Croatia – Euro 2012
What are the expectations for the team?
Coach Slaven Bilic told journalists recently that, while Spain are the favourites, they will not cruise through the championship "with a cigar in their mouths", recalling that they made hard work of the group stage in South Africa. The general feeling is that to stand any chance, Croatia will need to beat Ireland in the opening game. If they manage to emerge from the group, the ever optimistic Bilic is convinced his side could be genuine contenders.
Is the coach popular?
The man is a legend. He was a prominent member of the national side that shone at Euro 96 and France 98 at a time when football aided in Croatia's troubled emergence as an independent country. As a coach, Bilic took Croatia to the quarter-finals of the last Euros. On the touchline he cuts a dynamic figure: sometimes in a suit, sometimes a beanie hat, with his ear-ring always shining brightly.
Have any players appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?
Luka Modric and Eduardo da Silva dressed up a few years back for a series of 1970s-themed adverts for the Croatian media provider T-Com. Modric wore a cardigan and slippers with a mousy blond mullet and moustache, while his disco-dancing team-mate wore a peach shirt, long black hair and a fetching handlebar tache. With lots of time on their hands, Bilic, Modric and Vedran Corluka also appeared in an advert for the Ozujsko brewery during the last World Cup.
Which players are good interviewees and who are worst?
Modric is steady but lethargic. Darijo Srna is relaxed and comfortable in front of a camera. English-speaking audiences are spoilt for choice in terms of potential interviewees in this squad. Srna, who has played for Shakhtar Donetsk for the last nine years, is a fluent Ukrainian speaker, so he will be popular with broadcasters from the eastern co-hosts. Eduardo has been at Shakhtar for a couple of years too.
Are there any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
Bilic plays rhythm guitar for the Split-based rock band Rawbau. Their 2008 football anthem Vatreno Ludilo (Passionate Craziness), about Croatia's exploits at France 98, was hugely popular at the last tournament. Mario Mandzukic, Corluka, Eduardo and several other squad members have prominent tattoos. Srna, whose surname means "roe deer" in English, has an image of a deer juggling a football tattooed on his calf.
What will the media coverage be like?
The sports daily Sportske Novosti will have pages of in-depth coverage for the nation's army of cafe patrons to peruse. Television coverage will be provided by national broadcaster HRT, the highlight of which is the renowned commentator Drago Cosic. Whatever sport Croatia are playing, be it handball, basketball or football, his frantic commentary has become a national institution.
Will there be many fans travelling to the finals and will they have any chants or songs?
There is always a sea of red and white checks wherever the national team appear, although the economic situation and large distances will undoubtedly take their toll. Uvijek vjerni (Always Faithful), the official supporters' club, have an allocation of 1,500 tickets, while thousands more will travel independently. The club are planning to travel by train to Poland, where all of Croatia's group matches will be played, as this is the cheapest option. Many fans will camp to avoid hugely inflated accommodation prices. The chanting will be highly choreographed and unrelenting, with supporters relishing the fact that Croatia will be the only former Yugoslav republic at the tournament. Richard Mills
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