Group H: Croatia        Castellano   Page 2

Argentina  2

Austria  2

Belgium  2

Brazil  2

Bulgaria  2

Cameroon  2

Chile  2

Colombia  2

Croatia  2

Denmark  2

England  2

France  2

Germany  2


Italy  2

Jamaica  2



Morocco  2

Netherlands  2


Norway  2



Saudi Arabia  2


South Africa 2

South Korea

Spain  2


United States

Yugoslavia  2

   Hrvatski Nogometni Savez  

Coach: Miroslav BLASEVIC.

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14.06.98 Lens


20.06.98 Nantes


26.06.98 Bordeaux

Team Colors: Red and White squares, Blue accents. White pants. You have to see this shirt!

Confederation: UEFA

Previous appearances: First.

1994 award from FIFA for team that made the most progress

World Under-21 champions (when part of Yugoslavia) in Chile

Key players: F Davor Suker (Real Madrid, Spain),

F Alen Boksic (Lazio, Italy),

M Robert Prosinecki (Croatia Zagreb).

Croatia vs. Tunisia ©AP

Keep an Eye on: Zvonimir Boban: Plays chess, reads philosophy, inspires teammates from midfield.

Dario Simic: Up-and-coming talent, already monitored by AC Milan.

Davor Suker: Boasts a lethal left foot, has maintained fine form of Euro 96. Shared scoring honors with Boksic.

Alen Boksic: One of the leading strikers in qualifying with 4 scores.

Analysis: Despite plenty of firepower up front, the key is the midfield, which lacks an effective, take-charge player. Has potential.

Has traditionally been the backbone of the former Yugoslavian soccer team, but must consider the recent traumatic history in assessing their chances.

History: Football first appeared in Croatia in 1880. Englishman Fred Hepburn, owner of a tanning factory in Zupanja (eastern Croatia), organized games of football for his British employees which aroused the curiosity of the local populace. However, football was only fully introduced in 1893 by Franjo Bucar, nicknamed the father of Croatian sport, who came back from his studies in Sweden with the first football and a copy of the rule book.

The first clubs were founded in 1903: Hask (FC Croatia Zagreb) and Pnisk Zagreb (FC Zagreb) who played the first competitive match in Zagreb three years later. Football quickly became popular. The number of clubs grew (FC Hajduk Split arrived in 1911) and came under the Croatian Football Association in 1912. After the First World War, the best Croatian players, who were now part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, contributed fully to the national Yugoslav team's success. The national team, composed of 11 Croats, won the silver medal in the 1948 Olympics in London, a second one, with five Croats, in Melbourne in 1956, and the gold medal in Rome in 1960.

Until 1967 the Croatian team of FC Dynamo (orignally Hask) was the only Yugoslavian club to have won an international trophy: The Fairs Cup (now the UEFA Cup). In 1991, Croatia proclaimed its independence and its football team gave it its identity. The leading players, including Boban and Suker, were taken by foreign clubs and became ambassadors for Croatia and no longer for Yugoslavia.

Miroslav Blazevic, the Croatia Shrewd eye coach, almost resigned after his side lost 2-1 to Germany in the European Cups championship quarter-finals last year. The Croatians lost their heads - Igor Stimac was sent off - and the game. A new nation mourned and Blazevic was blamed. Blazevic, 62 and a confirmed chain-smoker, is made of sturdy stuff, though. It needed a 3-1 victory in their last group match, away to Slovenia, and a 3-1 aggregate success over Ukraine in the play-offs to reach their first World Cup finals, but Croatia did it. Bettors looking for value could do worse than back Croatia each-way, especially after their reasonable draw in group H.

Most of the recognizable names from Euro 96 remain: Zvonimir Boban, their chess-playing captain, Alen Boksic, the Lazio striker, and Davor Suker, the Real Madrid maestro. So, too, the England-based contingent: Slaven Bilic, of Everton, and Stimac and Aljosa Asanovic, of Derby County. Croatia will need good fortune, but Blazevic believes success may be preordained. He consulted an astrologer before the Ukraine tie and was told that victory was guaranteed. He is expected to repeat the exercise in early June.

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G Drazen Ladic 34 37

G Marijan Mrmic 32 9

G Tonci Gabric 36 9

D Slaven Bilic 29 34

D Robert Jarni 29 34

D Niko Kovac 26 5

D Dario Simic 22 13

D Igor Stimac 28 25  

D Nikola Jerkan 33 31

D Goran Juric 34 7

D Danijel Saric 25 2

D Igor Tudor 19 1

M Zvonomir Soldo 30 23

M Aljosa Asanovic 32 35

M Zvonimir Boban 29 31

M Robert Prosinicki 28 26

M Nikola Jercevic 31 19

M Mario Stanic 25 13

M Krunoslav Jurcic 28 6  

M Silvio Maric 22 3

F Davor Suker 29 32

F Igor Cvitanovic 27 21

F Alen Boksic 27 22

F Goran Vlaovic 25 24

F Tomislav Erceg 26 4  

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