ZAGREB, 15 June 2019 – With one of the most talented generations in a long time, Croatia is quietly hoping for big things at the UEFA Under-21 European Championships which get underway this weekend in Italy and San Marino.
With four players who are in the current Croatia senior team, Nenad Gračan’s side will be one of the dark horses at the tournament. Josip Brekalo, Filip Benković and Alen Halilović all featured in Zlatko Dalić’s Croatia team which went down to Tunisia in a friendly midweek, whilst midfielder Nikola Vlašić has 5 senior caps to his name.
Other players in the squad with big match experience include Dinamo Zagreb midfielders Nikola Moro, Lovro Majer and Ivan Šunjić. VfB Stuttgart defender Borna Sosa, striker Robert Murić and Luka Ivanušec are also all highly-rated players.
An extra carrot at the tournament is the fact that it also acts as UEFA’s qualifier for the 2020 men’s Olympic football tournament in Japan. If Croatia can manage to reach the semi-finals at least in Italy and San Marino, then they will book a place at the Olympics.
Rules at the Olympic Games mean three players over the age of 23 can be included in the squad, so the likes of Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić or any of the senior team could join the team.
First, however, Croatia will need to get out of the very tough group they gave drawn. Croatia will face Romania, England and France in Group C.
“With unity and discipline, this generation can achieve a good result,” Gračan said.
Croatia qualified for the Under-21 EURO finals for the first time in 15 years after winning their qualifying group.
Goal keepers: Josip Posavec, Ivo Grbić, Adrian Šemper
Defenders: Borna Sosa, Filip Benković, Filip Uremović, Nikola Katić, Domagoj Bradarić, Toni Borevković, Branimir Kalaica, Marijan Čabraja
Midfielders: Nikola Vlašić, Ivan Šunjić, Luka Ivanušec, Toma Bašić, Nikola Moro, Lovro Majer, Kristijan Bistrović
Strikers: Alen Halilović, Josip Brekalo, Marin Jakoliš, Robert Murić, Sandro Kulenović
18:30 Romania – CROATIA (Serravalle)
21:00 France – CROATIA (Serravalle)
21:00 CROATIA – England (Serravalle)