Rakitic stunned by Halilovic omission from Croatia's Euro squad
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Croatia's Ivan Rakitic has expressed surprise that his Barcelona teammate Alen Halilovic was not picked for the country's Euro 2016 campaign.
While on loan at Sporting Gijon last season, Halilovic scored three goals and set up five in 36 La Liga appearances to help Sporting avoid relegation. But the attacking midfielder did not make coach Ante Cacic's squad.
"It is the coach's decision and we have to respect it. But it really surprised me because Halilovic had worked hard while with the national team and had a phenomenal campaign," Rakitic, who will play for Croatia at Euro 2016, told Spanish sports newspaper Marca.
Despite being left out, Rakitic said Halilovic, who has won eight senior caps for Croatia and is under contract with Barca until June 2019, has a bright future.
"He needs to put this behind him and focus on next season," he said. "It might do him good to start the campaign fresh. Halilovic will give a lot of joy to Croatian football."
Croatia begin their Euro 2016 campaign, against Turkey, in Paris on June 12. They take on the Czech Republic five days later in Saint-Etienne and play their final Group D match against defending champions Spain on June 21 in Bordeaux.
(Reporting by Adriana Garcia; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)