When Croatia take on Brazil on 12 June in the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, it will be 2 days short of 16 years since Croatia made their debut at a football World Cup, when Miroslav Ćiro Blažević’s side sent the nation into euphoria with their 3rd place finish in France. The online sports betting sites on SBD don’t rate Croatia’s chances to repeat the feats of 1998 in Brazil, with odds of 26/1 being offered for Croatia to reach the semi-finals. So what has happened to the class of ’98 and what are they doing today? Croatia Week reveals...
Dražen Ladić – Age: 51
Dražen Ladić enjoyed a very impressive playing career which spanned nearly 14 years, collecting a record-holding total of 802 appearances in official matches. After hanging up his gloves in 2000, Ladić stayed in football and took up coaching roles, first as goalkeeper coach of Croatia from 2002 – 2004, followed by managing the Croatian U-21 side from 2006-2011. Ladić today is the reserve coach at Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal.
Slaven Bilić – Age: 45
Slaven Bilić retired from the game in 2001, after going back to the club where it all started for him – Hajduk Split – in his home town, and immediately turned to coaching, his first job being a five-month stint at Hajduk Split. He then went on to manage the Croatia under-21 team, before taking over the senior national side from Zlatko Kranjčar in August 2006. Bilić stepped down after the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament and then signed a contract with the Russian club FC Lokomotiv Moscow.After leaving Moscow in 2013, Bilić went to Turkey to manage Beşiktaş where he currently lives.
Igor Štimac – Age: 46
Just like Slaven Bilić, Igor Štimac also returned to his home club Hajduk Split before retiring. After working on Croatian Television as football commentator, Štimac turned to coaching and was the second member of the class of ’98 to manage the national side after Bilić. Štimac was sacked in 2013 ahead of Croatia’s World Cup playoff match against Iceland. Štimac, who owns an award-winning olive oil company with his brother, currently lives in Split with his partner and new-born child.
Mario Stanić – Age: 42
Mario Stanić was forced to retire at the age of 32 after developing a serious knee injury during the 2003-04 league season. Stanić started a players agency with former teammates Goran Vlaović and Boris Živković. He lives in Zagreb, has real estate interests there and writes a column for a local portal.
Zvonimir Soldo – Age: 46
Zvonimir Soldo finished his playing career at German Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart in 2006, and then like a number of the class of ’98 went into coaching. In 2008 Soldo managed Dinamo Zagreb, before managing FC Koln for one season in 2009-10. Soldo today lives in Zagreb and owns the popular bar Bulldog.
Aljoša Asanović – Age: 48
After France ’98 Aljoša Asanović had stints at Panathinaikos, Austria Wein, Sydney United and Hajduk Split. Asanović made the switch to coaching after retiring and was Slaven Bilić’s right-hand man when the pair took charge of the Croatian U-21 side. Asanović then joined Bilić with the Croatian national team before joining him again in Moscow at Lokomotiva. Asanović lives in Split after leaving Lokomotiva in 2013.
Zvonimir Boban – Age: 45
Croatia’s captain in France, Zvonimir Boban enjoyed an illustrious career in Italy with AC Milan before retiring from playing in 2002. Boban then swapped his boots for the books and enrolled in studies, gaining a history degree from the University of Zagreb. Today Boban lives in Zagreb with his wife and four kids, he owns a couple of restaurants and an ice cream parlour in Zagreb, has a food import company with former AC Milan team-mate Paolo Maldini, and currently is a football pundit on Italian television with SKY Italia.
Robert Jarni – Age: 45
Robert Jarni opened the scoring in what was Croatia’s most memorable victory in France – the 3-0 quarter-final win against Germany. The left-back signed for Real Madrid immediately following that World Cup, before representing Croatia in Futsal. Jarni hung up his boots in 2002 and got into coaching. Jarni coached Hajduk Split and Istra 1961 before recently taking up a post at FK Sarajevo. Jarni was sacked this month by the Bosnian club.
Robert Prosinečki – Age: 45
Robert Prosinečki was another who after finishing his career in Zagreb in 2004 went back to school to get his coaching badges. He assisted Slaven Bilić when he was in charge of the Croatian national team from 2006-2010 before taking up a managerial role of his own with Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade. Prosinečki lives in Turkey where he currently coaches Kayserispor.
Davor Šuker – Age: 46
Šuker, who won the Golden Boot award in France scoring 6 goals, finished his playing career with 1860 Munich in 2003. He then went onto open the Davor Šuker Soccer Academy around Croatia before turning to administration. Šuker lives now in Zagreb and is the current President of the Croatian Football Federation.
Dario Šimić – Age: 38
Dario Šimić was the youngest member of the class of ’98 and only retired from the game in 2010 after returning to his home club Dinamo Zagreb after stints at Milan and Monaco. Šimić got into business after football, heading Aquaviva, a family owned bottled water and coffee business. Šimić also owns Zagreb’s largest cafe club. Šimić is also now the President of the Croatian Professional Footballer’s Association (HUNS). He lives in Zagreb with his wife and 3 kids.