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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

"Ice-Man" Nikica Jelavić Keeping Form With Everton

Well, I sort of promised to myself that I was going to stay clear of soccer related posts for a while, at least until the start of the 2012 European Football Championships that is just weeks away, but the name of Nikica Jelavić has been popping up all over the place lately. Even when searching for a totally unrelated topic, so here goes.

Nikica Jelavić just recently signed with Everton in the English Premeir League, and has been continuing his stellar performance since leaving Rangers F.C. in the Scottish Premeir League. Lately he's even been taking away the limelight and soccer article space from more well known International Croatian footballers like Darijo Srna, Niko Kranjcar, Ivica Olic and others, surprisingly even Luka Modric. In part because of his uncanny ability to score "one-touch" goals. He's already kicked in 10 goals in 10 starts with Everton.

"The Ice-man" is the nickname he's  received in media and soccer circles. (I like that one, very cool).  His recent goal scoring success with Everton may be just what the Croatian National Team may need, as Dejan Lovren is questionable because of injuries, and even Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka are rumoured to possibly miss out because of a knee and foot injury respectively. Anyway, if he keeps up his football scoring and playing abilities, stays healthy, he's probably going to have a long goal scoring career. I just may get a Nikica Jelavić Everton football jersey down the road. Heck, I may even start another soccer jersey collection at that.  Below is just a recent article I quickly picked at random....

*Update May 6 - Great news for Nikica and hopefully the Croatian National Team as he won 'Premeir League Player of the Month.  Full story:

Related blog posts: croatian-euro2012-soccer-jerseys-getem




One-touch Jelavic too good for Bilic to keep out of Croatia team

Everton's Nikica Jelavic celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game during the Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Today, against Fulham, the 26-year-old Croat will be hoping to score in his fourth consecutive game for the club. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire



SIX WEEKS tomorrow, in the Municipal stadium in Poznan, Croatia’s footballers will take to the field for their opening Euro 2012 Group C match, against Ireland. At centre forward there will probably be a man who has only ever scored twice for his country, a statistic that should boost Irish hopes but which feels increasingly misleading.

Nikica Jelavic is still to be feared regardless of his international tally. At club level, Jelavic is sprinting into form at just the wrong time for Ireland.

It is why Giovanni Trapattoni must be hoping Richard Dunne’s recovery from his broken collarbone moves up through the gears between now and then.

There is a chance Dunne will be back today for Aston Villa at West Bromwich Albion. He has responsibility to shoulder at Villa before the summer.

Jelavic, meanwhile, will be at Dunne’s old home, Goodison Park. There, against Fulham, the 26-year-old Croat will be hoping to score in his fourth consecutive Everton game, to add to the eight goals he has already rattled in for David Moyes since his January move south from Rangers.

Jelavic, previously on the fringes of Slaven Bilic’s Croatia starting XI, is making a serious case for inclusion on June 10th.

His two goals against Manchester United at Old Trafford last Sunday revealed a player with natural talent in a moment of surging confidence.

The goals were good enough to help change the trajectory of the Premier League title race.

It took Jelavic’s tally at Everton to eight goals in 12 appearances. In three of the first four of those he was a substitute. It followed the 17 he had already scored for Rangers this season. In total at Ibrox, Jelavic got 36 goals in 49 starts.

Moyes, not a man for hype, is prepared to accept comparisons with Davor Suker. Phil Neville is talking of him in the same sentence as Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Mark Lawrenson noted this week’s research in the Liverpool Echo that showed Jelavic’s last 27 goals have been scored with one touch of the ball.

That’s what you call a pattern.

“He’s now completely ensconced in the team and playing with great confidence,” said Lawrenson.

“Every time he gets the ball facing goal, it looks as though something could happen. His two goals at Old Trafford were taken first time, meaning 41 of his last 44 goals have now been scored with one touch.

“That tells you he has a great body position. When the ball comes in to him, Jelavic sets himself in such a way that even if there is a slight deviation, his reaction remains instinctive.

“That’s great news for his team-mates, who know they can fire the ball at him in more or less any way and Jelavic will be able to deliver an effort on target.

“His movement is excellent and that’s not something you can teach, it’s natural. He might not even need half a yard of space to get a shot away, and he also works extremely hard.

“Jelavic’s first goal against United was brilliant. It was a postage stamp job, the only place he could put it, and he had to get the height on it to get the ball over David de Gea and then back down again.”

If that is one glorious, decisive aspect of Jelavic’s play, then Moyes paid heed to another: “He sees scoring goals as his main job but he is a real presence at centre forward as well and links up play; he’s adapted really well and made a big difference to us.”

Jelavic’s new team-mates are impressed, he has given them something they needed.

“He’s got ice running through his veins,” said Neville. “He missed a sitter against Swansea and scored the next one. He missed one at Sunderland, then he slotted one. He doesn’t throw his hands around and get upset. It’s just like he’s playing with his kids in the park. He isn’t bothered about interviews, he just wants to play football and go home. He’s got the mentality of a Van Nistelrooy or an Alan Shearer – an out-and-out selfish striker.”

It is an avalanche of praise from people who would not have thought about Jelavic had he stayed at Rangers. He would have remained the former Hadjuk Split striker who played in Belgium and Austria and scored goals in Scotland. He would, quite possibly, have remained on the fringe of Bilic’s plans.

After all, in Croatia’s last major game, the first leg of the European Championship play-off in Turkey in November, Jelavic was a substitute. He was introduced in the 85th minute for 32-year-old Ivica Olic.

Olic, who was on the Bayern Munich bench at Real Madrid on Wednesday night, had opened the scoring in the second minute against Turkey. It was 3-0 six minutes after half-time.

Even with the second leg looking a formality, Jelavic was again a sub. This time he came on in the 75th minute for Mario Mandzukic of Wolfsburg. In all, Jelavic appeared in nine of the 10 qualifiers. Only in three of those did he play for more than a half. He scored no goals.

Six months on, Jelavic has changed how people think of him. He is outstripping Luka Modric in terms of popularity at home and it is said he took half his Herzegovinan village to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final.

Debut man: Everton's Nikica Jelavic celebrates after scoring against Tottenham Photo: ACTION IMAGES.

Former Croatia great, Alen Boksic, said recently: “Jelavic is a top player and he must play in the first XI with Eduardo or Olic.”

Bilic will decide. Croatia’s manager once played for Everton and Hadjuk Split. He knows Jelavic well.

“I’ve known Nikica since he was a child and I watched Everton a lot, even before he came, and always imagined he’d suit them perfectly,” said Bilic. “I’ve always been quite sure about Nikica.

“He can hold the ball up, he’s just perfect for Everton’s style. You need a bit of luck at the start, which he got, and now his confidence is sky high. He never panics, he’s such a cool finisher. It doesn’t surprise me how well he’s doing.”

Well, it must surprise him a bit. Otherwise Jelavic would surely have been in the Croatia starting XI more often. If he maintains this form then Bilic would be brave, or something else, to omit him.

Then again, maybe Bilic knew this was coming. As he said: “I’m expecting Nikica to improve even more. He has no limits. His best years are still to come.”

The FAI will await bulletins from Villa on Dunne, but also from Goodison Park. If they hear Everton have scored with a one-touch finish . . .

Some scoring hightlights from his time with Glascow Rangers

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