This is a tough draw for Croatia but it presents another chance to add to their list of underdog successes. The team is still recovering from the retirement of the Kovac brothers in 2009 and more and more pressure has been heaped on Luka Modric to take over games in midfield.

An impressive playoff victory over Turkey, including a 3-0 win in Istanbul, was payback for their Euro 2008 shootout loss to the Turks – but it cannot mask the fact that the Balkan country finished second to Greece in their qualifying group and lost 1-0 to Georgia. Taking on the likes of Spain and Italy is a daunting prospect.

In The Dugout – Slaven Bilic

Few managers at Euro 2012 can compete with Slaven Bilic’s unique personality. The former defender has taken great pride in getting the best out of this Croatian squad and will be looking to leave a final mark, having announced that he will step down after the tournament and take charge of Lokomotiv Moscow. Of late public opinion in Croatia seems to have turned against him, with many eager to see him leave his post.

His team will play with passion and a sense of adventure, in line with their manager himself. As always, Bilic will head and kick every ball from the touchline.

Key Player – Luka Modric

Croatia can only go as far at Euro 2012 as Modric takes them. The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder continues to defy his slight frame and go toe-to-toe with the world’s best in his position. His experience and expert ball retention will be critical if Croatia are to pip Italy for second place in Group C. After the disappointment of seeing Chelsea snatch away the final Champions League spot for next season, look for Modric to channel his frustration into big performances at Euro 2012.

View from Croatia

Expectations among Croatian fans are low, given the difficulty of Group C. Many fans have voiced their desire to see Bilic vacate the hotseat and are expecting a group stage elimination. However, others are reluctant to write off a team that has a real pedigree in big tournaments and valuable experience.


Expect to see no lack of heart or spirit in the Croatian performances, but they face an uphill battle against stronger opponents. Their first game against the Republic of Ireland is an absolute must win, though the Irish will be no pushovers. Given the likely goalscoring struggles and the quality of Spain and Italy, there will be no way out of Group C for Bilic’s men.