Croatia coach Niko Kovač has named a new look side ahead of a friendly against Cyprus and a EURO 2016 qualifier against Malta next month…
In his first side since the failure in Brazil, Kovač has named a number of new faces from the World Cup, including – Alen Halilović, Andrej Kramarić, Marko Pjaca, Tin Jedvaj, Anas Sharbini and Duje Čop. Gordon Schildenfeld, Sammir, Milan Badelj and Ivan Perišić were all ruled out through injury, whilst suspension rules out Ante Rebić.
“There are plenty of new faces, young lads, and now is the time to change something and give them a chance. Why not? In a couple of years, they can become top players and during this preparation phase we will try to see how things might work in the future,” Kovač said at Wednesday’s press conference.
In the EURO 2016 qualifyers, Croatia will face Malta, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Norway and Italy.
“No qualifying round is easy. Italy went to Brazil, Bulgaria nearly missed the World Cup, Norway is a tough team once again, and Azerbaijan is always tricky. However, our goal is to secure EURO 2016 berth and I feel very optimistic. I hope that we have prepared a good combination of experience and youth. Italy and Croatia are the favourites, but it is too early to think about Italy. The beginning against Malta is crucial, we need to win in order to relieve the pressure”, said Kovač.
Croatia was disappointed to exit the World Cup in the group phase, but will come out even stronger, said Kovač:
“We had both good and bad moments in Brazil. Moreover, we have certainly learned something. Losing to Mexico will not discourage us. It will give us more strength and more motivation”.
Croatia face Cyprus in Pula on 4 September, and Malta five days later in Zagreb in EURO 2016 qualifying.
Keepers: Danijel Subašić, Lovre Kalinić, Ivan Vargić
Defenders: Darijo Srna, Vedran Ćorluka, Dejan Lovren, Ivan Strinić, Hrvoje Milić, Domagoj Vida, Šime Vrsaljko, Tin Jedvaj
Midfield: Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Danijel Pranjić, Mateo Kovačić, Alen Halilović, Marcelo Brozović, Mario Pašalić
Strikers: Mario Mandžukić, Ivica Olić, Nikica Jelavić, Anas Sharbini, Duje Čop, Andrej Kramarić, Marko Pjaca
pic: Drago Sopta / HNS