Although he has played just 7 matches for the Croatia national team, 25-year-old striker Bruno Petkovic is already being heralded as a future star at international level.
After the retirement of Mario Mandzukic last summer, Zlatko Dalic has tried a number of options in the lone striker role, including Marko Livaja and Ivan Santini, but it was not until the Dinamo Zagreb striker made his debut against Azerbaijan in a EURO qualifier in March this year that it felt that a true replacement had been found for the troubled position.
Croatia has struggled with finding prolific goal scorers over the years. Davor Suker (45 goals in 69 matches), Mario Mandzukic (33 goals in 89 games) and Eduardo da Silva (29 goals in 64 matches) are the all-time top scorers. The next best striker is Ivica Olic who scored 20 times in 104 appearances.
Petkovic, who was born in Metkovic, has started his international career with a bang, scoring 4 goals in his first 7 matches, including a fantastic backheel goal in the 4-0 thumping of Slovakia in Trnava.
Croatia faces Slovakia again on Saturday night in Rijeka and Petkovic is confident that they can do the job once more and book a place at EURO 2020.
“We played an ideal match there, dominated all 90 minutes against a team which is not a lower lever team but has quality players. That was a big deal, but each game is a story for itself and starts at 0-0. It is up to us to prove that we are a more quality team and I can’t wait to run onto the pitch.”
Freedom on the pitch
“Slovakia will probably prepare differently, but I’m not afraid. We do our analysis, we will follow the instructions and tactics from the coach. I have clear guidelines as to how I should work on the field. I also have a lot of freedom to be creative in my own way, both for Dinamo and for Croatia. Coaches believe in me, which is really nice for me, and I feel good about any system. I see my progress from match to match, and I’m trying to eliminate mistakes and develop as much synergy with the rest of the team. I’m a team player – it is more important for the team to win than for me to score.”
Dinamo players in the national team
“We are all proof of the quality work at Dinamo, in this positive story that has been developing over the last year and a half. There are still players at Dinamo who have the capacity to become national team players. We are pleased with how we play, we need to continue in this direction.”
“Everyone is impressed by the positive opinion of quality professionals, and pressure is an integral part of our lives. Football players must channel that pressure into something positive, an additional motive to justify one’s praise.”
Advice from Ivica Olic
“I talked most with Olic before the Wales and Tunisia matches. He gave me maximum support and a few tips that really helped me. I learned a lot from the staff.”
Croatia needs just one point tomorrow night to book a place at EURO 2020. The latest weather forecast for the match does not look great with torrential rain forecast for the evening in Rijeka. The match kicks off at 20:45 at HNK Rijeka stadium.