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Discussion Starter · #21 · (Edited)
The HNS replaced Otto Barić with Cico Kranjčar for the following WC campaign, and we started off with a comfortable home win over Hungary.

Under Cico we reverted to a 3-5-2 and the youngsters who were ignored by the previous coach at the Euros were promoted to the XI. Babić, Srna, Klasnić and now Niko Kranjčar became regulars, while veterans like Rapaić, Rosso, Mornar and Bjelica were gone. Gone too was the previous captain Živković, replaced in the role by Niko Kovač.

The first real test for the team came in the second qualifier in Gothenburg against a strong Swedish outfit. While under Otto fans became accustomed to seeing the XI chop and change, Cico's XI quickly became predictable - and the team for Sweden was unchanged from the Zagreb win against the Hungarians.

It was Srna who got the only goal mid-way through the second, curling a low flying free kick into the bottom left and giving Cico a flying start to his NT coaching career.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Yeah, great thread & work Suho! Brings back lots of memories both during & post match. Unfortunately, the most vivid one seems to be emerging into the dawn light from the Cro Club in Punchbowl, in a total daze, dumbstruck & bewildered, after the 2-2 draw with Yugo. It was surreal, hardly anyone spoke, all ruminating on the missed opportunity for qualification. Sh!t, I've depressed myself again..."think about all the wins, think about all the wins..."
Thanks, Zelja. Yeah, I remember those same feelings. Obviously, at that point we'd already lost a Euro quarter-final and had our hearts broken in France but this loss definitely stung...it wasn't enough that we had to miss a tournament but did it have to be at the hands of the Yugs? :D

Luckily in sport you often get a chance for revenge..:)

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Discussion Starter · #23 · (Edited)
The next big game in this campaign was Bulgaria away. We'd thrown away a 2-0 lead against the same opposition in Zagreb, letting the Swedes back in and the game in Sofia was key to snuffing out the Bulgarians' hopes and giving us a cushion before the return fixture against the Swedes.

In a fairly hostile atmosphere in Sofia, Croatia opened the scoring early through Babić. Following up some good work by Olić on the left he ran onto a neat through ball by Kranjčar, beating the keeper at his near post. The second came just before the hour mark through Tudor on an Olić assist. The Bulgarians got one back with 15 to go but Kranjčar quickly restored the two goal buffer - he picked the ball up about 30m from goal and arrogantly went past the Bulgarian defender before adding a cool finish.

Although we'd ultimately fail at the WC this was only second time we'd topped a qualifying group and the only time we were undefeated in a campaign.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
As with the previous two coaches, major tournament failure was met with dismissal. In a surprising move the HNS appointed U21 NT coach Slaven Bilić as Cico's successor and like his predecessor he wasted no time in reshaping the team.

The legendary Pršo retired and defensive mainstay Tudor succumbed to injury and would be lost to the NT for good. Bilić responded by promoting the key guys from the U21's, namely Eduardo, Vedran Ćorluka and Luka Modrić (a WC 2006 squad member). He also brought back the veteran Miki Rapaić along with the almost forgotten Mladen Petrić.

A sign of what was ahead of us was the 2-0 friendly road win against WC runners-up Italy. However, before the qualifying opener against Russia in Moscow, the NT was rocked by the Fontana scandal, resulting in bans for the partying trio of Olić, Srna and Balaban.

A respectable draw away to the Russians was followed up by a thumping of Andorra at home. The real test would be England at home; Rapaić got a start while up front we saw the Eduardo-Petrić partnership in what was to become Bilić's standard 4-4-2.

A comical error by the English keeper led to Croatia's first while a looping Eduardo header off a Niko Kovač cross, his first competitive goal for Croatia, would seal a 2-0 win and firmly put us on line towards qualification for Euro 2008.
 

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Punchbowl. :proud:

You been there recently, to the club?
Only for wakes I'm afraid. :frown2: Used to go quite regularly on Friday nights for the seafood at the bistro. Not sure what it's like now at the renamed "Club Punchbowl". Will have to try it again soon.

I remember the grand opening after they rebuilt the place after the arso.., err, accident. They had young kids behind the bar that didn't know how to open a bottle of beer & forgot the cutlery when the food came out. A table of 8 eating cevapi with toothpicks. Amateurs. :facepalm::smile2:
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 · (Edited)
By the time the second England clash came around, Bilić's Croatia had already secured qualification for the Euros. Eduardo's lone strike against Israel in Zagreb being enough to seal top spot with two games to spare.

On the other hand, England's road loss to Russia in their previous game left them needing a result from the Wembley clash, or a shock result in the Andorra-Russia game.

Croatia came into the game on the back of a surprise 2-0 loss on a mudheap Skopje pitch. Bilić made one change to the team, bringing in Olić for Petrić and within 15 minutes his team was up 2-0. The first came after Kranjčar skidded a long range effort through the English keeper and Eduardo played in Olić on a swift counter for the second. As expected, the English rallied after HT - getting a goal from the spot before Crouch controlled and swept home a Beckham cross. However, Croatia was not going to be denied, substitute Petrić once again beating the English keeper from outside the box with 15-odd minutes to play. Russia's narrow win in Andorra ensured England's non-qualification.

