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Croatia’s Qualifying Campaign: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

October 9, 2017

Luka Modrić



The following is an editorial.



ed·i·to·ri·al (noun): an article written by or on behalf of an editor that gives an opinion on a topical issue.



The Good: The World Cup dream is still alive. With their backs to the wall Monday night in Kiev, the Croatian squad showed their true faces knowing only a win would do. They showed patience, pride and urgency in what would be a defining match for the team. But where was all this in the previous four matches?



Was Ante Cačić the problem all along? I don’t think we can say that was the case.



Against Ukraine, Croatia sat back in the first half and let them have 60% ball possession. It appeared that was the plan from the beginning; to bait Ukraine early and then pounce in the second half. If so, mission accomplished.



More good. During 10 matches of qualifying, Croatia only conceded four goals. And they never conceded more than one goal in a match. They also posted six clean sheets. You can’t ask for much more on that stat line.



Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 6.21.49 PM



The Bad: If Croatia only conceded four times and still finished in second place, we know what the problem is: scoring. Yes, the Vatreni scored 15 goals, but seven of them were against Kosovo. That means Croatia only scored eight goals in eight games against anyone not named Kosovo. And as we know, that’s not good for business. Taking minnows Kosovo out of the equation one more time, Croatia only scored more than one goal twice during qualifying: 2-0 vs. Iceland in Zagreb and 2-0 vs. Ukraine in Kiev.



This Croatian team will not concede many goals the way they are set up. So if they can manage to up their goal average to two per game, they will be in great shape. Outside of qualifying, Croatia got the job done against Spain at Euro 2016 with two goals and would have only needed one in 90 minutes against Portugal. If Perišić can blaze down the sidelines, Mandžukić gets proper service on his head and Modrić can play higher, more goals can be accomplished.



The Ugly: The timing of the conceded goals. Croatia could not close out a handful of these games. Croatia only conceded four times but three of them were heart breaking. Two were in injury time: 1-0 loss in Iceland, 1-1 draw vs. Finland in Rijeka and the the botched ball by Subašić in Turkey in the 75th minute. If Croatia could have weathered the storm in the two injury time scenarios; that’s an extra three points right there meaning Croatia qualifies automatically for the World Cup.



Focus and finishing need to be priorities for this team going into November; both on defense and offense. And if Croatia can do that, they will be on their way to Russia. And we won’t need to discuss hypothetical protesting scenarios.



Subašić gaffe vs. Turkey




Ante Kvartuč
Posted By: Ante Kvartuč 44 comments

  1. Slavonac from Canada says:

    Editorial? This was at least somewhat factual, I give you points for not injecting too many of your personal assumptions.

    You said this:
    “The Ugly: The timing of the conceded goals. Croatia could not close out a handful of these games. Croatia only conceded four times but three of them were heart breaking. Two were in injury time: 1-0 loss in Iceland, 1-1 draw vs. Finland in Rijeka and the the botched ball by Subasic in Turkey in the 75th minute. If Croatia could have weathered the storm in the two injury time scenarios; that’s an extra three points right there meaning Croatia qualifies automatically for the World Cup.”

    All factual and correct. This is bad and can also be good…why? Because we lacked concentration and missed assignments…these things can easily be adjusted. It’s not like we were blown away and wondering how that happened…it’s all fixable!

  2. Ante Kvartuč Ante Kvartuč says:

    @ Slavonac,

    I’m tagging the editorial line on everything moving forward :)

    Whether it be an article, text or birthday card.

    I agree with you, all fixable. But we should be averaging 1.5-2 goals a game.

  3. Slavonac from Canada says:

    No question about it, I agree! Let’s not blame Santa Claus though…editorial or not!

  4. Slavonac from Canada says:

    Ante, we haven’t always agreed over the years but I’ve usually tried to be fair and honest with you. The last couple of “editorials” which included players walking off the field and Mamic shooting himself come across as if you’re looking for web page hits. Regardless of if you believe that or not, you present them as if there’s truth to what you say…and that’s just wrong. Saying “players have already emotionally removed the self from the team” is not what most people saw…at least not in the context you meant it…that they should walk off the field in protest! That’s beyond a stretch…not even an opinion…it’s plain trash that TMZ or National Enquirer might not even run with.

    If you wanna debate Mamic then do it factually…same with Suker…most people will be glad to chat about it but please don’t suggest even 10% of the team is silently protesting…they proved it today, when it would have been easiest to fold!

