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Relax, Breathe, Don’t Worry…Repeat

November 15, 2020

 

 

Maminjo is my “POTW”, Poster of the Week. He’s been on fire and is looking through his ‘logical lens’ rather than taking an emotional approach.

 

 

Should Croatian fans be in ‘panic mode’ after the 2-1 loss to Sweden on Saturday?

 

 

Absolutely not! Don’t even spend one ounce of your energy thinking about it.

 

 

The Vatreni are fine and by the time EURO 2021 kicks off in seven months, none of us will be thinking how Croatia did in Nations League. How do I know this?

 

 

Well, because Croatia tends to show this behavior on a regular cycle.  We do it all the time. We actually just did it before the 2018 World Cup started; in qualifying nonetheless. Not something as insignificant as Nations League.

 

 

Remember when Croatia – in a  span of 120 days during WC 2018 qualifying – lost to Iceland, barely beat Kosovo 1-0, lost to Turkey, and drew Finland? They picked up four points in four games from some pretty mediocre competition and needed a win in Ukraine on the last day of qualifying to secure a playoff spot.

 

 

That was a complete meltdown. That’s when even I was in complete meltdown mode and thought the players on the repka already threw in the towel (whatever the reason may be). I said some things. People got mad. Croatia qualified. The rest is history. The rest is history because Modrić and company qualified and made it to the big dance.  That’s all that matters.

 

 

Remember when Croatia lost to Peru in Miami during a friendly three months before the World Cup kicked off? Yeh, probably not. But once again, Croatians were in full meltdown mode saying get rid of Dalić, the locker room has been lost etc etc.

 

 

International football cycles are long and it’s tough to build on certain chemistry when you only see your Croatian teammates for a week every three months. With Croatia playing without Modrić in September and losing to Portugal and France off the bat, their Nations League campaign was basically over right there and then.

 

 

Again, it’s annoying to be steamrolled by a team like Sweden this past weekend with Modrić, Perišić, Brekalo, Vlašić on the pitch but we need to pull back and look at the bigger picture. As long as we are healthy in seven months, that’s all that matters.

 

 

Croatia is not – and has never been – a qualifying powerhouse like Germany, Brazil, Spain. These countries are always cruising through qualifying and Nations League matches because in essence, they have two teams to support their schedule. Their “B-squad” is so good that they are constantly challenging their A-team for playing time. So when they’re playing Qualifiers or Nations League, the national team is always being supported by players that are hungry for 1st-team action.

 

 

Croatia doesn’t have that kind of depth. Prime example is Mateo Kovacic. Already in 2020, Kovačić has laid a big fat goose egg with all the opportunities he has received, in different positions to say the least. Imagine if Kovačić was playing lights out right now and we would be needing to have the Modrić vs. Kova debate.

 

 

At the end of the day, all that matters is the health of the team come June 1st. Croatia cruised through Euro qualifying and finished top of group. Don’t worry. Everything is fine even though it didn’t seem so this weekend. If Croatia lose against Portugal on Tuesday, everything is still fine.
 
Are we soft in defense? Yes. But that bridge will be crossed over the next seven months. Don’t panic. Croatia is in good shape for Euro 2021. A lot will happen between now and then.

 

 




Ante Kvartuč
Posted By: Ante Kvartuč 42 comments





  1. Suba says:

    Ahh thanks Ante

    I feel much better now thank you

    I thought my world was coming to a cataclysmic end

  2. Mačak says:

    These highs and lows suck

  3. Mačak says:

    These highs and lows suck big time

  4. Anonymous says:

    Barasic/badaric Lovren caleta sime
    Brozo modric
    Rebic Vlašić Perisic
    Kramaric

  5. The Great Anonymous Doom says:

    I agree. Remember when we had that Palestinian guy and Duje Cop playing significant minutes for us before Euro 2016? Livaja and Santini playing for us in 2018? When we gave up a draw to Hungary or something and half of the fans thought the qualifying campaign was dead in the water? It’s happening a lot, but then when we go to the tournaments, the team plays very well. 2014, 2016, and 2018, everyone who watched Croatia was impressed by the team’s quality. We lost nail-biters to Brazil and Portugal in 2014 and 2016. Not blowouts—highly competitive matches. Once Dalić makes some cuts so that the team is consistent, we’ll play a couple more friendlies and be ready for the Euro and for the next qualifying cycle. I highly doubt that he is just sitting back content with the way the team played against Sweden. He’s probably really pissed off at the players who failed to contribute anything on either end and ready to make some hard changes for next time. This match against portugal is the last competitive one until June, so Dalić is going to have to solidify the tournament team after today and use the friendlies for training, rather than evaluation. I hope he keeps his job because he’s done exceptionally well in the competitive matches besides the UNL and even made good use of some of the friendlies for younger players.