The win, although meaningless in terms of qualification, is definitely still one of the sweetest in NT history.
 

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Only for wakes I'm afraid. :frown2: Used to go quite regularly on Friday nights for the seafood at the bistro. Not sure what it's like now at the renamed "Club Punchbowl". Will have to try it again soon.

I remember the grand opening after they rebuilt the place after the arso.., err, accident. They had young kids behind the bar that didn't know how to open a bottle of beer & forgot the cutlery when the food came out. A table of 8 eating cevapi with toothpicks. Amateurs. :facepalm::smile2:
Yeah man I remember as a kid and even not to long ago the amount of weddings I would go there for. Good times. I go there occasionally for the Sunday lunch. It's usually quite busy. They still have the friday night fishermans nights. Can draw a couple hundred people sometimes.

I'm a lot closer to King Tom though so I'm there quite often more so during the soccer season.
 

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For as much shit as Baric got (which I was part of) the generation of players he had was brutal with the exception of Prso and the CBs, I mean look at that midfield against France at Euro 2004, no creativity except Rapaic with the likes of Bjelica/Rosso/N. Kovac :nervous: I don't remember the depth of that generation but the only guys really ignored was a teenage Kranjcar and Ivan Leko. Yes, Baric was too defensive but looking back it was an accomplishment to qualify + being somewhat competitive in a group with France/England, only poor finishing in the Swiss game (Olic missed a sitter) and Mornar against France prevented them from actually making the quarters :howler:

I would actually say Cico's tenure was a bigger failure. Despite qualifying with relative ease they failed take at least 4 points from Japan and Australia in essentially home games with the WC being in Germany. The team looked so unfit too
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Looking back you'd have to say Cico failed, the group at the WC was decent and in the end we didn't show much. A bit of bad luck to get Brazil in the opener because it's always so much harder if you don't get a result in that first game. But we also did look unfit, I remember Cico going crazy on the sideline in the Australia game but the team just didn't have the legs.

Otto got the most out of his squad and took the team at a tricky time. However, once he got to the Euros he showed no faith in the young guys. It wasn't just that he completely ignored Kranjčar and I.Leko, he refused to start Srna and didn't give a minute to Babić or Klasnić (both of whom had good Bundesliga seasons behind them). Instead, he went with Rosso, Mornar, Bjelica...

And I will never understand how and why he chose Boris Živković for captain.
 

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While our opener against Turkey at the Euros in England was our first major tourney game and was made memorable by Goran Vlaović's late winner, the win over Denmark, the reigning European champions, in the next game is probably one of the most famous ever by the NT.

A dull first half but a second 45 minutes of sheer bliss for any NT fan. No Bokšić again after picking up an injury in the opener, however Šuker starred, scoring one with that unforgettable chip and another from the spot (which he created with a sublime through ball for Stanić). He also assisted on Boban's goal and had a lob attempt from almost inside his own half that in itself was memorable.


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This is one of the best games I ever seen the National team play. Re watched this game several times. Suker was a men among boys. I forget just how good he really was. Unbelievable first touch vision and finisher. The one thing you notice is how offensive a lineup Ciro played in euros.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 · (Edited)
OK, so we finished up with the last game of Euro 2008 qualifying and that unforgettable victory at Wembley.

Seven months on from that game, we headed into the Euros without the injured Eduardo and our form going in was poor. Only win from four friendlies in 2008 was a 1-0 at home to Moldova and of the other three played most significant was a home 0-3 against the Netherlands (also Eduardo's last NT game before his injury).

Biggest question going into the Euros was how and who would replace Eduardo. In the opener against hosts Austria, Bilić went with Olić-Petrić up front and Pranjić at LB. It was enough for a 1-0 win after a very early Modrić penalty, but the overall impression wasn't good. The Austrians probably deserved a draw and the fact Pletikosa was MoM says enough about the performance.

For the next game against Germany, Bilić dropped the underdone Petrić, moved Kranjčar into a second striker role and gave 20 year-old Rakitić a start on the left.

Srna got the opener mid-way through the first after ghosting in behind the German full back to poke home a Pranjić cross; and after the hour mark Olić was there to prod home a deflected Rakitić cross that came back off the post with Lehmann and the German defence all at sea. Kranjčar missed some good chances and a Podolski goal with 15 mins to play meant a nervy ending but Croatia held on.

Victory ensured top spot in the group, a second major tourney win over the Germans and, for Modrić, this was his first big major tournament performance. Unfortunately, the tourney ended in tragic circumstances and remains the biggest what-if in NT history.
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
After the disastrous exit from Euro 2008, we followed up with an unsuccessful WC 2010 campaign that was punctuated by two humiliating losses to the English.

Still, Bilić stayed on for Euro 2012 and with two games to go in qualifying we were top of the group, a point ahead of Greece in second.

