After the win against the Republic of Ireland in the first match, Croatia were up against former World Cup and European Champions, Italy.
No problem or pressure for Slaven Bilic’s men who came out of the game with a very impressive point, and it could have been more.
Thoughts from "back home" - Super Mario rescued Croatia was how Sportske novosti put it. That’s Mario Mandzukic.
Five things we learned from the performance:1) First thing first, Bilic still has it. Italy were the better team in the first half, there is no doubt about that whatsoever. Then it came to the point in the match that things needed changing, and well, Bilic was there to change it.
Changing formation and going with a 4-2-3-1 in the second half which seemed to suit Croatia better against the Italians and in the end proved to be the correct decision as they came back to draw.
2) The wing backs. I said after the Republic of Ireland match how good Srna was and he was excellent against the Italians, as was Croatia’s other wing back Ivan Strinic.
They both proved effective in defence as well as in attack. The pair made ten successful tackles in the match, more than the whole Italian team combined. Srna had the second most touches in the match, 83, which was one less than Pirlo, while Strinic was the man that put in a superb cross to assist Mandzukic’s goal.
AP3) Stipe Pletikosa is a very good goalkeeper, ok maybe not something ‘new’ we have learned, but it was a solid performance from the man in between the sticks.
One moment really stood out, when he made a beautiful double save to keep the Croats in the match. In the end it seemed to gain them a point, very good match from the Croatian number one, who made a total of four saves during the game.
4) Croatian fans were naughty. After the Russians were fined and given a suspended six-point deduction for Euro 2016 qualifying, Croatia’s fans may be the next ones in bother.
Not once but twice in the match we saw flares thrown onto the pitch and the match had to be stopped, we saw the likes of Vukojevic and Rakitic trying to get the crowd to quit it, but it didn’t happen. This could land them in trouble with European football’s governing body, UEFA.
5) Maybe we need to start believing. If the Croatian fans didn’t believe in their national heroes before the tournament then maybe this will help them out. They sit with four points from the first two games and with a fantastic chance of advancing from the group that has the reigning World and European champions in it.
It’ll be no easy feat, but what we have learned is to start believing in this team, and start believing in Modric and Bilic when they tell us they don’t fear any team and will qualify from this group.
Man of the match for Croatia - Luka ModricIn the first half even though Croatia were second best Modric’s runs whilst off the ball were just excellent. Always trying to help his team mates out and get into a space.
Also in the second half, when he was moved further up, he controlled the game for Croatia whilst also not letting Pirlo, who was excellent in the first half, go very far forward.
So, for me, as so often for Croatia, Modric was my man of the match.