European Championship History: Croatia + write about sport

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European Championship History: Croatia + write about sport

Postby nbach » Wed May 14, 2008 12:05 am

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European Championship History: Croatia

Croatia’s famous red and white checked shirts have become a familiar sight at major tournaments and the fledgling country (they’ve only been competing since 1994) has qualified for 2 of the 3 tournaments since their independence.

Previously competing as Yugoslavia, Croatia often used to contribute a large proportion of the combine Yugoslav team. The Yugoslavs enjoyed great success at the European Championships although full glory narrowly eluded them on several occasions.

Yugoslavia finished as runners up in 1960 and 1968, and hosted the final four team tournament of 1976, when they were knocked out in the semi finals by Germany. Despite taking a 2-0 lead before the break against the Germans they ended up loosing 4-2 in extra-time.

The final Yugoslav qualification was achieved for the Euro 1992 tournament held in Sweden. The spine of the squad was made up largely of the Yugoslav team that had won the World Youth Championship in 1987 and had several future Croat stalwarts in it; Zvonmir Boban, Igor Stimac, Davor Suker and Robert Prosinecki. Considered as favourites for the tournament the escalation of the Balkan war, as the Yugoslav state crumbed after the collapse of Communism, meant that the team were prevented from participating. The rest, as we know, is history as Denmark took their place and went on to win the tournament!

Croatia’s first participation at the European Championship was 4 years later at Euro 1996. Drawn into Group D, Croatia got their campaign off to a flying start thanks to a late winner from Goran Vlaovic against Turkey. A 3-0 win in the second match against holders Denmark qualified Croatia for the quarter finals with a match to spare, thanks to a brace from former Real Madrid forward Suker and one from Boban. In their final game Portugal put 3 past them as Croatia took it easy and missed out on the chance to post a perfect record in the group.

In the quarter finals they met Germany and perhaps, in their first tournament, a touch of naivety at international level cost Croatia the chance of a place in the semis. Despite dominating the game and carving out several presentable chances it was the more efficient German side that won the game 2-1. Jurgen Klinsmann opened the scoring from the spot in the first half before Suker levelled in the second. However, Croatia couldn’t hold on and Mathias Sammer hit the winner to send Germany through at Croatia’s expense.

Croatia missed out for Euro 2000, but were back four years later in Portugal, and found themselves in a tough group with France, England and Switzerland. A good start to qualification was going to be vital as Croatia started against Switzerland, arguably the weakest team in the group, whilst France and England played in the other match. A 0-0 draw was the outcome when Croatia really needed the win. In their second game they came up against France and posted a respectable 2-2 draw coming from behind. An own goal from Igor Tudor put the French ahead before a Milan Rapaic penalty just after the break put Croatia level. A Dado Prso strike gave the advantage to the Croats, but the French hit back again to level at 2-2 thanks to Trezeguet, and give Croatia a mountain to climb to qualify.

Only a win against England would see Croatia through and with England knowing likewise it was one of the best games of the tournament as both teams committed to attack from the outset. Niko Kovac put Croatia ahead after only 5 minutes but Croatian resistance crumbed before the break when Scholes equalised on 40 minutes and Rooney put England into the lead with seconds to go in the first half. Rooney extended England’s advantage in the second half to 3-1 and although Tudor hit back to make it 3-2, a Lampard goal with 10 minutes to go sealed the win for England and condemned Croatia to an early exit from the tournament.

Now due to play their third European tournament since their independence Croatia could be capable of at least emulating their best performance when they reached the quarter finals in 1996.

Posted by James on Tuesday, 13th May 2008

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