    You caught the attention of a few of my friends and I got at least 8 or 9 pm’s…they’re shocked a Hrvat would say what you did…they were more shocked when I told them you’re a dalmatinac…just like many of them are!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Anti-Croat Holiga Kvartuc, why are you posting editorials? You called for the national team to turn their backs on the country and abandon the game and world cup hopes, yet YOU continue to watch and post “editorials”. I understand people’s frustrations with the HNS and the corruption and problems in Croatia in general; but if you’ve had it, kindly stop paying attention and go away. Don’t use your forum to further foment division and try and aid those that want to bring down our team. The HNS presented us with enough problems and obstacles to overcome. The successful efforts of you and other Holiga types to turn the fans against the team are problems we don’t need and are inexcusable. Sram te bilo

  6. Ante Kvartuč Ante Kvartuč says:

    @ Slavonac,

    You’ve always been one of the most solid posters here and I’ve always appreciated your input. We don’t need to see eye to eye on things.I’m here to start conversation.

    re: mamic shooting

    I put the poll up and 70% of people said it was an inside job.

    re: protest

    I’m no pulitzer award winning writer. Looking back on it, I missed a few things and needed to tighten up some others. My main message was if the players were over it and didn’t think they would qualify, today was the day to publicly protest.

    Obviously, a Croatian team I haven’t seen in over a year showed up today. Today’s team played with fire. That fire has been gone for some time…

  7. Slavonac from Canada says:

    Hopefully we can get back to rational topics!

    Anonymous…who are you bro? You make a lot of very solid comments!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I disagree with the statement that today they played with fire for the first time in over a year . They played with fire many times , but on soccer you must execute. It’s not just fire. They got outplayed today in the first half, scored two very nice goals in the second half , and did not sit back. I’ve seen many games where a team plays like shit ,, look listless but still win. Then all is fine. For some reason we as Croatians are just maniacal and unreasonable when we don’t win. It’s always a conspiracy or someone’s fault. God were supposed to win every single game , as if there is no opponent. It’s ridiculous. I wonder if Ukraine will fire their coach today, after all that loss was totally inexcusable for them at home in a must win, wasn’t it?

  9. Croatianperson85 says:

    Good write up Ante and agreed all fixable problems.

    At least we’re here and still have a chance. Shouldn’t have come to this though.

    A lot of our guys do the grunt work to a degree on their club teams and I think we also forget that. Dynamic players who can change a game with little to work with IMO is Pjaca, Halilovic, Perisic (wasn’t at his best last couple games), all I can think of and one is injured and the other is young and not fully in the fray. Just kills me they all do their jobs at big clubs but aren’t scoring more goals for the national team. We lack ideas or going through the middle with small passes, through balls etc. Way too slow. Going wide and crossing for the target man won’t work every game and there is no shot if the service is shit which aside from Modric and Rakitic’s assists today it has been. Vrsaljko and who ends up at LB have to be better with crossing. Bilic made a good point, this team may be better on paper but 98 had more leaders/character on the team and in the change room.

    Glad we at least get 2 more games. Hopefully we qualify.

  10. Iggy Iggy says:

    We can do it fellas!

    I just can’t explain Vrsaljko.. i mean i like the guy and think he has talent but.. wtf early in the game when he just passed it to them deep in our half? what actually was that? lmao.. it’s just so weird cos u know the guy has talent but then does shit like that, it was lovrenesque! lol

    we definitely underperformed for 4 days there.. maybe none of us know the exact reason, maybe it’s cos those teams were more defensive whereas ukraine had to win, who knows.. we do seem to struggle against the bunker if we’re honest, and that could be a prob vs greece or ireland or someone like that

  11. T Bone says:

    Now’s the time for speculation on who a favourable playoff opponent would be. Looking like we will face off against Northern or Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Sweden , or Greece. Any of these but Greece would be agreeable. Simply don’t like the Greek style of play which makes for boring matches. Of Sweden, Denmark or the Irish, I see Croatia beating the Irish or Swedes with Denmark looking the more dangerous opponent with guys like Erikson that can do damage from midfield.

  12. CiganJeCigan says:

    yup, early in the game vrsaljko made a hospital back pass that could have led to a goal.

    fyi last year we beat Northern Ireland 3-0 in Belfast

  13. Iggy Iggy says:

    Yeah i remember watching that Northern Ireland game, didnt Krama score in that one too? edit: just checked he did yeah

    yeah well unfortunately we have to wait till the 17th for the draw! i wanna know asap who we’re playing!

