Group C: Croatia – Like A Game Of Chess. No, Really...

The Back of the Net boys continue their light-hearted look ahead to Euro 2012. This morning, John Foster on a team looking to prove they have the lungs to last longer than they did four years ago: Croatia...  

Since the days of Robert Prosinecki and Zvonimir Boban, Croatia has tended to produce a great number of cultured midfielders with a penchant for cigarettes and violence.

This has often led to the team faltering in the knockout stages of major tournaments, as key players succumbed to suspension or bronchitis. This year’s squad will hope to improve on 2008’s quarter-final exit after ordering a record supply of nicotine patches, and grafting an additional lung onto Darijo Srna.

Tournament pedigreeCroatia failed to qualify for a single European Championships prior to 1996, owing to the laughable excuse that it did not yet exist as an independent nation.

ManagerIt is thought that suave, charismatic chain-smoker Slaven Bilic, who has guided his country for six years while simultaneously playing lead guitar for hardcore band Rawbau, only became manager of Croatia as a way to meet girls.

KitCroatia’s distinctive red-and-white chequered shirts are modelled on a chessboard. Despite regular assertions to the contrary by assorted pundits and commentators, this is the one and only known instance where something football-related can legitimately be compared to a game of chess.

AnthemThe stirring Lijepa naša domovino is the setting to music of a nationalistic joke first recorded in 1835. In the joke, a Serbian man goes to buy a goat from a Croat village. The village refuses to sell him any of their goats because he is stupid and ugly. It is later revealed that the Serb is in fact himself a goat, or, in some versions, a box of plums. The joke is said to be untranslatable.

Worth a bet?Available at 50-1 to win the tournament, Croatia are a better-value 1-50 not to.

More from Back of the NetGroup A: Poland • Russia • Greece • Czech RepublicGroup B: Netherlands • Germany • Portugal • Denmark Group C: Spain • Italy • Croatia • Republic of Ireland Group D: Ukraine • England • France • Sweden