Croatia’s Mandzukic takes Euro 2012 by storm
A relative unknown at international level and close to being
disowned by his club, Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic is becoming a
star of the European Championship.
His three goals in two matches, as well as his tireless
endeavor, have given Croatia a real chance of qualifying for the
quarterfinals. Mandzukic’s equalizer in the 72nd minute on Thursday
earned his side a 1-1 draw with Italy and a share of top place in
Group C with Spain.
”First, I dreamed of Croatia beating Ireland and me scoring my
first goal in the Euros, and then I dreamed of going against (Italy
goalkeeper Gianluigi) Buffon to see his eyes and scoring a goal,”
”My next dream is to see Croatia go to the quarterfinals.”
Before Euro 2012, there were doubts that the 26-year-old striker
would figure in Croatia’s starting lineup. His German club VfL
Wolfsburg was making noises of getting rid of him at the right
price, thought to be around ?10 million.
However, an injury to Ivica Olic, Croatia’s first-choice striker
for the best part of a decade, forced coach Slaven Bilic into a
He opted for the powerful, but inexperienced, frontline of
Mandzukic and Nikica Jelavic, who scored a goal in Croatia’s 3-1
victory over Ireland in its first Group C match. Neither has played
in an international tournament before.
Mandzukic is also Euro 2012’s joint leading scorer with
Germany’s Mario Gomez and Russia’s Alan Dzagoev.
But it’s not just his scoring ability that’s impressed at the
tournament so far.
His combative play was crucial to Croatia’s recovery in the
second half of its game against Italy. Swamped in midfield in the
first half, Bilic rang the changes for the second to make Croatia
One of his main changes was to move Mandzukic to the right wing
in an attempt to contain Italy’s wing-backs Christian Maggio and
”He played a different position in the second half, he played
right winger and helped us a lot in defending, and he showed how
much power he has upfront as well and in defense,” said Croatia
defender Vedran Corluka. ”He’s a great player.”
It was from that right wing position that Mandzukic drifted in
to score. He managed to control a long cross from Ivan Strinic and
drove in a shot off the post. Against Ireland, Mandzukic scored
with two headers.
”He’s a player who’s always going to give 100 percent in a
game, he’s going to run his socks off,” said midfielder Niko
Kranjcar. ”He’s had a great season in Germany and he came really
prepared for the tournament and he used his chances. He’s the most
competitive player I’ve ever seen, he’s similar like Olic, who
always leaves his heart on the pitch.”