All or nothing for Croatians

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The Independent Online
Given the circumstances of Croatia's recent emergence from the former Yugoslavia, it was perhaps unfortunate that their captain, Zvonimir Boban, should have chosen to liken the team to a bomb. Neverthless, their 15 rivals will know only too well what he meant.

Croatia may be a new nation, but the team's qualification ahead of Italy advertised their strength. Only their ability to stand the rigours of tournament finals is in question.

"We are like a bomb in this championship," Boban said yesterday from the team's base in Rutland Water. "We could go out in the first round or we could win it. I'm certain all the teams are motivated but we're from a country that's been through great suffering for four years.

"We have great players individually, but more than anything else we are great friends. It's like having a 12th player. I've played for a number of clubs but I've never experienced a team spirit to compare with ours."

Several of the squad are said to be keen to join Slaven Bilic and Igor Stimac at English clubs, although the likes of Milan's Boban and Davor Suker, who will join Real Madrid after the tournament, have already made it to the big time.

The French forward Christophe Dugarry has made his move already. He confirmed over the weekend that he will be joining Boban at the Italian champions next season. Dugarry, who helped Bordeaux to reach the Uefa Cup final, said he had agreed a three-year contract.

Transferring between European Union countries presents no problems to a player, but that is certainly not the case for outsiders, as Sheffield Wednesday have discovered. They are preparing to appeal against the refusal of their application for a work permit for the Yugoslavian international defender Dejan Stefanovic for next season.

Signed for pounds 2m from Red Star Belgrade, he made only seven appearances last season, which is too few to satisfy the demands of the Department for Education and Employment, which requires a player to take part in 75 per cent of available games for a player's permit to be renewed.

Stefanovic's fellow Yugoslavian international, the midfield player Darko Kovacevic, who cost Wednesday pounds 2.5m from Red Star, made 21 appearances and has been granted a new permit. Wednesday's manager, David Pleat will base his appeal on Stefanovic's age - 21 - and his problems settling down in England.

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