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Penpix of Croatia's World Cup squad

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May 29, 2006 20:23 IST
Croatia's squad for the World Cup finals in Germany comprises the following 23 players:

(Statistics up to and including May 26 2006)


23-Tomislav Butina (Club Bruges, Belgium) Born 30.3.74 Caps: 27 Goals: 0.

Promoted to number one keeper after injury sidelined Stipe Pletikosa at Euro 2004. Agile and reliable, he confirmed his position as starter in the qualifying campaign.

1-Stipe Pletikosa (Hajduk Split) Born 8.1.79 Caps: 48 Goals: 0.

Several injuries dented his confidence and removed him from being first choice. Despite his 1.92-metre height, he is a better shot-stopper than collector of crosses. Featured mainly as a substitute at Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine for two years, before returning home last year.

12-Joey Didulica (Austria Vienna, Austria), Born 14.10.1977 Caps: 4 Goals: 0

Has chosen Croatia over his native Australia despite knowing he could hardly be a starter with Pletikosa and Butina around. Moved to Ajax from Melbourne Knights but was mostly on the bench before signing up for Austria Vienna in 2003.


7-Dario Simic (AC Milan, Italy) Born: 12.11.75 Caps: 77 Goals: 3.

A right full-back whose talent was given the finishing touch in Italy. Tactically mature, with good control and stamina but less than impressive when supporting the forwards. Managed to come back after injuries plagued him for most of previous season.

4-Robert Kovac (Juventus, Italy) Born: 6.4.74 Caps: 53 Goals: 0.

Younger brother of midfielder Niko. Persistent, strong, good tackler, commander of Croatia's defence who can confidently venture forward on occasion. His reliable performances for Bayern Munich earned him a transfer to Italian champions Juventus last year.

5-Igor Tudor (AC Siena, Italy) Born: 16.4.1978 Caps: 50 Goals: 3

Tall, athletic and strong in the air and able to deliver perfect long balls to the attackers. However, is prone to occasional silly mistakes that can put his own goalkeeper into serious trouble. On loan at Siena from Juventus.

3-Josip Simunic (Hertha Berlin, Germany) Born: 18.2.78 Caps: 40 Goals: 3.

Another towering defender who is cool under pressure. Accumulated solid international experience in last two seasons and is largely overcoming previous reputation of picking up too many cautions for clumsy challenges and needless handballs. At 1.95 metres, has strength, pace, self-confidence and good technique.

13-Stjepan Tomas (Galatasaray, Turkey) Born: 6.3.76 Caps: 47 Goals: 2.

Defensive central midfielder whose key role is to break down the opponents' game. Lack of creativity is offset by endurance, strength and uncompromising tackling.

11-Mario Tokic (Austria Vienna, Austria) Born: 23.7.75. Caps: 25 Goals: 0

Versatile former Dinamo Zagreb defender capable of fulfilling different tasks in defence. A reliable second choice if key defenders are out of action. Has been out of action himself for two months with a shoulder injury but is expected to recover in time for World Cup.


10-Niko Kovac (Hertha Berlin, Germany) Born: 15.10.71 Caps: 56 Goals: 8.

The elder of the Kovac brothers is a tireless all-rounder who plugs the midfield gaps. Willingness to graft and be creative without neglecting defensive duties earned him respect from his team mates and the skipper's armband.

19-Niko Kranjcar (Hajduk Split) Born: 13.8.1984 Caps: 18 Goals: 3

Son of coach Zlatko and Croatia's prime young talent. A leading Croatia-based player on the squad and one of main creators. Lacks speed and running capacity but has visibly improved fitness, shots on goal and readiness to take on defensive tasks this season.

15-Ivan Leko (Club Bruges, Belgium) Born: 7.2.1978. Caps: 11 Goals: 0

Recalled to the squad as a creative midfielder after returning to home side Hajduk Split from Spain, where strong performances quickly earned him another foreign contract. Equally good in central role and on the left flank, and his free-kicks are a serious threat. No relation to fellow midfielder Jerko Leko.

6-Jurica Vranjes (Werder Bremen, Germany) Born: 31.1.80 Caps: 21 Goals: 0

Can play in any position in defence or midfield. Also has a wide range of passing skills, but his potential has yet to fully blossom in the national side.

16-Jerko Leko (Dynamo Kiev, Ukraine) Born: 9.4.1980. Caps: 33 Goals: 2

Another all-rounder with a strong shot, equally reliable in midfield and defensive tasks. Despite solid experience, has not been a regular starter and is often regarded as the main substitute for midfield tasks.

2-Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine) Born: 1.5.1982. Caps: 34 Goals: 9

Right-winger armed with speed, cannonball shots and clinical crosses into the box. Deadly from set pieces. He is the motor of the team, became key player in the qualifying campaign where he scored five goals.

8-Marko Babic (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany) Born: 28.1.1981 Caps: 30 Goals: 2

Versatile midfielder and skilful dribbler who can take on defensive tasks, run down the left flank or move into the box. Good displays for national side turned him into a first-choice starter.

20-Anthony Seric (Panathinaikos, Greece) Born: 15.1.1979. Caps: 14 Goals: 0

Began in his native Australia, moved to Hajduk Split and was a substitute in the national squad that finished third at the 1998 World Cup in France. Dropped out of sight after moving to Italy until strong displays for Lazio helped him to return to the squad. Not a likely starter though but a useful squad member.

22-Ivan Bosnjak (Dinamo Zagreb) Born: 6.2.1979. Caps: 11 Goals: 1

Dedicated and strong runner with seemingly inexhaustible energy, though creativity and tactical skills are hardly his main advantages. Unlikely to be a starter. One of the top scorers in this season's Croatian championship.

14-Luka Modric (Dinamo Zagreb) Born 9.9.1985. Caps: 2 Goals: 0

Another young lion and under-21 regular. Proved his talent this season as a leading home-based creative midfielder along with Niko Kranjcar. Made excellent debut in friendly against Argentina in March, displaying speed, tackle, dribbling and passing skills.


9-Dado Prso (Rangers, Scotland) Born: 5.11.1974 Caps: 27 Goals: 8

Undisputed leader of Croatia's attack, but plagued by a persistent knee injury which may force him to undergo surgery. Plans to retire from international soccer after the World Cup. Armed with skill and speed that belies his height (1.87 metres), Prso is equally at ease with passing, dribbling, shooting or heading the ball.

18-Ivica Olic (CSKA Moscow, Russia) Born: 14.9.79 Caps: 34 Goals: 6

Pacy player who possesses an eye for a goal, can outrun any opponent though sometimes lacks clinical finish. Has often been better coming off the bench than as a starter. Suffered a severe knee injury last August but has recovered and remains, together with Prso, a key forward.

17-Ivan Klasnic (Werder Bremen, Germany) Born: 29.1.80 Caps: 17 Goals: 7

Nicknamed "The Killer" for his impressive scoring record in the Bundesliga, he remains an under-performer for the national team. He claims he feels more at ease with the Werder game, where he can be anchored in front of the opponent's goal, while in the national squad has to work more and drop deeper to get involved in the game.

21-Bosko Balaban (Club Bruges, Belgium) Born: 15.10.1978. Caps: 25 Goals: 9.

Scored a few important goals in qualifying campaign, but also showed volatility playing for the national team. Still, due to shortage of top-class forwards in the Croatian attack, is likely to remain a leading candidate to step in if Prso or Olic are out of action.

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