Euro 2012: Croatia Made a Statement in Group C
Croatia's impressive 3-1 win against Ireland yesterday gave them a head start in Group C and it was a refreshing reminder that there is more than one way to play the game well.
Croatia's approach could cause some headaches for group favorites Spain and Italy, who drew 1-1 in the earlier game. The character of their fiery coach Slaven Bilic was evident in the way the team set about attacking the Irish. Croatia played with passion, energy, toughness and a refreshing directness that is too often lacking in the modern game. Two of their goals came via the head of Mario Mandzukic.
Crafty midfield playmaker Luka Modric was the man who ensured that Croatia played with intelligence, control and purpose. Modric's already high stock is surely set to rise further in this tournament. Modric has the ability to feel the tempo of the game and know when is the right moment to hold on to possession in midfield and when it's time to feed their strikers, Mario Mandzukic and Nikica Jelavic.
That was the role that Zvonomir Boban played so effectively in the Croatia team that reached the semifinals of the 1998 World Cup. There are some key similarities with that Croatia team. Slaven Bilic has clearly been influenced by that team's charismatic coach Miroslav Blazevic and he has his players fired up and motivated.
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