  14. Iggy Iggy says:

    Only shit thing about today’s results is for some reason Aussie News is running with the story being “Iceland the smallest team to ever make the WC” over and over again, on the half hour like clockwork

    i mean get that fucking GARBAGE OFF my screen FFS lol

  15. BZ says:

    What is with all these retards ripping on Vrsaljko?

    Shevchenko said it himself, while explaining Jarmalenko’s lackluster game:
    “We had planned to use Jarmalenko to exploit the left side of Croatia’s defense. We didn’t anticipate Croatia’s lineup changes. Vrsaljko was excellent at cutting off the passing lanes. We have no excuse.”

    Get over it. He is better than Pivaric, even when he plays LB coming off an ACL injury ffs. “But but but he made a bad pass”….stfu even Modric made shitty passes today. It happens in soccer.

    Don’t even get me started on Rakitic. Just give the man his credit.

    Badelj played excellent when we were up. As much as I don’t like him starting when Kova and/or Pjaca are healthy, I definitely did miss his composure when we were ahead 1-0 vs Finland.

  16. idemo says:

    man you stfu.

    he made one crucial bad pass which could have cost us the game. the fact that you are constantly comparing them is SHOCKING. because no one here has ever made that argument.
    once again ill highlight, no one thinks pivaric is better we all know what pivaric is. but from now on vrsaljko is over rated, 3 times I distinctly remember him not being to trap the ball with no press on him v filand. but ill give his credit, the cross field 50 yard rock he glued to his Chet v Ukraine. against speedy winger we’re down some creek no paddle

    rakitic was ok at best. overall his age is catching up to him with speed, but he seems still a bit slower for national team.

    save me the shevechenko comments, saving face, just got dropped by a arab league coach.

    what yarmolenko lacked Konoplyanka surely killed (first half)
    Konoplyanka took a few of our guys for fucking rides. anyone remember that nasty split when he turned and dribbled two shhhheeeeeeh. when Perisic got yanked isuse.

  17. Soul Champ says:

    Dalić put Vrsaljko in at LB for his D and his legs.

    Vida could have been there as well but he chose Vrsaljko.

    Vrsaljko is a RB coming off serious knee injury he is NOT a two footed player and looks nervous going left foot.

    God bless Pivaric , but did he once again leave open the left flank open when he wandered forward up 2-0?

    Strinic is the solution for November.

    He is playing great for Sampdoria.

    He is LEFT footed and can play with Perisic, who seems to need support these days?

    Vida can slide over and cover for Strinic for any defensive weaknesses.

    Slide Vrsaljko back to RB.

    LUKA MODRIĆ statement match !

    He is ranked top 5 in ballon dor power rankings.

    Dalić is plus one for freeing him up to play where ever he feels during the flow of the match.

    He is our 10 and needs to be deployed as such.

    Kiev and November play-offs are just the 3 high stakes matches these boys need to prepare for World Cup.


    Budi ponosan

  18. Majstro says:

    The word out there is after Croatian fans lit flares and one made it on to the field and Ukrainian police had to empty the stands. Croatia is under review.

    It is likely they play their playoff game without fans

  19. Slavonac from Canada says:

    I’m not gonna argue over Vrsaljko, he wasn’t great…his offensive abilities are not what I thought but I’ll say this.

    vs Finland, he looked mentally fragile and defeated. he couldn’t settle the ball. he second guessed himself a lot and continued to make judgement calls over and over again.

    vs Ukraine, he was cautious and although I missed the first 25 minutes of the game (couldn’t find the game on satellite or a good feed), I did see a few decent things from him. he eventually began to settle down, he definitely tried to intercept several passes and in some cases he didn’t look that good…but those attempts were 40 yards from his goal so I understood his risk taking. was he great…no….but his physical play and marking was not bad…he wasn’t over thinking things as bad as he was vs Finland.

    I was really hard on him vs Finland and I do remember when I played, sometimes we go through rough phases where we over think stopping a ball or making a decent cross, something I think is happening to him right now. I do remember seeing Vrsaljko being a very high tempo right back, over-lapping and crossing decent balls, even cutting in and attacking the goal. He’s got the abilities but I honestly think he’s lacking major confidence…hopefully he’ll get it back soon!

    its easy for us to criticize, I do it a lot…and even though Vrsaljko was a fraction of what he’s capable of, I think he can build a bit of confidence on the Ukraine game…at least I hope he can!

