At the beginning of last season, the Croatian Football League led a fierce fight to be 15th place in the ranking of the best European leagues – Rijeka was in the playoffs of the Champions League, and Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split, and Osijek in the playoffs of the Europa League. The start of the current European season, however, has been completely the opposite – and Croatian football has experienced a great downfall, reports Index.hr on October 27, 2018.
Let’s remember, this summer, Osijek was eliminated by the Glasgow Rangers in the second qualifying round of the Europa League – and while the team from City Garden Stadium at least scored some points (a win against Petroclub and two draws), Rijeka played only two European matches and recorded a draw and a defeat. Norwegian club Sarpsborg was better than Rijeka 2:1.
Dinamo Zagreb is saving the Croatian First League from sinking
Unfortunately, neither of the three Croatian representatives went beyond the third qualifying round of the Europa League. After Hajduk defeated Slavia Sofia with two wins in the second qualifying round, they lost to Steaua Bucharest 2:1 away – and because they drew 0:0 in Split, the very average Romanian club was the one to advance in the competition.
The only Croatian club to compete in the group stage of the competition was Dinamo, but considering Dinamo was never successful in the group stage, it was difficult to expect the impressive performances we are seeing by the club today.
Dinamo Zagreb among the 20 most successful clubs in Europe this season
With nine points in the first three games, Dinamo is currently at six points in the club coefficient, ranking them among the top twenty clubs in Europe. Behind them are clubs such as Benfica, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Monaco, Milan, Villarreal, and others.
At the same time, the Zagreb club has added two full points to the national coefficient (six wins and two draws), which put them in third place in Europe today. Only Ajax (14) and Crvena Zvezda (11) brought tore points to their leagues ahead of the fourth round.
Cyprus and Serbia have led the fight in UEFA Club Points in the last two years
Why is this important? Because in the last two years, the leagues of Cyprus, Serbia, Scotland, and Norway have been brilliant, and if they continue with such results, the Croatian First League could fall below 20th place for the first time in six years.
Fortunately, thanks to Nenad Bjelica’s team, who, with three magnificent victories has come one step closer to securing a European spring, they’ve firmly strengthened the Croatian First League’s position among the seventeen best European leagues.
If Dinamo Zagreb continues at this pace, 15th place in the UEFA Country Ranking is not out of reach
Although the magic “15th place” at this point still seems unimaginable, as Switzerland, Greece and Denmark still have an advantage, if Dinamo secures two more wins in the group stage and eventually passes to the first knockout stage, there’s a chance it could happen this season.
What will happen will depend on Dinamo’s performances this autumn. They’ve already halted the Croatian First League’s fall below 20th place, and, considering how unstoppable they seem to be this season under the leadership of Nenad Bjelica, they could take Croatia to 15th place.
The ultimate goal is to reach 12th place in the UEFA Country Ranking
As you may or may not know, 12th place guarantees two representatives in the Champions League and three in the Europa League. The point is not just placement in the Champions League, but more potential representatives in the Europa League.
If Croatia were to be the 12th best league in Europe, apart from the mentioned two representatives in the Champions League qualifiers, it would also allow the direct placement of the Cup winner into the Europa League group.