CroatiaÃ¢ÂÂs failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa isnÃ¢ÂÂt the first time the Balkan nationÃ¢ÂÂs team has failed to build on their successes on the pitch.
The golden generation of Prosinecki, Boban and Suker followed their third place finish at France 98 by failing to qualify for Euro 2000 Ã¢ÂÂ in a similar fashion, the current crop followed their impressive performance at Euro 2008, finishing third in their qualifying group for the summerÃ¢ÂÂs World Cup behind Ukraine and, of course, England.
But while some members of the squad can comfort themselves with their form at club level, SchalkeÃ¢ÂÂs Ivan Rakitic, is left rueing a missed opportunity to prove what he can do and send a strong message to his doubters, most notably those at his own club.
The 21 year old hasnÃ¢ÂÂt enjoyed the best of times during his time with Schalke, having failed to consistently display the kind of performances that lead to him held in high regard in his homeland, and saw him linked with the likes of Everton, Arsenal, Liverpool, Juventus and Chelsea 18 months ago.
"Chips for tea, get in there!"
FourFourTwo contributor Ulrich Hesse tells us more about the Croatian playmakerÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Name Ivan RakiticAge 21Position Attacking midfielderNationality CroatianClub Schalke 04Games 64 Goals 5
In December last year, Schalke coach Felix Magath made a statement that made fans across Germany prick up their ears Ã¢ÂÂ though those belonging to Ivan Rakitic must have been burning.
Ã¢ÂÂOur problematic positions are the left side of defence and the central role behind the strikers,Ã¢ÂÂ Magath said. Ã¢ÂÂThose two positions are currently vacant.Ã¢ÂÂ
This image raises more questions than answers...
His words were a clear signal that Rakitic, signed to play in the hole behind the forwards and wearing the number 10 shirt, had to get his act together if he was to have a future at
However, it remains a bit of a mystery why the 21-year-old has so far been unable to do for Schalke what he used to do in Switzerland for Basle; where Schalke signed him from in 2007, and what he regularly does for Croatia.
A lack of continuity may be to blame. Rakitic impressed in his first season at Schalke. Under coach Mirko Slomka, he was a regular in the first XI, setting up 11 goals. But a year later, under Fred Rutten, he was often the first to be subbed, before finally losing his first team place.
Rakitic is determined to be taken seriously at Schalke...
Ã¢ÂÂThat was the hardest time of my professional career so far,Ã¢ÂÂ said Rakitic, shortly after he had been presented with his third coach in as many years.
Ã¢ÂÂI hope I will profit from Felix Magath as much as WolfsburgÃ¢ÂÂs Zvjezdan Misimovic did,Ã¢ÂÂ the Croatian added. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs presumably a wish shared by Magath and all fans of Schalke.
Talentspotter ratings:Heading 3.0Crossing 7.0Tackling 4.0Creativity 7.0Passing 7.0Work-rate 6.0Shooting 8.0Pace 8.0Dribbling 7.0Overall 7.0