Mavericks on a debut mission: Croatia
Monday 03 June 1996
Has appeared in 22 of the 25 matches Croatia have played since independence (Age 33, 22 caps).
2 Nikola Jurcevic Freiburg
Long-haired full-back who started as a forward. Agile and very quick, tough tackler (28, 13).
3 Robert Jarni Real Betis
Reliable left-back, before going to Spain he spent three seasons in Italy with Bari, Torino and Juventus (27, 19).
4 Igor Stimac Derby County
Good tackler, strong in air, dangerous on the break. A cult figure at the Baseball Ground (28, 16).
5 Nikola Jerkan Real Oviedo
The tallest man in the team, can play either on the right of defence or in the middle (32, 20).
6 Slaven Bilic West Ham
Not the most skilful defender but a good tackler who never gives up. A favourite at West Ham. (27, 20).
7 Aljosa Asanovic Derby County
Old-fashioned inside-left who has just joined the Rams from Hajduk Split. Also played in France and Spain (30, 18).
8 Robert Prosinecki Barcelona
Experienced midfield general. His father is a Croat, his mother is a Serb. Has a lion tattoo on right leg (25, 6).
9 Davor Suker Real Madrid
Just joined Real from Seville, one of the most accomplished strikers in Europe. A goal a game man (28, 18).
10 Zvonimir Boban Milan
Croatian captain, a balanced, skilful midfielder able to subordinate individual flair for the good of the team (28, 16).
11 Alen Boksic Juventus
Striker who rose to prominence with Marseille, moved on to Lazio and now Juventus (26, 12).
12 Marijan Mrmic Varteks Varazdin
Competent goalkeeper who has made the squad depite playing for unheralded provincial club (30, 4).
13 Mario Stanic Club Bruges
Bosnian-born Croat who likes to play as a deep-lying forward behind the strikers (23, 7).
14 Zvonimir Soldo Croatia Zagreb
Solid and reliable defender with Croatia (formerly Dinamo) Zagreb. The understudy to Jerkan (28, 10).
15 Dubravko Pavlicic Hercules Alicante
Reserve defender who was in the Yugoslav side that won the World Youth Cup in Chile in 1987 (28, 16).
16 Mladen Mladenovic Gamba Osaka
Short, stocky midfielder with strong right-foot shot. Has played in Spain, Austria and now Japan (32, 16).
17 Igor Pamic Osijek
Shaven-headed striker who owes place in squad to Mornar's fall from grace on eve of tournament (24, 16).
18 Elvis Brajkovic 1860 Munich
Tall, promising defender, originally with Rijeka, well-built but thankfully not as fat as his namesake (26, 6).
19 Goran Vlaovic Padova
Diminutive striker who is competing with Boksic for the slot as second forward alongside Suker (23, 7).
20 Dario Simic Croatia Zagreb
Young defender who is coming along for the experience and is not expected to make the team (20, 1).
21 Igor Cvitanovic Croatia Zagreb
Centre-forward who is unlikely to get a game unless Boksic and Suker are injured (26, 10).
22 Tonci Gabric Hajduk Split
Veteran goalkeeper who is still one of the best in the domestic league, great reflexes (35, 7).
Having confirmed their class by winning in Italy en route to England, Croatia will not be taken lightly on their debut in an international tournament. "We are the best team in Europe. It only remains for us to confirm it," says coach Blazevic, who may not always find it easy to make a team out of mavericks like Boban, Prosinecki, Asanovic and Suker.
Born in Bosnia, Miroslav Blazevic played for clubs in Yugoslavia and Switzerland, where he launched his coaching career, which has also taken him to Greece and France. Had a spell in charge of the Swiss national team, and was briefly held in prison last year after being linked with the Marseille bribery scandal. He was released without charge.
The fact file
Previous appearances in finals: None (no previous participation).
Qualifying record: W7, D2, L1 (Group Four winners).
Top scorer in qualifiers: 12 Suker.
Most appearances in qualifiers: 10 Suker.
Population 4.6m. Registered clubs 1,579. Registered players 78,000. Professional players 600.
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