  6. BEĆAR says:

    @The Great Anonymous Doom

    “He’s probably really pissed off at the players who failed to contribute anything on either end and ready to make some hard changes for next time.”

    All he does is make changes. That’s half the problem. He’s now called Mike Skoric up for the last game. Portugal will need a diaper change after getting that update, lol.

  7. Maminjo says:

    I retract all my previous posts.

    We’re totally fucked.

    Czechs and Scots are gonna tear us apart. 3-0 easy. Both games.

    😉

  8. Razbijač says:

    @ Ante

    Well written post. And Maminjo has been spot on seeing everything through a clear lense.

    We just don’t have the depth to be as clinical and ruthless in qualifying and Nations League like Spain, Germany, France, and Brazil.

    We are a smaller nation like Portugal 🇵🇹 . The pork chops always struggle in qualifying and would have missed their fair share of tourneys over the years if it weren’t for Ronaldo. ..

  9. Maminjo says:

    But on a serious note, we’ve been good at tournaments.

    Other than that Mexico loss against a very good Mexican team at 2014 World Cup…we’ve done pretty well at tournaments during the Modric era.

    Wins against Germany, Austria, Poland, Cameroon, Turkey, Spain (with our B team), Nigeria, Argentina, Iceland (with our B team), Denmark, PED-infused Russia (in Russia), and England…is all very impressive.

    Our losses were close and many of them were unjust, and most of these losses were against the elite of the elite (like the 2014 Brazil loss, 2012 Spain loss, or the foul-heavy 2016 Portugal extra time loss, and obviously the 2018 France loss)

    Only bad loss, really, was to that underrated 2014 Mexican side and the heartbreaking penalty shootout with Turkey in 2008.

    Believe it or not, most top teams in the World (like Belgium or England) have not won this much against the quality of teams we’ve faced above, in the past several tournaments.

    Other than France really…I can’t think (off the top of my head right now) of a team that faced and beat as many good teams as we have…and yet not embarassed themselves with a bad loss here and there (like how Belgium choked against Wales at Euro2016, or how Spain got blown out by Holland 5-1, or Germany losing to teams like Korea and even Serbia)

    Our issue is that we keep getting seeded low at tournaments, so we get screwed having to play multiple high seed teams right away.
    Euro2012 was a shame that we had to face the two finalists in the group phase. Even this last tournament was rough, having to be in the Group of Death. We are unfortunate to cross paths with good teams so early (see Portugal at Euro 2016)…and we’re crossing paths even in this upcoming Euro2021 with the Group of Death early too.

    Despite all this, our record has been pretty damn great in tournaments.

    The issue is that our qualifying (and friendly game) record always puts us down too low of a seed for these tournaments.

    But surprisingly, we’ve done very well against the odds.

  10. Bobby V Bobby V says:

    The reason we have had a GOOD record at World Cups is because the tournament is watered down enough for us to succeed.

    The reason we do MEDIOCRE in Euros is because there are a few of the top 16 that we can play with.

    The reason we SUCK at Nations League is because we have been playing only the elite in Europe.

    Keep it simple and use your heads guys.

  11. Slavonac from Canada says:

    I have a couple different views that are a little different from the “don’t worry, everything will be ok” point of view. I am somewhat concerned about the overall mix of players and the constant shifting around and filling in holes with experiments, trying to find some type of miraculous discovery…

    “Remember when Croatia – in a span of 120 days during WC 2018 qualifying – lost to Iceland, barely beat Kosovo 1-0, lost to Turkey, and drew Finland? They picked up four points in four games from some pretty mediocre competition and needed a win in Ukraine on the last day of qualifying to secure a playoff spot.”

