May 20, 2016

    Croatia need to pass Spanish test to advance


    CROATIA existed briefly as a football entity between 1940 and 1944 before becoming a part of Yugoslavia. After the communist state crumbled, Croatia joined Uefa and Fifa in 1993.

    Three years later, the Croats made their international tournament debut at Euro 1996 and two years on stunned the football world by finishing third at the 1998 World Cup in France.

    Davor Suker, now the Croatia football federation president, finished as the tournament's top scorer.

    Now, Croatia have great expectations of the current crop at Euro 2016 - if the fans can get behind Ante Cacic's side instead of living up to their reputation for causing trouble.

    Cacic on Monday named a provisional 27-man squad, featuring the likes of Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid's Luka Modric but minus Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren.

    At Euro 2016, Croatia face the Czech Republic, Turkey and Spain in what should be a tightly-contested Group D.

    Their June 21 clash with defending European champions Spain is expected to hold the key to progress to the last-16 knockout round.

    If Croatia make an impact in France, it will come in spite of fans' initial resistance to the appointment of Cacic, who ran a television and radio repair shop for 13 years up to 1991 in one of Zagreb's busiest shopping thoroughfares.

    But Cacic, also a one-time coffee shop owner, admits he is now more up to speed coaching football than repairing TV sets.

    Asked if he could repair a TV set now, he replied smiling: "No chance! I would not know how to open it.

    "It's a different world."