Croatia draw on past glories for Italy test


While they are looking ahead to tomorrow's match against Italy, Croatia's players are also looking back to 1994.

Since gaining independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Croatia have never lost against Italy, beating the four-time world champions three times and drawing twice.

It is one match in Palermo nearly 20 years ago that is giving the Croats particular inspiration for the match in Poznan. In November 1994, a Croatia team led by Davor Suker, Alen Boksic and Zvonimir Boban beat the then World Cup runners-up 2-1 in qualifying for Euro 96.

"It's the first victory where Croatia beat such a big side, and it was a big celebration in Croatia because it was unexpected," the Croatia defender Vedran Corluka said yesterday. "And from that moment, Croatia started to play very good football until now."

Croatia built on that success and qualified for Euro 96, reaching the quarter-finals. Two years later, the team did even better, reaching the semi-finals at the World Cup in France.

The Croatia coach, Slaven Bilic, remembers that night against Italy as a decisive moment in the country's emergence as an independent footballing nation.

"We were so hungry, we couldn't wait for the world or Europe to recognize us as Croatia – not as Boban, Suker, Boksic, but as Croatia," said Bilic, who was a defender in that team. "That was the first time that Europe said, 'Oh wow, these guys are really good.'

"That will always be one of the biggest victories in Croatian history and those guys who are going to play against Italy on Thursday, they were kids at the time, and they ask us every now and then about that game," Bilic said.

Croatia can advance to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals with another victory over the Italians.

"I don't believe that much in tradition but it's nice to know that we never lose against Italy," said Bilic, whose first victory as Croatia coach was against Italy in August 2006.

After playing Italy, the Croats will face defending champions Spain in their final Group C match. "I think we are going into every game like a must-win, but especially this one, because if we win... we go to the quarterfinals before the final game," Corluka said. "But even if we draw we are still in it."

After Italy's 1-1 draw in their opener against Spain, the coach Cesare Prandelli's biggest selection issue seems to be whether to replace the Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli with the veteran Antonio Di Natale.

Di Natale replaced Balotelli against the world champions and scored 10 minutes after his introduction.

Whoever, is chosen is bound to be partnered with Antonio Cassano, who admitted yesterday he is still surprised to be at the European Championship after his unexpected health scare last year.

Cassano returned to play in April for Milan following a six-month spell on the sidelines after undergoing minor heart surgery.

"I honestly didn't think I would play at the European Championship," Cassano said. "I was scared. When you arrive to a certain point where it is a case of live or die, everything else becomes secondary.

"I saw the future as grey, very grey, but fortunately I am here. I have been blessed, and even if I am not a believer I do feel I have been blessed."

Prandelli never gave up hope of getting the striker back in time for the tournament.

The 29-year-old Cassano was Italy's top scorer in qualifying with six goals. Moreover, Italy had already lost Villarreal forward Giuseppe Rossi to a serious knee injury.

"If there is one thing that saddens me about this European Championship it is that Giuseppe Rossi is not here," Cassano said. "He was very important to us."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little