    Yes, I also remember that, but we had a very different situation. we were plagued by some player inconsistencies, we had some coaches with tunnel vision (Kovac, TV repair man) who had the players but also had their own mental blockages and we kept losing…which really affected the overall mood and atmosphere in the changing room.

    whats different? in my opinion, enough to make me nervous is different.

    1) our CORE defenders are not even yet chosen. there’s a lot of uncertainty and this creates instability on the field. all 4 of our defenders are not secured in their position except maybe Caleta Car…and with his mind, who knows how well he can lead a group of defenders. Please remember…Corluka, Simunic, Lovren, R Kovac…all strong minded players that were fairly good at commanding the defence. are we only gonna wait for Vrsaljko? is there nobody else? at this point, Uremovic looks like a very bad version of Dario Simic…who won’t attack and plays everything backwards and his defending is below average. who’s our left back? do we know?

    our most secured line is in midfield, although that’s short term. between Modric, Brozovic and Vlasic, we have a good mix of distributor, defensive mid and someone who can contribute goals…but we lose a guy like Rakitic who can help us transition from the back and allow Modric some freedom. adding Perisic and Rebic to this midfield makes things a whole lot stronger…then we have Brekalo…and the rest I’m not convinced of.

    in attack, only Kramaric is a proven goal-scorer…Petkovic has issues and from there, we really have nothing!

    the way I look at it, we are currently either weak or unsure of how our defense will work together, we have a strong midfield…BUT, all this depends on how we line-up and strategize. do we press high or sit and wait at centre…which always hurts us. in order for our midfield to function well, we need our defense to play in coordination with them and be confident and very structured…alert and stable. we lost our overlapping outside players….this is very concerning to me.

    our attack (that we can actually count on…hoping no injuries or some situation where one can’t be available) is based on two players… Kramaric and Petkovic! Krama can score but in my opinion, is a better individual than he is a team player. Petkovic has many abilities…dribbling, holding up the ball, making great passes, scoring in tight quarters….BUT, in my opinion, he severely lacks in consistency! I know Maminjo will come and say he has 6 goals in 13 games but if anyone has been paying attention, Petkovic’s issues aren’t with his talent or qualities. the guy can obviously play but there’s a reason he failed MISERABLY in Italy and in all his years as a pro…only Bjelica was able to get the best out of him…and then even Bjelica had his issues with Petkovic and benched him for lack of effort and lack of being prepared.

    I’m not one to count my chickens before they hatch! I see members here naming Majer, Moro, Bradaric…and many others…as if these guys are all already proven and consistent players at the top leagues. Its one thing to be good, it takes an entire other level to go from HNL or some lower tiered league and perform regularly. I don’t necessarily believe we need all our players to play in top leagues, we can do well with having players in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey…but the difference will be in the players themselves and their overall compete levels!

    posting lineups on paper is one thing, uniting a team, setting the environment and putting them in a position for success is important. we were lucky to have some strong characters in Russia…we won’t have as many for these upcoming Euros. guys like Corluka (even if he barely played), Lovren (who will send any England member “u picku materinu”), Mandzukic (who will battle anyone on the field), Rebic (who attacks defenders relentlessly), Brozovic…

    we did well because those guys were willing to dig deep. not all battles are won through skill/talent, a lot of what you don’t see comes in the game within the game.

  12. Crotown says:

    Disagree- the defence can’t improve because the coach struggles to give fundamental direction on team defense- it’s not the defensive 4 – it’s the whole team defense- he wants goals and he wants defense- you don’t have the players that diverse as we had in World Cup- new strategy to match what players you have to a defensive system- we used to be able to slug out a win- look for a lot more boring play but at least a chance to win- if not, we’ll lose all games in Euro- I don’t think Dalic can make that kind of change without HNS approval and those guys won’t go for defensive changes- sorry folks – i don’t see Ante’s theory holding

  13. Slavonac from Canada says:

    yeah Crotown….before the Sweden game, Dalic said he would attack. did that game look like an attacking style to you? we couldn’t must up any chances…or even half chances.

  14. BEĆAR says:

    @Slavonac from Canada

    If Dalic said before the Sweden game that he would attack, either he’s a stupid liar or worse, he’s lost the team. Judging by the effort, I think it might be the latter.

