Squad profiles: Croatia
We profile the players who will represent Croatia at Euro 2012.
Stipe Pletikosa (FC Rostov). Goalkeeper. Born 8.1.79. Caps 91. Showed patchy form in Croatia's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign but was able to stay the first-choice goalkeeper due to the inconsistent form of the other two. Known as a good penalty taker and scored five spot-kicks with his first club Hajduk Split, where he won a league title and two national cups. Enjoyed an outstanding Euro 2008 where Croatia reached the quarter-finals before he suffered a dramatic dip in form during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. An excellent shot stopper but struggles with crosses.
Danijel Subasic (Monaco). Goalkeeper. Born 27.10.84. Caps 4. Made his debut in a 5-0 friendly win over Lichtenstein in 2009 but has not made a competitive appearance yet despite Pletikosa's inconsistent international form in recent years. Enjoyed three good seasons with Hajduk Split and helped them to the Croatian Cup in 2012 before he joined his present club, struggling in the French second division, in January 2012.
Ivan Kelava (Dinamo Zagreb). Goalkeeper. Born 20.2.88. Caps 0. Shone in his club's 1-0 defeat by Real Madrid in their opening Champions League match this season. Having started as a nine-year old at Dinamo, he made an impact after returning from a one-year loan at neighbours Lokomotiva in 2010. He won 50 caps for Croatia at various youth levels and is seen as a long-term replacement for Pletikosa in the near future.
Josip Simunic (Hertha Berlin). Defender. Born 18.2.78. Caps 95. Goals 3. The Australian-born stopper is nearing the end of his illustrious career but is still an automatic starter due his versatility, composure and remarkable ball skills for a towering defender. Losing several yards of pace since his debut in 2001 means he can no longer effectively play as a left back but his vast experience and aerial prowess make him a natural first-choice central defender. He was at the centre of Graham Poll's famous World Cup 2006 error, when the English referee failed to send him off for a second yellow card. Simunic, however, was eventually dismissed after being booked for the third time in the match.
Vedran Corluka (Tottenham Hotspur). Defender. Born 5.2.86. Caps 54. Goals 3. Having moved to the Premier League at the age 21 when he joined Manchester City, the versatile defender who can be moved across the back four peaked at Tottenham before he was loaned to German side Bayer Leverkusen in January 2012. Having played in his natural positions of right back and centre back for Croatia, Corluka has most recently switched to left back due to the team's lack of options in that position. Like Simunic, he has excellent vision and very good ball skills for a tall defender. He likes to come forward for set pieces and scored one of Croatia's goals in their crunch 3-0 qualifying win in Turkey.
Domagoj Vida (Dinamo Zagreb). Defender. Born 29.4.89. Caps 10. Goals 0. Able to play either as right back or centre back, Vida made his debut as a substitute when Croatia held France to a goalless draw in a friendly in Paris. He has excelled since and started both legs of their 3-0 aggregate win over Turkey in the Euro 2012 playoffs. Known for his tough tackling and combative approach, Vida has added steel and vigour to an ageing Croatian defence lacking depth.
Gordon Schildenfeld (Eintracht Frankfurt). Defender. Born 18.3.85. Caps 12. Goals 0. The much-travelled centre back seems to have settled at his present club in the German second division, where sound performances have earned him a spot in Croatia's first team more or less throughout their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Having struggled to establish himself at four clubs since he left Dinamo in 2008 before he found his feet at Frankfurt, Schildenfeld looks set to retain his position in the national team's back four where the Croatians do not have too many options.
Ivan Strinic (Dnipro Dnipopetrovsk). Defender. Born 17.7.87. Caps 17. Goals 0. The left back broke into the squad after Croatia's failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and he is seen as a long-term solution to the team's problems in his slot, if he can establish himself in the first XI. Played the full 90 minutes in Croatia's last four Euro 2012 group qualifiers but was left out of the 3-0 aggregate win over Turkey in the two-legged play-off.
