which many blame on the hangover of the heartbreak that Croatians suffered at the hands of Turkey in Euro 2008 quarter finals, Bilic would be banking on his trusted youth policy and a certain player by the name of Luka Modric if the team has to get past the challenge of an incredibly tough group.
Not surprisingly Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric would be the leading man for Croatia and if the 26 year old carries his top club form in Poland and the Ukraine in the summer, there is every chance the Vatreni would cause an upset in Group C. Embroiled in a ridiculous transfer saga involving Chelsea early on in the season, the former Dynamo Zagreb playmaker stayed on with Tottenham and is instrumental in the North London side’s fine showing in the ongoing season. Although the wheels have somehow slowed down, Harry Redknapp’s side have had a strong say in the title challenge for most part of the season largely due to Modric’s fantastic showing. Having spent his childhood at the height of the Croatian war of independence at a refugee camp, Luka Modric is considered one of the finest midfielders in the modern era and he is literally a battery on which the whole Croatian football philosophy runs on.
Luka Modric has utilized his short stature with his incisive pace and dribbling that can turn a match on its head in a blink of an eye. With a price tag of around 50 million pounds on the player’s head, Modric would be Croatia’s most productive player come June. Slaven Bilic would be hoping that his talisman, Spurs team mate Niko Kranjcar and Ivan Rakitic make up a devastating midfield combination to trouble the other teams in the group. What makes Modric fearsome to any opposition is his versatility which combines devastatingly with his speed, creativity and accurate passing. Ability to use his both feet with equal efficiency, Modric can be used as an attacking midfielder who prefers the left wing and also as holding defensive central midfield player with tremendous ability to dispossess opponents and launching swift counter attacks. His telepathic understanding with former Dynamo Zagreb team mate Eduardo would be an important factor in Croatia succeeding at Euro 2012.
The Croatian national coach has been seen in the past making good use of Modric’s flexibility and versatility by experimenting with different team formations against different nations which is a very handy situation to be in as far as Slaven Bilic is concerned. Having appeared in all ten qualifying games for Croatia and the chief orchestrator of the 3-0 play-off first leg victory against Turkey in Istanbul, Luka Modric is an indispensable asset for both club and country and if Croatia are to progress beyond the group stages the former refugee boy from the village of Modrici would have to be at his best in Poland and the Ukraine.