  15. Slavonac from Canada says:

    I don’t know if he lost the team or if he was out of options but we did not press high, we did not play compact and we definitely failed at creating chances. we looked stumped against a team that plays with grit and a lot of running.

  16. Maminjo says:

    We can’t pump up the mental character and ability of our World Cup team, and they say that this current team doesn’t cut it…when it’s only 5 players that we will be changing.

    1. Vlasic is replacing Rakitic,
    2. Krama/Petko replaces Mandzo,
    3. Barisic or Bradaric replaces Strinic,
    4. Livakovic replaces Subasic
    5. Caleta-Car (likely) replaces Vida (who we will still have on the bench)

    This team is essentially our World Cup team with a few changes (and some of them being positive).

    If we’re talking about being a mentally tough warrior, I’m sorry, but it’s hard to argue against Vlasic. He’s just as tough (if not tougher) than Rakitic.
    Yes, Mandzo is a loss…but at the same time nobody seemed to mention his toughness and ability when he disappeared at Euro2016. He is still our biggest loss, but the dropoff in ability to Kramaric or Petkovic is not something terrible.
    Strinic is not some mentally strong and tough warrior for us. If anything, you could argue he was a cancer in the lockerroom and on the field. Anything is an upgrade over him.
    Livakovic, I’m not sold on…but Subasic was injured in the last World Cup and leaked in some goals himself. We’ll have to see.
    If we need the mental fortitude of Vida and Lovren…well, we still have it. They’re both still on the team.

    Everyone else on the team (Modric, Brozovic, Rebic, Perisic…) are still here, and some of them actually got BETTER from two years ago. No dropoff in their club play.

    It’s really just hoping that Vrsaljko comes back healthy, and that we pick the right LB to replace Strinic (and figuring out who between Krama/Petko we need to slot up top).
    The overlapping offence that was missing in these UNL games will come back if we field even a semi-healthy Vrsaljko at RB (and hopefully Bradaric at LB, who is better than Strinic ever was).
    That connection between or defence and offence will come back when we have both Modric and Broz playing at the same time.

    Unfortunately, we were unable to experiment with these scenarios at UNL due to injury, card suspension, COVID infection, etc…but they will have time to prep right before the next Euros (or maybe during the WC qualifiers in March) and we’ll see.

  17. Slavonac from Canada says:

    lets hope you’re right!

    the one thing we did realize is that as of right now, we are thin at our backup players.

  18. Crotown says:

    I respectfully disagree with Maminjo- no way this is the World Cup team with a few changes- I wish that was the case- disagree with 1,2,4 and 5- we need to go to total defensive shell – like Italy used to play – we can’t win games otherwise- our backend can’t execute and that causes chasing from midfield and forwards- it will take a totally new direction for this team to be competitive- will Dalic be honest and say he doesn’t know how to work with this group or does he try and fake it? Time will tell?

  19. Iggy says:

    There’s prolly something to be said for the fact that, having reached the pinnacle of a world cup final, im sure on at least an unconscious level it’s difficult for the players to care enough to give 100% in meaningless NL matches. That’s quite a drop down. I expect them to be at their best for major tournies, not too concerned about some aberrant results in between tournies.

  20. Romi says:

    Tommorow id go with if i were the manager

    Livakovic Barisic Lovren Skoric Juranovic Basic Modric Vlasic Perisic Bradaric Petkovic. Give Pasalic Budimir Orsic as subs.

  21. Slavonac from Canada says:

    Crotown, Dalic said today that he knows the team isn’t performing well!

    when it comes to your comment about us playing like Italy used to…it will never happen…and if we attempted it, we’d get slaughtered. Italy have built teams and systems on their counter-attacking style, we completely suck at playing a defensive style and we do have enough to not have to play that way. we need some more consistency and if we lose, we lose playing very well and not as we have recently played!

  22. TOMISLAV says:

    If it doesn’t work out with Dalia. Bring back Bilic. Love to see him and the squad take out England at wembley again. Or even Nenad Bjelica. Since we’re blessed with all the midfield talent we should try a 3-5-2 formation. Once Vrsaljko is back. We just need someone with Robert Jarni speed at the back.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Why on earth are we calling up a guy like Mile Skoric? I would of rather went with Toni Borevkovic.

