Blažević is a rare breed. A chain-smoker still with a full crop of hair, the Bosnian Croat born in Travnik has already beaten cancer once, and was up until a few months ago still working. There is a feeling that the man will go on forever. Blažević enjoyed his best spell as coach whilst in charge of Croatia, guiding them to the quarter-finals at the nations first major tournament since the country became independent at the 1996 Euros in England, and to 3rd place at the 1998 World Cup in France.
The charismatic coach says he only has one regret from his 35-year career, which saw him take charge of over 20 different sides in Switzerland, Iran, China, Bosnia, and France.
“Alen Bokšić, he is my only regret!. If I had him fit and at full strength then I would be European and World champion. We he walks past I move out of the way. What he could do with the ball, God, what a player”! ‘ Blažević said.
Bokšić, who was a prolific striker for Juventus and Lazio at the time of those tournaments, was kept out because of injury and Blažević still believes to this day that a Bokšić – Davor Šuker tandem up front would have been unstoppable.
Blažević also revealed who he thought was to thank most for Croatia’s 3rd place finish in France.
“(President) Franjo Tuđman, and I will explain why. In Split when we lost 4 points (3-3 draw with Slovenia and 1-1 with Denmark in qualifying) the federation’s spokesman said that I needed to resign. Tuđman asked for me to go see him and asked why I was resigning, I said I was being forced to. He then called and threatened them. If it was not for him I would not have been coach and Croatia would not have come 3rd,” said Blažević.