By Tihana Jurican, GBGC Zagreb Office Manager
As in many other European countries, the Croatian press is filled with anticipation and discussion about the Euro 2012 football championships.
The Croatian team’s biggest success in such competitions to date was a third place in the 1998 World Cup in France, which here in Croatia was celebrated as if the team had won the whole tournament, confirming a well known Croatian obsession with sports, especially football. This footballing success came at a good time, being the year when sovereign Croatia finally got all its territories back (the war with neighbouring Serbia, then Yugoslavia, officially ended in 1995) and helped cement national pride.
But this Euro competition in Poland and the Ukraine finds the Croatian national team much worse off than that team of 14 summers ago: the national team’s manager, Slaven Bilić (a player in that 1998 “dream team”), has announced he is leaving his post after the tournament to work as a coach for Moscow Lokomotiv.
The Croatian Football Federation has also had to deal with a number of issues recently, with some referees involved in match fixing scandals and the power struggle in the leadership which ultimately made the long time president Marković leave his post. His most likely successor is the famous Croatian player Davor Šuker.
The team is priced at 50/1 to win the tournament. If the team progresses further than expected local bookies will benefit from the continued participation of the national team, but even if the team gets knocked out after the three group matches, the tournament as a whole will still be a major annual event for the troubled Croatian bookmaking industry.