  24. Crotown says:

    Good point Slavonac- hard for Croatia to play defense like Italy- I get that – i just don’t see another option-

    As for comments about it’s only League of Nations- I must be a lot older than most on this site- I remember 90 to 98 when we were starting – every game was personal and every challenge was war for our guys- it’s like it doesn’t matter to put Croatian uniform on and play our best every game and all out- I’m sad to say I see it now but it doesnt mean our players should never forget that- sorry for the history but it’s really important for Croatian to remember if your younger – I know Ante and the boys really have such good hearts to bring this key part into the discussion from time to time

  25. Slavonac from Canada says:

    Crotown, I’m the same as you…put on the jersey and its the grb takes over!

  26. Maminjo says:

    Crotown,

    Re: your comment..
    “Our backends can’t execute and that causes chasing from midfield and forwards”

    This was always the case with players like Vida back there (yet we still managed to get to a Final with them).
    This is why I am so eager to get CBs who can actually make a nice pass (both short and long), are comfortable technically with the ball (even under pressure), and can also join the attack. Both Pongracic and Caleta-Car look like they have these skillsets, but we will only know if guys like this can deliver come tournament time.
    Caleta-Car has looked pretty solid. We need to see what Ponyboy can do when he’s 100 percent.

    Again, I think our guys were chasing and struggling at UNL due to being undermanned in positions of critical need.

    We had zero flank support.
    I hate to say it, but only Melnjak provided runs on the flank from our back four. If Melnjak is your only player capable of playing like this, then you’re in trouble. At least a guy like Strinic provided runs up the flank at the World Cup, and although most were unsuccessful, it still gave us those overlapping runs in conjunction with our wingers.

    We had zero defensive midfield support in front of our CBs.
    Honestly, I am surprised how poorly Kovacic did these past several games. I knew Pasalic was a fish out of water there, but it’s sad to see that he’s not at all adaptable in the central midfield. Badelj has dropped off a lot too.

    We really need to tap our U21s for depth, because we literally have nobody to play the pivot in place of Modric and Brozovic if either of them miss a game (thanks to Rakitic’s retirement).
    Toma Basic, Nikola Moro, and Kristijan Bistrovic need to be tested there to confirm we at least have some depth. Kovacic and Badelj cannot be relied on there anymore.

    We don’t have to play like Italy.
    I agree with Slavonac that we would lose badly if we tried.

    We just need flank support from the fullbacks, midfielders who are defensively capable in the pivot, and (as an added bonus) hopefully get some CBs with actual technical ability to contribute to the offence.

    I think starting Vrsaljko and Bradaric solves the first issue, starting Modric and Brozovic solves the second, and starting Caleta-Car partially solves the third.

    If these key starters are healthy, then I would definitely not be writing us off this summer.

  27. BEĆAR says:

    @Maminjo

    Please stop calling Pongračić Ponyboy.
    Bistrovic has potential, but he’s usually a last minute sub in Russia. He needs more playing time.
    Moro also doesn’t get anything resembling steady minutes.
    Bašić is our best bet in the short term. He plays a lot.
    Krovinovic is finally back in the EPL and playing regularly. He’s worth a look.
    I don’t mind Rog. He’s got great lungs and can be useful in emergency/specific situations. He plays a lot in Italy.

  28. Crotown says:

    Maminjo- you make lots of sense – not alot of time and some of these kids will have to step up – especially the 4 dmen- I hope one or two take a step or two-maybe against Portugal- ajmo decki

  29. ARMADA87 says:

    This recent form isn’t reason for us to all lose our shit.

    But… it’s not like we’re barely getting beat. Teams in our ‘weight class’ are taking us to the cleaners and we have holes across our squad and things to figure out.

    Not sure it has to be one extreme (sky is falling) or another extreme (don’t worry we’re fine). These UNL games and friendlies told us some things … we need to make adjustments.

  30. Maminjo says:

    Bećar…

    Moro does play first team football. He came off the bench in his first few games, but since then (for the most part) he’s been starting. He’s also our best player on our U21s, and plays that position of need for us. He’s definitely worth a senior callup.

