Croatia’s premature exit from the World Cup in Brazil means that focus turns now to the next major tournament – EURO 2016 in France. With the road to France starting for Croatia in just over a couple of months time on 9 September against Malta in Zagreb, some familiar faces from this campaign may not be around…
It is arguably one of the easiest qualification paths Croatia has had for a major tournament, with their Group H featuring Azerbaijan, Malta, Bulgaria, Norway, and Italy. With the top two teams qualifying automatically for France 2016, Croatia will have to get their it seems without some stalwarts.
After a disappointing World Cup, veteran goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa is set to hang up the gloves. The 35-year-old former Hajduk Split and Spurs stopper has been a great servant for his country, but he looked his age in Brazil and is tipped to announce his retirement over the summer. Workhorse Ivica Olić (34), who made his debut for Croatia 12 years ago in 2002, is another who may call time on his international career over the summer, with France 2016 not really a reality. Although he hinted that Brazil might well be his last campaign, captain Darijo Srna looks set to bow out after EURO 2016 should Croatia qualify. This qualification campaign has to be the time coach Niko Kovač develops new, young blood, and there is plenty of it.
The impressive Ante Rebić, and his U-21 teammates Marcelo Brozović, Ivan Močinić, Šime Vrsaljko, Mateo Kovačić and Alen Halilović are undoubtedly the future of Croatian football, and blooding them in this campaign around the likes of experienced players such as Luka Modrić, Mario Mandžukić, Ivan Rakitić and Vedran Ćorluka, may also spell the end for those who failed to impress in Brazil such as Danijel Pranjić, Nikica Jelavić, and also the likes of Ognjen Vukojević and Eduardo da Silva. (pic: Drago Sopta / HNS)