Since the draw was made last week I've naturally become very interested in the make-up of Croatia's opponents in Euro 2008. I'm particularly interested in Austria and Poland as the average fan doesn't get to see these teams too often as they don't get anywhere near as much media coverage as the supposed powerhouses of Europe. I'm pretty certain we all know the German team very well but fans of that team are also welcome to contribute in this thread.
I'll get the ball rolling with some info on the Croatian team. I hope Austrian and Polish fans join in and give us an oppotunity to properly follow the progress of their players over the next 6 months.
IDEAL LINE-UP AND FORMATION
(8/1/79, 193cm) Spartak Moscow
(5/2/86, 191cm) Manchester City
(12/11/75, 179cm) AC Milan
(6/4/74, 182cm) Borussia Dortmund
(18/2/78, 195cm) Hertha Berlin
(15/10/71, 176cm) Red Bull Salzburg
(1/5/82, 182cm) Shakhtar Donetsk
(9/9/85, 173cm) Dinamo Zagreb
(13/8/84, 185cm) Portsmouth
Eduardo da Silva
(25/2/83, 177cm) Arsenal
(1/1/81, 183cm) Borussia Dortmund
Vedran Runje (9/2/76, 184cm) Lens
Mario Galinović (15/11/76, 195cm) Panathinaikos
Runje is the undisputed no.2 and is the only other GK to have played a part in the qualifiers. A lot fans don't have faith in him so expect a lot of nervous Croatian fans should Runje find himself in goal come Euro 2008.
Dario Knežević (20/4/82, 184cm) Livorno
Hrvoje Vejić (8/6/77, 191cm) Tom Tomsk
Dino Drpić (26/5/81, 188cm) Dinamo Zagreb
Marko Babić (28/1/81, 186cm) Real Betis
Igor Tudor (16/4/78, 192cm) Hajduk Split
Knežević is the logical replacement for one of the centrebacks in case of injury even though he only played one game in qualifying. Igor Tudor has spent the last year recovering from serious injury and is a long way from the NT. However, he may become an option if a crisis arises providing he is fit and healthy. The chances are slim but still there.
Vejić and Drpić are purely there for cover.
There are no natural replacements for the fullbacks so Babić (usually a left-sided midfielder) has played some games at LB in the qualifiers. Should anything happen to current RB, Ćorluka, Croatia would be forced to play someone totally out of position or put Darijo Srna there (he plays there for his club).
Jerko Leko (9/4/80, 187cm) Monaco
Danijel Pranjić (2/12/81, 172cm) Heerenveen
Ivan Rakitić (10/3/88, 184cm) Schalke
Ognjen Vukojević (20/12/83, 183cm) Dinamo Zagreb
Jurica Vranješ (31/1/80, 186cm) Werder Bremen
Leko and Vranješ are fighting for the role as successor to N.Kovač as the next defensive midfielder. Leko was the man in the qualifiers, coming on as a sub in a lot of games, starting in a couple and even playing on the right wing in emergencies (ie injury to Srna). Vukojević came onto the scene late and even made a sub appearance late in the campaign but the more experienced guys still have the advantage over him.
Pranjić didn't play too big a role in the campaign but seems to have become the no.2 for the wide left role. I suspect we'll see a lot of him in the tournament coming on as a sub for Kranjčar. Rakitić also didn't play a big part in qualifying but will definitely also get minutes in the tournament. He can play on either side of midfield, just behind the strikers or even as the second attacker himself. His versatility alone makes him a valuable member of the team even though he's still only 19 years old.
Boško Balaban (15/10/78, 180cm) Dinamo Zagreb
Igor Budan (22/4/80, 185cm) Parma
Nikola Kalinić (5/1/88, 187cm) Hajduk Split
Mario Mandžukić (21/5/86, 187cm) Dinamo Zagreb
Ivica Olić (14/9/79, 182cm) Hamburg SV
Ivan Klasnić (29/1/80, 186cm) Werder Bremen
At the moment the obvious 3rd choice attacker is Olić who has been in form for both club and country over the past few months. However, the mantle of 3rd choice striker was held by Budan before his injury and even by Balaban earlier in the year. Personally, I believe it will be Olić who the coach will opt for off the bench mainly because of his pace and work-rate even though Budan was praised greatly for his target man play earlier in the campaign. The emergence of homebased youngsters like Kalinić and Mandžukić might mean Balaban misses out on the squad altogether, even if only one of the youngsters makes the final squad.
The wildcard here is Klasnić who has only recently returned from serious illness. He will really have to start scoring goals to come into consideration as just before his health problems began he lost his spot in the XI to Petrić.
Other Influential players:
Robert Kovač, Dario Šimić, Stipe Pletikosa
Josip Šimunić, Darijo Srna
Niko Kovač, Darijo Srna, Luka Modrić, Mladen Petrić
Other FK/CK Takers:
Niko Kranjčar, Mladen Petrić, Ivan Rakitić, Luka Modrić
Luka Modrić, Niko Kranjčar
? (was Darijo Srna)
Long Range Threats:
Niko Kranjčar, Mladen Petrić, Ivan Rakitić
Josip Šimunić, Igor Budan, Mladen Petrić