IT’S been one incredible season for Rangers Football Club, and no less than FIVE champions have the opportunity to extend their personally wonderful campaigns with their national teams at this summer’s UEFA Euro 2020 tournament.
With the competition having been delayed for a year, anticipation for the big kick-off on Friday is high, not least given it will be the first time many of the players will have played in front of a significant crowd for the first time in 15 months.
The unique, pan-European nature of this tournament means there are wonderful opportunities to play at some of the continent’s most iconic stadia over the next month, and with four games being played here in Glasgow, it is especially fantastic to have Scotland at their first major tournament in 23 years, with Rangers players as part of their pool too.
This week, as we build up to the big kick-off on Friday, we’ll preview each of the five Light Blues players who will be in action. Today, we’ll take a look at Borna Barisic and Croatia…
AS runners-up three years ago when the World Cup was played in Russia, Croatia will enter this summer’s European Championships among the favourites to lift the trophy given the incredible talent they boast throughout their side.
With a population of just over four million, their relative success, not only in Russia, but through successive tournaments since their formation in the 1990s, is remarkable, and their continual ability to regenerate and bring through the next generation of talent is a remarkable one.
Since Russia, Rangers’ Borna Barisic has burst onto the scene, and very much become their first-choice left-back ahead of the tournament, and last night started their final warm-up match away to Belgium.
Barisic heads to the Euros off the back of a superb season for the Light Blues, and while he missed the very tail end of the campaign with an injury, he is fully-fit and ready to compete in a fascinating Group C for his national team.
He claimed 50 appearances for Gers over the last year and netted five goals, and was a crucial piece in the jigsaw for club manager Steven Gerrard as 55 was delivered to Ibrox.
Stretching back to perhaps Euro 2004, Croatia have become many Rangers supporters’ ‘other’ team at major tournaments given the prevalence of the club’s players in squads, such as Dado Prso and Nikica Jelavic, both of whom have goals at European Championships to their names.
Managed by Zlatko Dalic, they have the likes La Liga winner Sime Vrsaljko at right-back and the world-class quality of Ivan Perisic and Luka Modric in midfield, as well as our own Borna at left-back.
To date, he has 20 caps for his national team, and is set to come up against clubmates Nathan Patterson and Jon McLaughlin when the Croatians face Scotland at Hampden on matchday three, on Tuesday 22 June.
Preceding that will be an intriguing opening match against England at Wembley on Sunday afternoon. The two, of course, have plenty of history with each other, not least Croatia defeating Gareth Southgate’s side in the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018.
Following that, and ahead of England meeting Scotland at Wembley, the Croatians are in Glasgow to take on the Czech Republic at Hampden on Friday, June 18. With no foreign travel permitted, 12,500 ‘neutrals’ will be in attendance in Mount Florida for that one.
That will then finally be followed by that aforementioned trip back to the National Stadium on the Tuesday night to face Scotland to round-off the group stage.
Should Croatia make it through, there is a chance they will be back in Glasgow for their Last 16 tie depending on their placing, although each of Wembley, Copenhagen, Seville or Budapest are possible venues for their next game.
CROATIA FIXTURES (timings BST)
Sunday 13 June – England v Croatia – 2pm - Wembley
Friday 18 June – Croatia v Czech Republic - 5pm - Hampden
Tuesday 22 June – Scotland v Croatia - 8pm - Hampden
Goalkeepers: Dominik Livaković (Dinamo Zagreb), Lovre Kalinić (Hajduk Split), Simon Sluga (Luton)
Defenders: Borna Barišić (Rangers), Domagoj Bradarić (LOSC Lille), Duje Ćaleta-Car (Marseille), Joško Gvardiol (Leipzig), Josip Juranović (Legia Warszawa), Dejan Lovren (Zenit), Mile Škorić (Osijek), Domagoj Vida (Beşiktaş), Šime Vrsaljko (Atlético Madrid)
Midfielders: Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Marcelo Brozović (Inter Milan), Milan Badelj (Genoa), Nikola Vlašić (CSKA Moskva), Mario Pašalić (Atalanta), Ivan Perišić (Inter Milan), Mislav Oršić (Dinamo Zagreb), Luka Ivanušec (Dinamo Zagreb)
Forwards: Josip Brekalo (Wolfsburg), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim), Bruno Petković (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Rebić (AC Milan)
PREVIOUS FIVE TOURNAMENT PERFORMANCES
World Cup 2018: Runners-Up
Euro 2016: Round of 16
World Cup 2014: Group Stage
Euro 2012: Group Stage
World Cup 2010: DNQ