Tag: Croatia

Euro 2008 – Group B

Otherwise known as “The Group Of Internecine Rivalries” (by me at least), Group B is the group that probably offers the greatest chance of a host nation getting thrashed out of sight that you’ll ever see at the European Championships and, as if that wasn’t enough, the tournament favourites. Anyway, here’s the low-down on The Group Of Schnitzel (I just thought that up, in case you were wondering). Austria – What Are Expectations Like? Not high and, as with co-hosts Switzerland, there was a noisy campaign for them to resign their place before the the competition started. Indeed, this Austrian team might just be the worst ever to play in the finals of the European Championships. The thirty-one man training squad released last month by coach Josef Hickersberger had scored just 46 goals between them, and with just 8 goals scored by the six selected strikers. The best that they can realistically hope for is to not get thrashed out of sight in all three group matches. How Did Their Qualifying Campaign Go? They qualified automatically as hosts, and it’s a good job. They’re currently in 101st place in the FIFA rankings, sandwiched neatly between Algeria and Tanzania, and considerably below fellow Europeans such as Latvia, Iceland and Cyprus. What’s The Coach Like? Hickersberger was the coach of the Austrian team between 1987 and 1990, and qualified them for...

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England vs Croatia

Pre-match: Well, the BBC have managed to upset me already, by playing Labi Siffre’s elegant anti-Apartheid anthem “So Strong” while looking back over their constant close shaves in qualifying for the finals of major tournaments. Grrr. If the commentary for this match suddenly switches over to Wales-Germany without any warning, you’ll know the reason why. Elsewhere, Steve McClaren is still grinning like an idiot, though there is, just from looking at him, still the faint whiff of the condemned man about him. You know how you looked at Graham Taylor shouting and screaming during the 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign and thought, “oh no”? Yeah. It’s a bit like that. Meanwhile, it has been raining in London all day and the Wembley pitch is absolutely sodden. In all seriousness, I wouldn’t be half surprised if the match was abandoned, if the rain gets a lot worse. Mind you, there are some men out there prodding at it with garden forks, so the vast resources of the FA are already tackling the problem. The England team lines up as follows: Carson, Richards, Bridge, Campbell, Lescott, Barry, Wright-Phillips, Gerrard, Lampard, Joe Cole, Crouch. Now, I’m all in favour of picking youth where possible, but this team leaves me feeling uneasy. It could be Sol Campbell’s last match for England tonight, by the way. Also, Paul Robinson’s form may have collapsed of...

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Brazil Nuts

Brazil 4-1 Japan / Australia 2-2 Croatia What, exactly, possessed the BBC make Brazil-Japan their featured match? Anyone looking at the schedule after the draw would have been able to tell you that the battle for second place in this group was going to be between Australia and Croatia. Well, not the BBC, who seem to think that we’d prefer to watch Ronaldinho & company in an exhibition match than a genuine piece of footballing drama mixed with tragi-comedy. Now, I’ve got Digital TV, so I could flick over to channel 701, but many people still don’t have that option. They should think these things through a bit harder. Because if you missed Croatia-Australia, you missed a genuine World Cup classic. First of all, though, Brazil. Well, woo hoo. Ronaldo scored twice. You’ll forgive me if I don’t recant my previous comments about his condition, because, frankly, I could have scored against that Japanese defence. I mean, he’s a bit tubby and everything, but they didn’t really need to leave him unmarked on the edge of the penalty every time Brazil attacked. The Japanese opened the scoring, demonstrating a defensive weakness that Argentina haven’t yet shown, but once The New Big Ron (I should copyright that) levelled things up, it was one-way traffic. The freakshow also took the attention away from a magnificent performance by Robinho, but they may...

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Syonara?

Croatia 0-0 Japan After all the excitement of Saturday’s three frankly insane matches, we were back to something approaching drudgery as Japan took on Croatia. It’s worth congratulating Japan for bouncing back from back from what could have been a psychologically traumatising defeat by the Australians, but they still largely had their goalkeeper Kawaguchi to thank for still being in the competition (albeit only mathematically). Their extraordinary fans deserve better. Croatia remain something of an enigma. Having played excellently against Brazil and been unlucky not to have claimed a point from that match, they seemed unable to convert the praise that thet received from that game into anything positive in this one. They certainly had the better of the chances – the penalty was clearly a correct decision, and there was nothing particularly wrong with the kick from Srna, but other than that Prso was disappointing, Kovac never got fully involved in the game, and Croatia’s failure to finish of the Japanese may prove costly. They now have to beat Australia to qualify. At the end of the match, Japan seemed happier with the point, which seemed odd, considering that they now have to beat Brazil and hope that Croatia beat Argentina in order to get through to the next round. They seem to have come into this competition with lower expectations than maybe we expected. Good job, I...

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Brazilian Bland

Brazil 1-0 Croatia God. Before the match, the BBC took a good half an hour that could have been used up with public information films eulogising Brazil. This was, if you believed Gary Lineker, the greatest team ever to play football. It wasn’t a question of whether they would win the World Cup, it was a matter of how easy it would be for them. Alan Hansen, Leonardo & Ian Wright dutifully lined up to pay tribute to them, and then we were off to the stadium. Any hopes that it would improve lasted about 15 seconds. You could almost hear the bubble of drool forming in the corner of Mark Lawrenson’s mouth. Try not to dwell on that mental image for too long. Meanwhile, John Motson was running out of superlatives. It was a sickly-sweet Brazil fest. They could do nothing wrong. And then… …Nothing. No inspiration whatsoever. Ronaldinho looked utterly isolated on the left. Ronaldo… christ. More on him later. They had no shape, were playing the match practically at walking pace, and treating it more like another exhibition match (although this is perhaps unsurprising, given that the only matches they’ve played in the last three or four months or so have been against amateur club sides and New Zealand). Fortunately for them, Croatia seemed largely unconcerned by this. Their tactic seemed to be pass the ball...

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