Jurica Buljat (Maccabi Haifa). Defender. Born 12.9.1986. Caps 2. Goals 0. A surprise inclusion in the Euro 2012 squad at the expense of striker Nikola Kalinic, who was called up anyway after Ivica Olic was injured. Buljat squeezed into the squad after a good season at his Israeli club and is likely to be used as cover for the other three centre-backs who are ahead of him in the pecking order. Lack of options at the back forced Bilic to give up a striker in order to reinforce his thin defence and Buljat was the obvious choice.
Sime Vrsaljko (Dinamo Zagreb). Defender. Born 10.01.1992. Caps 4. Goals 0. A late call-up as a replacement for injured midfielder Ivo Ilicevic, the young right-back is unlikely to see much action as Croatia are very strong in his position. Vrsaljko made his international debut in February of last year, coming off the bench for the last nine minutes of a friendly against Czech Republic. Only one of his four caps has been in a competitive game, when he played the full 90 minutes of a qualifying match in Malta last September.
Danijel Pranjic (Bayern Munich). Midfielder. Born 2.12.81. Caps 43. Goals 0. Lost his place in Croatia's starting line up after he also went down the pecking order at Bayern Munich, where he arrived in 2009 after four impressive seasons at Dutch side Hereenveen. Pranjic was voted the Dutch league's second best player in 2008 but struggled to establish himself at Bayern and was dropped to the second team this season. Better coming forward than he is at defending, hence he started as a left-sided midfielder before Croatia's coach Slaven Bilic temporarily moved him into the full back position.
Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk). Midfielder. Born 1.5.82. Caps 91. Goals 19. Croatia's captain and most influential player in the decade has been instrumental in their recent accomplishments. Completely comfortable as a right-sided midfielder, Srna also thrives in the right back position nowadays having won five Ukrainian league titles, three national cups and the 2009 UEFA Cup with Shakhtar. He is lethal from set pieces, has excellent vision and is still able to make darting runs down the right flank to supply telling crosses.
Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla). Midfielder. Born 10.3.88. Caps 41. Goals 8. The Swiss-born playmaker can play on either flank and as a central midfielder but has not yet fully lived up to his huge potential after winning his first international cap in 2007 against Estonia, becoming the youngest Croatian player to make a competitive debut. A crafty dribbler with quick feet and an eye for goal, Rakitic is a handful for any defence on his day. While at his previous club Schalke, he was temporarily dropped from the first team after he was caught in a late night partying stint with Serbian team-mate Mladen Krstajic.
Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham Hotspur). Midfielder. Born 13.8.84. Caps 71. Goals 15. The attacking midfielder is one of Croatia's most experienced players and a regular starter although he has failed to hold down a spot at Tottenham. Excellent vision, crisp passing and a sweet right foot from set pieces are traits that brought him to the Premier League but lacks pace and agility. He drew the wrath of Dinamo Zagreb fans when he moved to traditional Croatian rivals Hajduk Split in 2006 before he joined Portsmouth the following year. He was instrumental in Croatia's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign as the team's top scorer with four goals.
Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev). Midfielder. Born 20.12.83. Caps 39. Goals 4. A talented defensive midfielder with an eye for goal has been irreplaceable for his club since he joined them from Dinamo Zagreb in 2008. But he is no longer an automatic starter for Croatia, where he has to compete with Tomislav Dujmovic and Milan Badelj for a spot in the first eleven. Vukojevic is always eager to test goalkeepers from long range but his defending leaves something to be desired against top-level opposition.
Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur). Midfielder. Born 9.9.85. Caps 54. Goals 8. Modric has become the driving force of Tottenham's engine room after joining them from Dinamo Zagreb in 2008, forcing manager Harry Redknapp to turn down lucrative offers from wealthier rivals in England and Europe. Croatia's bid to reach the last eight depends heavily on his tireless work rate, incisive runs and passing. Modric is a central midfielder of the highest quality, a linchpin holding all departments together and his eye for goal is also a valuable asset.
