The Back of the Net boys continue theirlight-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 yearÃ¢ÂÂs squad will hope to improve on 2008Ã¢ÂÂs quarter-final exit after ordering a record supply of nicotine patches, and grafting an additional lung onto Darijo Srna.
Croatia 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.
It 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.
CroatiaÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
The stirring Lijepa naÃÂ¡a 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 Ã¢ÂÂ¢ RussiaÃ¢ÂÂ¢GreeceÃ¢ÂÂ¢ Czech Republic
Group B: NetherlandsÃ¢ÂÂ¢GermanyÃ¢ÂÂ¢ PortugalÃ¢ÂÂ¢ Denmark
Group C: Spain Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Italy Ã¢ÂÂ¢CroatiaÃ¢ÂÂ¢ Republic of Ireland
Group D: Ukraine Ã¢ÂÂ¢ England Ã¢ÂÂ¢ France Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Sweden
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