19-Year-Old Igor Matanović Chooses Croatia National Team Over Germany

Daniela Rogulj

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He is a great talent, a 194 cm tall center forward who has all the characteristics of a modern player, and many experts are convinced that he has a brilliant career ahead of him. At the end of March, Matanović led the attack of the German U-19 team, scored a great goal in the Euro qualifying match against Italy, and recorded an assist against Belgium. However, he chose to play for Croatia a month later, reports Jutarnji List

Matanović agreed after a long and synchronized campaign led by Stipe Pletikosa – with the support of HNS President Marijan Kustić. The HNS technical director visited the young striker and his family for months. Matanović should already receive an invitation from the U-21 national team coach Igor Bišćan at the next national team gathering. Bišćan has long indicated that Matanović is a great talent he certainly sees among his chosen ones.

Matanović attracted a lot of attention for the first time two years ago when as a 17-year-old, he made his debut for the St. Pauli senior team against Werder (4:2), in which he immediately scored a goal and remained listed as the youngest scorer in the history of the club. Coach Timo Schultz announced him as a top attacking talent and a great future for the club. Although he only recently turned 19 (born on March 31, 2003), Matanović has already registered 33 games for St. Pauli. Unfortunately, he did not manage to score after that goal in his debut because he entered most of those games only in the final minutes, but few players play in the Bundesliga 2 at the age of 17 and 18. 

Matanović is technically a player of Eintracht, who bought him this summer for 500,000 euros but decided to loan him to St. Pauli for the next two seasons. 

“Igor is a very talented player who is technically talented and physically strong. He has great talent and great potential. It is important for his development to play as much as possible. We believe that the best decision is to leave him on loan because he will be able to help an ambitious second-division team. Still, he will also make important steps in his development this and next season,” said Eintracht sports director Markus Krösche.

St. Pauli is fiercely fighting to enter the Bundesliga; it is fourth in the standings, only three points behind second place, and only one behind third. The second-place leads directly to the Bundesliga, and the third to the playoffs. As much as Timo Schultz praised Matanović, the role of the first center forward is played by the experienced Guido Burgstaller (32), who has already scored 18 championship goals this season with seven assists and is the third top scorer in the league. Bundesliga 2 is tough, and it is challenging for young players to break through.

Matanović’s family arrived in Germany from Kotor Varos near Banja Luka. Interestingly, Mate Kovačić’s parents are also from there. As a child, Igor played for St. Pauli, in which he passed all the selections. He showed great talent as a 16-year-old, who scored 19 goals in 27 games for the U-17 team, with seven assists.

Igor played for the Croatia U-14 side, then for the youth national teams of Germany from U-17 to U-19. He scored five goals in eight appearances for those selections. He would have had more if injuries hadn’t plagued him.

“Members of my family were refugees during the war in Krapinske Toplice, so Croatia gave them refuge when it was most difficult for us, and it is not forgotten. However, I came to Germany in the late ’80s, got a job, so both countries gave me a lot,” explained Igor’s father, Ranko Matanovic, two years ago.

The German Football Federation will not be happy that Igor Matanović chose Croatia, as Germany lacks center forwards. But in the end, love for Croatia prevailed.

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