Croatians Around Europe *XXIV*
March 17, 2017
Šime Vrsaljko had to be subbed off two minutes into Atletico’s game on Sunday with an apparent injury to his left knee ACL. Tests will be done on Vrsaljko this week but he has already been ruled out of Croatia’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine this Friday. With Vedran Ćorluka also out, the Croatian backline just became an issue. Does manager Ante Čačić dare call Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren for the match? Lovren just returned back from his own injury but the two are anything but friends.
It was a slow week for Croatians in Spain. Luka Modrić got the start for Real Madrid in his 200th game with the club, playing 62 minutes in a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao as Mateo Kovačić remained on the bench as an unused sub. The win keeps Real Madrid two points ahead of Barcelona with a game in hand but all eyes are now on Real’s Champions League quarterfinal clash with Bayern Munich. Ivan Rakitić played 65 minutes as Barcelona held serve with a 4-2 win over Valencia. Alen Halilović played the last 10 minutes of Las Palmas’ 1-0 win over Villareal. The victory pulls Las Palmas within five points of safety in La Liga. Duje Čop sat out Sporting Gijon’s 3-1 win over Granada due to a red card suspension.
Andrej Kramarić played the full 90 minutes for Hoffenheim in their 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. Kramarić played behind the strikers in a 3-1-4-2 and was more quiet than his typical self, with one shot off target and 46 passes completed. Tin Jedvaj was an unused sub for Leverkusen. After 24 matches in the Bundesliga, Hoffenheim remains in 4th, 5 points ahead of Hertha Berlin, while Leverkusen is a distant 11th.
Ante Rebić started on the left for Eintracht Frankfurt as they drew 0-0 at home to Hamburg on Saturday. While the match ended their 5 match losing streak, only one point at home to relegation threatened Hamburg will still be disappointing. Rebi created two chances and had one shot before he was subbed off in the 90th minute. Frankfurt moves down to 7th with the draw, one point out of the last Europa League spot.
Danijel Subašić started between the pipes as the good vibes continued for Monaco in a 3-0 win at Caen on Saturday. Subasic was only called upon to make two easy saves as Monaco were dominant throughout the match. PSG overcome a tough opponent in Lyon to win on Sunday, leaving Monaco 3 points up with 8 matches left to play. Monaco’s only loss in 2017 was their first leg Champions League tie at Manchester City.
Vedran Ćorluka was taken off at halftime after picking up an injury in Lokomotiv Moscow’s 1-1 draw with city rival Spartak Moscow on Saturday. The bad news for Croatia is the injury is serious enough that Ćorluka won’t be joining the Croatian squad for the upcoming international fixtures. He is expected to miss around two weeks.
Domagoj Vida played the full match at the back for Dynamo Kyiv on Friday in their 2-1 win over Chornomorets Odesa. This was the final regular season match for Kyiv, and their second place finish places them in the “Championship round”, which begins next weekend.
Juventus squeaked out an important a 1-0 win over Sampdoria on Sunday night. A 7th minute goal from Juan Cuadrado was all that separated the teams. Former Dinamo Zagreb striker,Mario Mandžukić
started up top and went the distance for Juventus in the win. Super Mario had a great chance to double the lead but his shot was accidentally blocked by Gonzalo Higuain on the goal-line. Mario finished the game with two shots.
Marko Pjaca came on in the 28th minute for the injured Paulo Dybala. The former Dinamo Zagreb star didn’t do much to disrupt the Sampdoria defense as he finished the match without attempting a shot. Ante Budimir looked on from the bench for Sampdoria in the loss.
Inter Milan played a disappointing 2-2 draw against Torino Saturday night. Croatian international Ivan Perišić started on the left wing and went the distance. The former Hajduk Split prospect registered six shots but failed to register any one of those six shots on goal. Ivan will enjoy the international weekend break as he will be suspended for the Ukraine qualifier on Friday.
Marcelo Brozović came on in the 76th minute of play for Inter Milan in search of a game winner. However, Inter had to settle for a draw as their Champions League dreams fade away. The draw leaves Inter in fifth place, five points behind third-placed Napoli, who hold the final Champions League spot.
Nikola Kalinić saved the best for last as the former Hajduk Split star scored the game winner in the 89th minute in a 1-0 win for Fiorentina against Crotone on Sunday night. Fiorentina couldn’t get anything going offensively against a stubborn Crotone defense. A painfully undeserving win for Fiorentina who looked completely lost for ideas and invention.
Nikola Kalinić game winner
Milan Badelj started and played 71 minutes for Fiorentina in the win while Hrvoje Milić looked on from the bench.
Stipe Perica came on in the 58th minute of play for Udinese in a 4-1 win over Palermo on Sunday. Andrija Balić looked on from the bench in the win. Ivan Strinić and Marko Rog both looked on from the bench as Napoli almost squandered a 3-0 lead and held on for a 3-2 win against Empoli on Sunday. Mario Pašalić played the final 15 minutes for AC Milan in a 1-0 win against Genoa on Saturday.
World Cup Qualifiers
Ukraine at Croatia(12:45pm PST/3:45pm EST)(HRT2, Fox Soccer Plus), Iceland at Kosovo(12:45pm PST/3:45pm EST), Finland at Turkey(10am PST/1pm EST)(Fox Sports2),
Croatia at Estonia(10am PST/1pm EST)(Friendly)
~Ante Kvartuč reporting from sunny Southern California and Zach Gilfix reporting from Minneapolis