Going into the penultimate game against Greece in Piraeus, a draw would've suited fine with lightweights Latvia coming to Rijeka in the final game. Unfortunately, a 2-0 loss in a hostile atmosphere left us clinging to hope the Georgians could upset the Greeks in their final game. It wasn't to be and Croatia was back in familiar territory - the play-offs.

The opponent? Turkey. The same Turkey that had broken our hearts three years earlier, and this time led by another familiar foe - Guus Hiddink.

Debate going in surrounded Bilić's choice up front, with Eduardo dropped in favour of Olić, who was coming back from a lengthy absence. More of a surprise, if not shock, was the decision to play Ćorluka at left back with regular option Strinić out.

It was these two who combined for the opening goal after only two minutes. Charlie beat his man on the right side of the Turkish box and played a ball across for Olić for an easy finish. Just after the half hour mark Mandžukić made it two, nodding home a lofted Srna cross after a sustained period of pressure. Charlie capped off a memorable performance in the second half with a headed goal off a Srna set-piece. The 3-0 win all but secured qualification and went some way to excorcising the demons of 2008 and Vienna.
 

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OK, so we finished up with the last game of Euro 2008 qualifying and that unforgettable victory at Wembley.

Seven months on from that game, we headed into the Euros without the injured Eduardo and our form going in was poor. Only win from four friendlies in 2008 was a 1-0 at home to Moldova and of the other three played most significant was a home 0-3 against the Netherlands (also Eduardo's last NT game before his injury).

Biggest question going into the Euros was how and who would replace Eduardo. In the opener against hosts Austria, Bilić went with Olić-Petrić up front and Pranjić at LB. It was enough for a 1-0 win after a very early Modrić penalty, but the overall impression wasn't good. The Austrians probably deserved a draw and the fact Pletikosa was MoM says enough about the performance.

For the next game against Germany, Bilić dropped the underdone Petrić, moved Kranjčar into a second striker role and gave 20 year-old Rakitić a start on the left.

Srna got the opener mid-way through the first after ghosting in behind the German full back to poke home a Pranjić cross; and after the hour mark Olić was there to prod home a deflected Rakitić cross that came back off the post with Lehmann and the German defence all at sea. Kranjčar missed some good chances and a Podolski goal with 15 mins to play meant a nervy ending but Croatia held on.

Victory ensured top spot in the group, a second major tourney win over the Germans and, for Modrić, this was his first big major tournament performance. Unfortunately, the tourney ended in tragic circumstances and remains the biggest what-if in NT history.
Carli was a monster at RB in this tournament.
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
After the brilliant win over Turkey in Istanbul, the return leg in Zagreb was a dull 0-0 affair. On the surface, a good enough result but not enough to get us into pot two for the Euro draw, a fact that would come back to bite us when we were lumped in with powerhouses Italy and Spain.

The tourney got off to a great start with a 3-1 win against the Republic of Ireland. That was backed up with a 1-1 against Italy, a game which was up for grabs in the final 20 minutes and one for which Bilić copped heat for seeming to be happy to settle for the point.

As results played out, we were left with the task of having to beat the current Euro and World Champs Spain in the final group game.

Bilić opted for Mandžukić as the lone attacker, switched Rakitić to the middle, pushed Srna onto a wing, brought Vida in at right back and preferred Pranjić over Perišić on the left. Only two changes but a new formation and quite a reshuffle.

The Spanish dominated possession but it was a tight affair. With scores still 0-0 deep into the second half Modrić sliced his way through the Spanish lines and delivered an outside-of-the-foot cross to the late-coming Rakitić who was unable to beat Casillas from close range. There was also the now infamous non-call on a Ćorluka penalty claim (wonder if VAR would've picked it up?). Navas got a goal at the death and our Euro was over.

In the end, Spain went on to beat Italy in the final and we were left to rue what might've been. Bilić was gone but the future core group of Modrić, Rakitić, Mandžukić, Perišić and Vida was still young and showed they could push one of the greatest teams of all time to their limits.

If there is such a thing as an honourable loss or tourney exit, this was definitely one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
This is one of the best games I ever seen the National team play. Re watched this game several times. Suker was a men among boys. I forget just how good he really was. Unbelievable first touch vision and finisher. The one thing you notice is how offensive a lineup Ciro played in euros.
I look at that team (even minus Bokšić) and I can't help but think they're better than the 2018 version. At the very least, I think their best football was better. Šuker was obviously amazing.
 

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Looking back at the Spain game it seems crazy that Pranjić was chosen over Perišić but I guess Ivan was fairly young then.

Bokšić or Perišić? Who would you want if both at their peak of their powers?
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
Looking back at the Spain game it seems crazy that Pranjić was chosen over Perišić but I guess Ivan was fairly young then.

Bokšić or Perišić? Who would you want if both at their peak of their powers?
Perišić was still very much a one-way player back then. I can't remember if that was the reason but most likely was, since Pranjić at that stage was playing a lot of DM for Bayern and obv had experience at LB.

Bokšić or Perišić? Different positions so impossible to compare. Bokšić will go down as the more renowned player (outside of Croatia) but Perišić has probably made more of an impact at major tourneys than any other Croatian player. Equal top scorer for us at EC/WC, too.
 
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