Luke Matthews

A number of Croatian players will be striving for European glory this season with their respective clubs, but the same cannot be said regarding the top teams from the Croatian top flight, the Prva HNL.

Eduardo da Silva will be hoping to put his injury nightmares to bed and try to help Arsenal to the Champions League glory that has previously alluded them.

Dario Srna will be looking to follow up last season’s UEFA Cup success with Shakhtar Donetsk by the winning the competition again in its new format as the Europa League.

The likes of Ivica Olic, Luka Modric, Vedran Corluka and Daniel Pranjic all have realistic hopes of European glory with their respective clubs. The story in their homeland is a very different one however as the domestic teams of Croatia struggle to make an impression. This season’s Prva HNL is barely three weeks old, yet only one Croatian teams remains in European competition.

Croatian hopes now rest squarely on the country’s champions Dinamo Zagreb, who enter the Europa League after a 3-2 aggregate loss to Red Bull Salzburg in the third qualifying round of the Champions League. Their failure means that it is now 10 years since a Croatian team has reached the group stages of the Champions League. Dinamo were the team in question and not even the influence of the great Robert Prosinecki could steer them away from the bottom of Group D.

This startling statistic highlights the difficulty that Croatian teams have in achieving the slightest success on the continent. The only major European trophy won by a Croatian team was the 1967 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup which is boastfully displayed at Dinamo’s Maksimir stadium. The modern day equivalent of this competition (the Europa League) is what Krunoslav Jurcic and his players will be hoping to succeed in this year. First up is a play-off game against Scottish side Hearts who will be determined to stop Dinamo’s passage to the group stages of the competition.

The pressure on the team will not only be coming from their expectant supporters, but also the Croatian nation as a whole, seeing as the other two Croatian representatives in Europe were knocked out of the Europa League.

League runners up and Dinamo’s fierce rivals, Hajduk Split crashed out of Europa League qualifying to their Slovakian counterparts, MSK Zilina. The tie finished 2-1 on aggregate to the Slovakians and has added to the recent turmoil at the club. The Hajduk official supporter’s group, the Torcida, were left furious 48 hours before the second leg when it was announced that star striker, Nikola Kalinic had been sold to Blackburn Rovers. The European exit was the icing on the cake for the fans who are demanding the resignations of the board of directors. Three have already jumped ship but the Torcida are threatening to stop supporting the club if their demands are not met.

To add further to the circus that is Hajduk Split, a psychologist has been bought in to help the playing staff to prepare mentally for the pressures of playing for the club from Dalmatia. It remains to be seen whether new manager, Ivica Kalinic can rescue Hajduk’s season. Only time will tell.

The other Croatian team to exit Europe were HNK Rijeka who finished third last season. The club from the west coast went down 4-1 on aggregate to Ukrainian team, Metalist Kharkiv. The result was anticipated by the Croatian public and the club are now able to focus on attempting to break the monopoly that is Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split. although that will be easier said than done.

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