  20. Dannyj says:

    Is Vlasic a midfielder or winger? Either way kid looks strong right now and seems to be confident yet humble
    Would be nice to have a spark on the wing
    Perisic either getting burnt out or just slumping for us or teams just closing him down too much
    We need to get some more danger down the wings
    Make them guess
    Nice goal Vlasic scored for 21s
    He had two but the one was beauty

  21. Dannyj says:

    They should all rock mos for movember
    We will look super bad ass or super gay
    Either way a statement piece!!

  22. Dannyj says:

    Referring To vrsaljko super gay porn stache
    I think he will turn it round.
    Does anyone get the feeling srna gonna jump back on board
    He misses it so much and it’s not like he can’t be useable
    Maybe I’m just talking out my ass
    But he looks so damn happy with modric on that pic

  23. DinamoDennis says:

    Pivaric is a joke. Strinic needs to be there.
    Would like to see some talent on the bench..not just Cop and the gang. How about Rebic,Vlasic,LIvaja. Im sure the bench will look better when health and you see Pjaca,Jedvaj,Kovacic ect

    And can Croatia ever produce a world class goalie..jesus!

  24. Maminjo says:

    Our bench for these past couple of games has been weak.

    It will be good to call up players like Vlasic, Tudor, and Strinic to fill some voids on the wing & flanks. Maybe even call up Brekalo or Rebic too for added depth and youth (since Pjaca will still be out).

  25. LAknat says:

    The Players who should have in a cautioned list that probably will make trouble when they are going to play:

    1) Pivaric
    2) Perisic
    3) Subasic
    4) Rakitic
    5) Vrsaljko

    Remember -> LAknat always right!

  26. CiganJeCigan says:

    dude ur not always right, you said ukraine was gonna win 1-0

    It was vrsaljko who did the long pass to Rakitic who then one touched it to kramaric.

  27. joko says:

    Outside of the two the goals, the crosses/service into the box hasn’t been great. Hopefully we figure that out.

  28. Maminjo says:

    When Vrsaljko is back at 100%, the crosses will improve.

    Watch the first three games of our qualifying campaign. Vrsaljko was fantastic at RB, and assisted on three goals. His crosses were great.

    We just need someone on the left side to do the same.

  29. ivan says:

    Will Dalic continue as head coach ?
    From his interview it seems like this was a one game gig. Don’t think he has signed a contract yet …

  30. Crobo Cop says:

    I’m sure they are going to talk about it over the next week. They needed a band aid pretty quick for this game so I doubt they got too deep into contract negotiations.

    I don’t see why he wouldn’t continue as coach, the team’s performance was fine, unless he just doesn’t want to coach the NT.

  31. Maminjo says:

    I would be surprised if he bailed.

    He seemed upset over what he was reading in the papers and online.

    Croatian media and Internet trolls are pretty vile. They were writing articles about him being owed a favour from the Mamic’s after he hooked up Zoran with the job in Saudi Arabia (which I doubt the news outlet even had a source to).

    In his interview, he was saying how he was simply asked if he could just take over (since there was a game literally like 48 hours later), and he said yes and that’s it…and that there was no drama and any of these supposed secret meetings and stuff.

    I wouldn’t blame him if he bailed, but he shouldn’t let some degenerates at Jutarnji and Index.hr (along with a bunch of Internet trolls in the comments section) decide his coaching future.

    He didn’t do any “puppet” things in this game.
    If he subbed in Ante Coric and Domagoj Antolic during this critical game, then yes, he’s a puppet, lol.

    We’d all love a big name coach, but noone respectful is taking over this team until after these World Cup qualifiers are done. I was stunned when I heard Matjaz Kek was a possibility, but I think that was all newspaper BS. This is pretty much the best we can get at this point. Maybe Prosinecki if he decides to spurn Slovenia’s offer.

  32. Brkic says:

    On Dalic, I assume that wasn’t part of a well thought out succession plan, but more of an “oh crap, who can we get in the door on 1 days notice” kind of move.

    I don’t think too much weight should be placed on the result vs Ukraine. It’s certainly high on his cv and I don’t know enough about him to say one way or the other. I’m hoping we’re looking at all options… here is how I see it:

    1. Stick with Dalic on an interim basis through the playoff. After that, they’ll have a larger sample size and they can weigh their options.
    2. Appoint Dalic as the permanent manager as a show of confidence. If they do this, I’m hoping they are pretty convinced he can get the best out of this squad.
    3. Appoint a proven (most likely foreign manager) whose stock would rise if he could turn this talented group back into a contender and advance into the knockout stage of the WC. We’re not going to get anyone with a short term financial motive to take the job.

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