Dado Prso of Croatia: 'We will come first in our group. We can be the surprise package'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Dado Prso is persona non grata in England. Not content with having turned down a move to the Premiership with Bolton Wanderers in preference for the Scottish Premier League runners-up Rangers, the Croatian striker was also one of the chief tormentors during Monaco's Champions' League semi-final victory over Chelsea.

Dado Prso is persona non grata in England. Not content with having turned down a move to the Premiership with Bolton Wanderers in preference for the Scottish Premier League runners-up Rangers, the Croatian striker was also one of the chief tormentors during Monaco's Champions' League semi-final victory over Chelsea.

Whatever next? "All I need now is a match-winning performance against England at the Euro," he jokes. "That would complete my hat-trick against you, wouldn't it?" Prso may be jesting, but do not bet against him creating a major problem for David Beckham's men on 21 June.

Prso scored the opening goal against Chelsea in Monte Carlo, a wonderful looping header that left Marco Ambrosio totally stranded, thus adding to the unprecedented quartet he netted in 24 crazy minutes against Deportivo in the group stages. He has also slotted in well at international level, and has one strike in four appearances. No wonder he is confident. "We will finish first in our group and at least third in the championship," he says boldly. "We are not going to Portugal just to act as the team that might snatch a draw against the big guns. We can be the surprise package. I honestly believe that."

In order for Croatia to fulfil Prso's lofty ambitions, Otto Baric's troops will presumably have to win at least two of their matches. "Yes, I know," he sighs, "that means we have to beat England or France, but I think that is achievable." So, which of the two favourites to win Group B does Prso believe will lose to Croatia? "Well, both are rated as better than us," he says. "But, if I'm being totally honest, I really don't fancy our chances against France."

The 29-year-old adds: "In fact, I wanted any team in our group apart from the French. The Czechs, the Swedes, whoever... but why did it have to be Les Bleus? France are packed with fantastic players and they will be very difficult for any team to beat."

Having spent eight years at Monaco, Prso has first-hand experience of French football. He feels their national side "are strong at the back, creative in the middle and then have the best player in the world up front. England have some great individuals, but when you have Thierry Henry in your team, what more could you possibly ask for?"

One wonders why he believes that this Croatian team - even without Henry - are so well equipped to take Portugal by storm. "I think we have a good mix of old and young players," says Prso, who helped his country defeat Slovenia in the play-offs last November, "and we feel more settled as a unit. Most of all, though, we are very hungry to start doing well in major tournaments again."

It has been a long time since Croatia made an impact on a big stage. After their quarter-final at Euro '96 in England, the great generation of Davor Suker, Alen Boksic and Slaven Bilic went one better six years ago with a World Cup semi-final at France '98. Prso watched Miroslav Blazevic's team lead that match until the French defender Lilian Thuram scored both of the only two goals he netted for his country. "An unbelievable, freaky game," Prso recalls.

Since then there has been nothing to cheer. "We missed out on that World Cup final and that really broke our spirit," he says. "For some reason, we lost our way and then didn't even qualify for the last Euro. That means my generation's hunger has been building for a long, long time. We are desperate to get our teeth into the big teams."

Comments