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Soldo quietly confident
Friday 7 June 2002
By uefa.com's Paul Nixon in Ibaraki

Zvonimir Soldo is a man of few words. The oldest player in Croatia's squad, he is very much a footballing man and appears uncomfortable with the media attention he is receiving ahead of his country's second 2002 FIFA World Cup Group G match against Italy.

Must-win game
This may be due to the prospect of facing the three-times world champions in a match he knows his country must win to keep their hopes of reaching the last 16 alive. On the other hand, it may just be the nature of the softly-spoken midfield player from Zagreb.

Soldo thoughtful
Speaking on the eve of the vital encounter in Ibaraki, Soldo reclines in his seat, happy to stay in the shadow of coach Mirko Jozic. While Jozic fields questions on his side's performance in the 1-0 defeat against Mexico and his plans for the next match, Soldo keeps his head down and avoids eye contact, clearly contemplating the job in hand.

'Impressed by my seniors'
Jozic has been widely criticised in the Croatian media for sticking by his senior players and, when asked if he will try to find more of a balance between youth and experience in future, he looks at Soldo to his right and answers with a hint of frustration in his tone. "I would not divide the team into young and old players," he said. "We did not lose against Mexico because of our old players. In fact, I was disappointed with some of the younger players and impressed by my seniors."

Italy favourites
When faced with a one-on-one conversation, Soldo's eyes light up in anticipation but he apologises for his poor English. "Every time I try to think in English, it comes out in German," he said, referring to his six seasons with 1. Bundesliga outfit VfB Stuttgart. Whether it be in English, German or Croat, his message is clear. "Italy are favourites for this match," he says. "But, we must try our best and play better than we did against Mexico."

Confident of success
Asked if he is confident of success against Italy, Soldo takes a long, reflective pause before simply saying: "I am." He does not sound confident when he says this, but his casual demeanour and wry smile hint that he and his team-mates may just have a surprise or two up their sleeves.

Integral to success
Soldo was an integral part of Croatia's success at the finals in France four years ago when they defied all the odds and shocked the footballing world on their debut in the tournament. He looks back with fond memories on that experience but is not ruling out a repeat performance this time around. "The best World Cup moment in my career was in France, when we finished third in the world," he said. "But now we still have a small chance that we can reach the second round an we must try."

'Second round' goal
Now, at 34, he is a more mature character and will feel somewhat responsible should his team bow out of the competition at the first hurdle. "All I can say is that, when I saw who our opponents would be in the group, my personal goal was to lead the team into the second round," he said. "If we do not achieve that, I feel I will have failed."

Tranquil sobriety
In a world where football players are held in the same high esteem as pop stars and movie actors, Soldo's tranquil sobriety is a breath of fresh air. As with all the best players, he will be doing his talking on the pitch.

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Pravi igrac, I actually spoke to Soldo in 98, he's a family friend of ours, his parents are from hercegovina ;)

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Hrvatska, Hajduk
3,719 Posts
Soldo is the type of defensive midfield a guy like Tomas can only dream of being.

He's never been a spectacular player but always leads by example and does the jersey proud.

I say Soldo for captain!
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