Episode 39 – Croatian Football with Ante Kvartuč

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The United Mates Keitel and Joe are joined by Ante Kvartuč, the founder of CroatianSports.com, to reflect on the recent history of Croatia as an independent footballing nation, as well as to look ahead to their prospects for future tournaments now that Croatia’s golden generation is seemingly coming to an end.

Icebreaker:

Ahead of Croatia’s semi-final victory over England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Ante drafted a “joke” letter that employees and students could give to their bosses/teachers in order to excuse themselves from work that day in order to witness “Croatian history”. On that literal note… the guys describe what their ideal sick day would look like!

On Ante’s relationship with Croatian Sports and the Origin of CroatianSports.com:

Ante is the only member of his family born outside of Croatia; he was raised in Southern California in San Pedro, home to a massive Croatian community. Ante spent his early years surrounded by Croatians and immersed in the culture. Croatia’s third place finish at France 98′ and the emotions that this success brought to his family members are memories that form the foundation which inspired Ante to create CroatianSports.com. Eventually, in 2007 after Croatia beat England at Wembley to prevent the Three Lions from qualifying for the Euro 2008 tournament, Ante decided that the time was right and the website was born with the goal of uniting Croatian sports fans from around the world. There are more diasporic Croatians living internationally than there are in their home nation.

Who Are Ya?!:

The group plays “Who Are Ya?!”, the guessing game where a mystery player is revealed based on clues. In this edition the players are all linked to Croatian football.

1. This player is of Croatian heritage and he played in the Croatian league, however he is not Croatian. He has also played for several Premier League clubs. Who is he?

2. This player was a Croatian international but he never played in the Croatian league. His career began in Germany. Who is he?

3. This English footballer played for the same club at the time as a few of the Croatian players who knocked England out of qualification for Euro 2008. He even came on as a sub during that match. Who is he?

The Croatia National Team – Past, Present and Future:

Ante gives an historical background to Croatia’s unprecedented success at their inaugural World Cup appearance in 1998. Croatia had only recently gained independence as a nation from Yugoslavia and the war which brought about Croatia’s newfound freedom took a lot from the Croatian people. Davor Šuker and Croatia shocked the world by finishing in third place and that set the standard for Croatia to continue to overachieve for such a tiny footballing nation for the next few decades until today.

Currently the national side is going through a transitional time. The squad from the 1998 World Cup wasn’t able to stick together into the 2000s much at all and the next generation would fly under the radar relatively speaking as they didn’t experience much success at major tournaments. However, the most recent generation of Croatian footballers, who are now approaching the ends of their careers, featured the likes of Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Mario Mandžukić and Ivan Perišić… some of the most naturally talented footballers in Croatian history. Along with a solid cast of others, this recent Croatian team has set a new standard for the proud footballing nation, having reached the final of the 2018 World Cup where they were beaten by France.

Looking forward, Ante is hopeful that Dinamo Zagreb’s production line of talented young Croatian footballers will continue to project the national side towards success over the next few tournaments. Ante also touts Luka Sučić of Red Bull Salzburg in Austria to be the next Modrić… watch out for Luka 2.0!

Croatian Dream Team Builder:

The guys build a starting eleven of the best Croatian footballers in each position, but can they agree?

GKS: Pletikosa / Subašić

RBS: Srna / Ćorluka / Vrsaljko

LBS: Pranjić / Strinić

CBS: R. Kovać / Lovren / Simunić / Vida / Bilić / Tudor

RM: Rebić / Perisić

LM: Kranjćar / Babić / Pjaca

CM: Rakitić / Modrić / Kovačić / Boban

DM: Kovać / Brozović / Vukojević

FW: Mandzukić / Kalinić / Jelavić / Olić / Kramarić / Petrić / Pršo / Eduardo da Silva / Šuker

Special mentions to Danijel Subašić, Josip Šimunić, Darijo Srna and Ivica Olić who received universal praise during this game!

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