Tag: Croatia

My Favourite Former Country: Yugoslavia

In the second of his pieces for us, William Abbs ponders whether having a second team at international level is a worthwhile endeavour. When Fulham’s improbable run to the Europa League final had writers in The Times and The Guardian trumpeting Roy Hodgson’s charges as everybody’s second favourite team, I asked myself the following question: how does having a second favourite team work at international level? In the case of Fulham, they earned the backing of British neutrals by virtue of being a Premier League club in a European final. The British love an unlikely hero; when Fulham defeated the best that Europe could throw at them (within the parameters of the continent’s second-ranked club competition anyhow), the London club’s place in the public’s affections was assured. With a few notable exceptions, any side in the country would have received such goodwill under the circumstances. For fans of clubs with nothing left to play for at the end of the season, supporting a British side in a major final is a harmless way to hitch a lift aboard another’s glory. But what about supporting another country? Developing an affection for a national side other than one’s own is, if anything, a more enduring affair. During a major tournament, with so many games being televised in such a short space of time, watching a group of players perform magnificently over...

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Match Of The Midweek II: England 5-1 Croatia

When you have got the rub of the green, you have got the rub of the green. England’s job became fifty per cent easier before they even kicked off last night as Ukraine and Belarus played out a 0-0 draw, meaning that they only needed a draw rather than a win against Croatia at Wembley. Still, though. Another match that left the viewer wondering, “well, what the hell was that?”. The history of the England national team is punctuated with moments like this (Germany in 2001, Brazil in 1984, Argentina in 1980), but they seldom come when it matters. Whisper it quietly: Fabio Capello is building quite a decent team here. Within a couple of minutes, England could or should have had a penalty. Gerrard tried to lift the ball over Krizanac, who handled just inside the penalty area but the referee, who was possibly still warming up, gave the benefit of the doubt and waved play on. This, though, was just a brief respite for Croatia. Five minutes later, England did have a penalty. There are no players that look or run more like their Pro Evolution Soccer counterparts than Aaron Lennon, and his run into the penalty looked momentarily like someone that didn’t quite understand football had taken over the control pad. Lennon, however, was laying a (not particularly sophisticated) trap for the Croatian defender. Simunic fell...

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Match Of The (Mid)Week – Croatia 1-4 England

Goodness. Well, I don’t think that any of us were expecting that. The build up had been about as horrific as could be. A terrible performance against the Czech Republic that was not masked by a flukey, last minute equaliser in front of a booing crowd. Then, a disjointed performance against an Andorran team that is about as limited as international teams come. There were rumours of discontent within the England squad, and the sense of unease was further strengthened by Croatia’s workmanlike win against Kazakhstan at the weekend. The omens were bad. This had all the required ingredients of being a potential humiliation for an England team that has been stuttering for over two years, now. For once, however, England managed to not live down to expectations, and managed their best performance since they beat Germany in Munich seven years ago almost to the week. For those of us that had confidently predicted a completely abject England capitulation, the first half wasn’t as bad as it might we expected. True enough, Rooney and Lampard were both initially as anonymous as the invisible man on a reconnaissance mission for the CIA, but Heskey looked surprisingly unlumbering up front and the Croatian defence occasionally looked panicked when England moved forward. When they broke, they broke fluidly, and gave Croatia a couple of scares before they scored after twenty-six minutes. The...

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Bosphorous 1-0 Balkans

It’s almost as if Michel Platini was sitting in the stand with a remote control. “Honestly”, he thought to himself as he recalled the one hundred and eighteen minutes of dirge that he had found himself sitting through, “if you leave them to do it for themselves, you’ll always end up with one really duff match in the end”. He reached into his pocket and brought out his gold and black Sony Euro-Joystick and switched it on. Within twenty seconds, Rustu Recber had run fifteen yards from his goal after a ball that he would have needed Inspector Gadget’s arms to get to, gifting Klasnic and Croatia what looked for all the world like the winning goal, from Luka Modric’s cross. “Hmm”, thought Platini, “if this ever becomes public knowledge, they’ll make mincemeat of me. I need to do something to level things up. That way, if anyone ever finds out about this, I can always say, ‘Well, at least I was even-handed about it all’. That should cover me”. Barely two minutes later, in the injury time of the second period of extra time, Rustu launched a long, aimless ball into the Croatian penalty area. With military precision, Platini sent a hundred volts through the testicles of the two Croatian central defenders -the distraction providing just enough space for Semih to drive the laser-guided ball past Pletikosa and...

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Austria 0-1 Croatia

Some tournaments are feel-good tournaments, and some aren’t. I’m starting to get the feeling that Euro 2008 isn’t going to be one of these. In the opening match yesterday, Switzerland pressed and pressed the Czechs, but were unable to find a way through their massed defence. Earlier this evening a feeling of deflation fell over Vienna as Austria were narrowly beaten by a Croatia team that scant deserved all three of the points from an entertaining match in which they were often the second best team. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that scarcely twenty-four hours into the competition, both of the host nations sit on the brink of being eliminated from the tournament, and such an elimination may prove to be damaging to interest levels later on. It looked, at the start of the match, as if it was going to be a stroll in the park for Croatia. Just four minutes had been played when Rene Aufhauser clumsily clattered into Ivila Ovic, and Spurs’ new signing put the penalty away, although even the penalty was dangerously close to goalkeeper Jurgen Macho, even though he was diving away from the ball. After that, Croatia dominated the early stages of the match, and had several chances to kill the game off for good, most notably when Mladen Petric shot over the crossbar with a first time shot when...

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