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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Croatia Beats Serbia 2:0 In Important World Cup Qualifying Match In Zagreb


Not much more to add here, Croatia won an important must-win match in front of a home crowd in Zagreb on Friday night.  The tickets for this match were sold out within a couple of hours when they first went on sale and downtown Zagreb, as well as other cities across Croatia were glued in front of large screens and televisions watching this one. Some of the lucky ones in attendance traveled from across the pond, some came from Australia and other places in Europe. Quite a few came in from other parts of Croatia. This is the first time that Croatia played as an independent nation against Serbia in a FIFA competition, so the excitement started early in the day, hours before the teams even took to the field, reminiscent of last years European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. They put a photo on the scoreboard in memory of Nora Šitum, the 5 year old girl who unexpectedly passed away just days ago during her cancer treatment in the U.S. (More on that HERE and HERE)

Not much time to enjoy this one though, Wales is next already on Tuesday and that is a must-win too, Croatia will need all 3 points to stay with Belgium at the top of their group. The 2nd match with Belgium on October 11th is probably the one that will decide who finishes at the top of the group and automatically go to the World Cup, and who will then go to the playoff round..  I put a few pics below this post with scenes from Zagreb, Split, Osijek, Zadar, Bjelovar, Rijeka, Pula and Slavonski Brod from throughout the day and in no particular order.  Other towns and cities across Croatia on the day of the match had similar scenes taking place. The downtown of the capital city Zagreb was transformed into a sea of Croatia soccer jerseys at times, it was pretty intense in Osijek too, as some of these fans had been waiting years for this match, they also included their downtown fountain as part of the celebration activities as well.  People of all ages got together this day to cheer on the national team. (It's kind of interesting and cool that the scenes in downtown Zagreb especially are of mainly the younger crowd and teenagers celebrating. It's kind of neat because Croatia is the only country they have ever known or lived in, as in a whole generation that have been lucky enough to have only known an independent Croatia. Interesting sidenote fact)  Anyway, more information and match/fan images at the following links......


Croatia vs Serbia, 2014 World Cup qualifying: Final score 2-0 as Croatia win easily

The matches starting line-up. Image:



The expected tensions between Croatia and Serbia took a back seat to the play of the hosts, as Croatia dominated throughout the match. With such hapless play, Serbia's dreams of qualifying for Brazil may well have ended.

Croatia and Serbia met for the first time as independent countries on Friday, playing their World Cup qualifying match in front of an entirely Croatian crowd in Zagreb. The players managed to keep their attention focused on the match, refusing to let any tensions bubble over. But the result was just as expected: Croatia dominated throughout, and even when Serbia managed to take possession, they were unable to make it count.

The first half started off badly for the Serbs and just kept getting worse. Croatia pressured right from the start, while Serbia sat back and attempted to hit them on the counter, except the visitors just couldn't get the hang of the actual "counter" part of that strategy. Croatia effectively shut them down in the rare times Serbia came anywhere near the final third, before turning and applying the pressure once again. Luka Modric was everywhere, pulling the midfield strings, orchestrating chances and generally making the Serbian players regret making the trip.

The Croatian National Anthem before the match.

Croatia had their first goal before they'd reached the half hour mark. A free kick from Serbia collided with Mario Mandzukic, allowing Ivan Rakitic to take possession. The midfielder sent the ball along to Ivica Olic, whose run toward goal pulled Neven Subotic away from Mandzukic. Olic cut over and Mandzukic had an easy tap in.

Croatia's second was also the result of a comedy of errors by the Serbian defense. Croatia earned a free kick in what wouldn't normally be termed a "dangerous position", but the beautiful ball in from Darijo Srna turned dangerous very quickly. Zeljko Brkic couldn't push the ball far enough away, and Olic easily slipped around Branislav Ivanovic to chest the ball into goal.

Surprisingly, it was Serbia who created the first good chance of the second half. Aleksandar Kolarov sent in a shot from distance, startling Stipe Pletikosa into consciousness and forcing him to push the ball away. The ball fell to Filip Djordjevic, who came on for Marko Scepovic in the 10th minute. Perhaps if Sinisa Mihajlovic had someone better available off the bench, Serbia would have made the match more interesting. As it was, Djordjevic missed an open net and Serbia's hopes fell even lower.

Croatia were back into it by the 60th minute, sending in shot after shot, none of which Brkic was able to confidently deal with. Fortunately for Serbia's pride, the defense seemed to have remembered how to play, and managed to beat back each attempt.

Match high lights.

More than that, though, was the fact that the Serbs finally realized that they needed to attack if they were going to make it to Brazil in 2014. Unfortunately, they forgot to bring anyone who could manage to send in a decent free kick along to Zagreb. Even as Croatia started to give away silly fouls, Serbia were unable to capitalize, with their kicks hitting the wall or being easily batted away by the Croatian defense. It started to appear as though, even if the entire Croatian team walked off the pitch, Serbia still wouldn't be able to score. With just a bit more than ten minutes to go, it seemed that Serbia would finally get a goal. Dusan Tadic, in for Alan Stevanovic, sent in a great, sharp shot that Pletikosa had difficulty keeping under control. But again, the ball fell for Djordjevic, who was only able to send it straight back to the keeper. After that, the visitors seemed even more hapless, perhaps realizing they wouldn't even come close to getting anything from the match. After such a display, it's hard to believe Serbia will even score again in World Cup qualifying, much less find themselves on a plane to Brazil.

 For those not lucky enough to get tickets it was still a festive atmosphere. It was bound to be zany in downtown Zagreb's Ban Jelačić Square while watching the game on the big screen, I can just imagine the pubs and bars on that Friday night.

Related photo gallery:

Dang, this pic belongs at another post about Serbs celebrating in ethnically cleansed and occupied Croatia in 1992 with a UN peacekeeper, not at this soccer post. Just disregard and continue on.

1 comment :

cj elder said...

Filthy Niggers and wog's whores should be beaten to death and burned and don't get me started on filthy kike jews.

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