Mandžukić Takes the Captain’s Seat in Tonight’s Friendly Match Against Northern Ireland

Daniela Rogulj

The Croatian National football team tonight faces Northern Ireland in a friendly match in Belfast at 20.45. Coach Ante Čačić went without top players who have now returned to their clubs, using this opportunity to test the players that have had less playing time on the roster.

Luka Modrić and Vedran Ćorluka have gone back to their clubs, leaving Croatia to be led by captain Mario Mandžukić, who during the World Cup qualifying match against Iceland failed to score, reports


“We are all glad that that the match against Iceland went as we wanted. We won in difficult conditions, with no fans, and we are very happy about the success. Now at this gathering we want to finish in the best possible way. We have a lot of great young players and it’s nice for me to be a part of such a team. Northern Ireland is good, and for them there is no friendly match – every game is a competition. We must be set up and have quality and it will be a good match,” claims Mandžukić.


Mandžukić tonight has an opportunity to enroll in national team history. If  he scores tonight, he will equalize with Croatia’s Eduardo da Silva on the eternal list of top scorers with 29 goals. If he scores 2 or more, only Šuker will be in front of him with 45 goals.


The conversation then briefly returned to the Euro 2016 in France and the final match, in which Croatia lost: “If was very difficult for all of us after Portugal, but we left it behind us. The current results are the best and show that we have turned a new page – we have a good game and fellowship on the field. We want the World Cup and we have a great team.”


Northern Ireland is no longer a team that can be underestimated. At the Euros they reached the knockout stages.


“At the European Championships, we were focused on our performances, so we did not get to follow other teams, but we know some of the Northern Ireland players and I think that the host will not surprise us. In the qualifying group for the World Cup they convincingly defeated Azerbaijan. Our coach and coaching staff will prepare us well, as they have every time so far,” concluded Mandžo.


Apart from Modrić and Ćorluka, Čačić also wrote off Kovačić, Rakitić, Subasic and Perišić for Northern Ireland


“In this game we have to use players than have played less and also expand the team, because we will need that. I want Croatia to be themselves, everywhere and against everyone, and to keep a good mood and try to host interrupted and unbeaten at home. They (Northern Ireland) will also want to win and I expect a competitive game in which players will have the opportunity to show the best of themselves. I am sure that Croatia will look good,” added Čačić.


Kalinić will be the goalkeeper for the match and in addition in the first eleven, standard players Vrsaljko and Brozović, with captain Mandžukić should start. Leovac should likely play for Pivarić, and Jedvaj and Mitrović will likely be in the middle, depending on if Čačić chooses to keep Vida in.


Instead of Badelj and Modrić in the middle, Bradarić and Rog will have an opportunity, but the big question is whether Čačić will start with Ante Ćorić, Kramarić or Čop.


Possible composition for Croatia:

Kalinić – Vrsaljko, Jedvaj, Mitrović, Leovac – Bradarić, Rog – Brozović, Kramarić, Čop – Mandžukić


On the bench: Vargić, Pivarić, Vida, Badelj, Ćorić


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