    I agree that Toma Bašić deserves a look first, but I don’t think there is much point in continuing to test guys like Badelj, Rog, Pašalić and Kovačić in that role anymore. None of them are cutting it. Modrić and Broz are guaranteed starters for the full 90 in each position, but we still need to try out the rest of these guys in case (God forbid) one of them is injured or suspended.

    … And Ponyboy stays.

  31. BZ says:

    @Maminjo-You gotta stop with the lame nicknames. Ever since we’ve been starting Ping Pongracic we’ve been letting in goals quicker than a Table Tennis game.

  32. Anonymous says:

    “We lost nail-biters to Brazil and Portugal in 2014 and 2016. Not blowouts—highly competitive matches”

    We got blown out by Mexico in 2014

  33. Suba says:

    Jutarnji list has confirmed that the coaching staff does not have a defensive coach on board

    WTF

    That needs to be rectified immediately

  34. Mali Ante says:

    @ svima
    Our current lack of depth has killed us lately. Injuries have been the main reason why we haven’t been able to play our pressing style and have been forced to play some players out of position in an effort to have more talent on the field. I think that’s been Dalic’s biggest problem.
    He’s tried different styles to tailor the players left but nothing has worked. Once we get these players back it will be a completely different team. The players that have needed to step up haven’t ie Kova

    I know Petkovic has had issues but he fits that Mandza spot with better technical ability albeit with a lower work rate. Either way it’s worked and he’s been producing for us.

    I agree with Maminjo – our back line needs to overhauled and fast. Having Pongracic get time has been good to see. Having Caleta Car play has been encouraging. We missed Brozo horribly last game. We need him and without someone to protect the D and let Luka play his game we suffer.

    I’m really not looking forward to tomorrow’s game. No Brozo, playing with no Caleta Car or decent backs will be bit nightmarish. I’m just happy it’s a somewhat meaningless game. (Maybe being relegated to the B league will
    wake up some players)
    We need Bradaric to play LB as he can hang with some of the quick Portuguese wingers. Otherwise this will be worse than the first game.
    On a side note….did someone say Skoric got called up? This is exactly what I mean when I say we really don’t have depth that can play now!

  35. gbvh says:

    Pic of former Real teammates in Split, Kovacic, Ronaldo, Modric . . …..

    https://www.marca.com/en/football/real-madrid/2020/11/16/5fb3018646163f770c8b4568.html

  36. Soul Champ says:

    Our players are better than our coaches.

    Each one you try to be positive.

    But the reality is that they are all scrubs with little international experience and even less innovation.

    Players need a coach to compete at the highest level.

    Dalic had a great run with the best player in the world and an elite veteran core.

    Now you have to earn your pay check.

    Can’t produce a result away to Sweden?

    Curious to see what the result is tomorrow?

    You’re damn right your job is in question.

  37. Anonymous says:

    These games are test runs…
    So you learn what does and doesn’t work and try to fine tune the machine with different parts/players. When the tournament comes and we have a healthy complete squad ready we should do well. It’s easy to say fire Dalic after we lose a meaningless game with a random squad but like Ante said relax and wait for the final team to come together and we should be competitive and play solid for Euro 2021

  38. Poglavnik says:

    Shit’s gone stale and we leak goals at an unacceptable rate. Our home is our fortress whether its Maksimir or Poljud. If we lose by more than 1 today I’d sack Dalic by the next morning. Some of you eternal optimists are nuts..

  39. Poglavnik says:

    We need a system so that when our team has to plug in players its a smoother transition. We don’t have anything that resembles that. Dalic seems lost. And now he’s daring them to can him?! Dont worry Zlatko, it’s coming.

  40. Crotown says:

    Poglavnik- well said- now we have a coach challenging HNS to fire him- this guy has some nerve- he actually thinks he was the reason we made it to World Cup final- he was only a piece of it – I totally agree with Poglavnik

  41. Stipe says:

    Today was ridiculous. I’ve been saying since Spain bent us over and beat us 6-0. We are lucky to have seen our repka in a World Cup Final. Then all our heads blew up.

    We are not as good as we think we are. Since the World Cup, everyone else knows it as well.

    Facts is facts. That’s that



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