Tomislav Dujmovic (Dynamo Moscow). Midfielder. Born 26.2.81. Caps 18. Goals 0. Loaned to Spanish club Zaragoza in January and although he has made only two league appearances for them, has been able to break into Croatia's team after impressing as a substitute in their 2-1 home win over Georgia. Dujmovic has guile and pace but like Vukojevic, defending is not one of his virtues.
Ivan Perisic (Borussia Dortmund). Midfielder. Born 2.2.89. Caps 10. Goals 0. The young and talented attacking midfielder drew attention with several good performances for the German champions, notably a stunning last-minute equaliser against Arsenal in their Champions League group stage clash in Dortmund earlier this season. Showed his talent with two goals in a 2-2 against Serbia in an Under-21 Euro qualifier in 2010 but tough competition at Dortmund have limited his appearances for both club and country. Used mainly as a substitute in Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Milan Badelj (Dinamo Zagreb). Midfielder. Born 25.3.89. Caps 4. Goals 1. The versatile central midfielder is likely to be used as cover for either Modric or one of the two defensive midfielders, Vukojevic and Dujmovic. Badelj's rapid rise to prominence in the Croatian league is epitomised by his impressive record of 30 goals in 164 appearances for Dinamo and although he suffered from poor form in the latter stages of last season, a good performance in Croatia's 3-1 friendly win over Estonia cemented his place in the squad.
Nikola Kalinic (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk) Born: 5.1.88 Caps: 13 Goals: 5. Talented but temperamental striker, who is yet to live up to his potential after breaking on to the scene as a youngster with 26 goals in 36 games for Hajduk Split in the 2007-08 season. Struggled in two seasons at Blackburn Rovers before leaving the Premier League for the Ukrainian first division where he scored nine goals in 12 outings. Sent off for elbowing two minutes after scoring on his debut for Dnipro in a 3-1 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk. Mainly a substitute in the qualifiers but drafted into the Euros squad as a late replacement for injured Ivica Olic.
Eduardo da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk). Forward. Born 25.2.83. Caps 47. Goals 23. Missed Euro 2008 with a horrific multiple shin and ankle fracture which nearly ended his career at its peak in February that year, when he looked poised to become a regular starter at Arsenal. Following a 12-month rehabilitation period, he moved to Shakhtar in 2010 and helped them to last season's domestic league and cup double. Although he has not been quite the same player since the injury, the Brazilian-born forward who moved to Croatia in 1999 as a 16-year old is still an immensely talented opportunist striker with a perfect awareness for goal.
Nikica Jelavic (Everton). Forward. Born 27.8.85. Caps 19. Goals 2. After two years at Rapid Vienna, Jelavic enjoyed an excellent season at Rangers and his fine from generated a move to Everton in January 2012. Although he has been less impressive for Croatia, a flurry of goals for Everton in the closing stages of last season's Premier League propelled him in to the position of the most likely first-choice striker for the national team. Jelavic, strong and mobile on and off the ball, is the prototype of a modern striker as his physical ability goes hand in hand with his close control and lethal finishing with both feet from all positions. He has completely transformed Everton, who had craved a forward of his talent and variety for some time.
Mario Mandzukic (Wfl Wolfsburg). Forward. Born 21.5.86. Caps 29. Goals 5. The tall and robust striker also has pace and good close control, making him a valuable asset in Croatia's 23-man squad. Having scored 42 goals in 81 games for former club Dinamo Zagreb, Mandzukic moved to the Bundesliga in 2010 and has established himself as a regular starter at Wolfsburg. He won the Croatian league 2009 Player of the Year award and scored one of the goals in his country's 3-0 aggregate win over Turkey in their Euro 2012 play-off. Cannot take a spot in Bilic's starting XI for granted but could be one of the players to watch out for in the tournament if he hits top form.