Friday, June 13, 2008
Would there be an independent state of Croatia today without German support?
It’s highly unlikely.
And how do the Croatians repay their patrons? Not only by dumping them unceremoniously out of the World Cup in 1998, but by beating them again- in Euro 2008 yesterday. There’s gratitude for you!
More seriously, the events of the past week, demonstrate for anyone who had any doubts, the level of sporting excellence in the former Yugoslavia.
The delightful Serbian tennis player Ana Ivanovic won the French Open (beating compatriot Jelena Jankovic in the semi-final). (Svetlana at Byzantine blog has a great write-up of Ana’s triumphant return to Belgrade at the weekend which you can read here). It was the second Grand Slam to be won by a Serb this year- following Novak Djokovic’s memorable victory in the Australian Open. What chance of a Serbian double at Wimbledon, due to start the week after next? And what chance a ’former Yugoslavia’ double, with Serbian players winning both titles at Wimbledon, and Croatia landing Euro 2008? As I predicted last week, Croatia are in for a big tournament- their players have great technical ability-(as England found out at Wembley last November) and, in Slaven Bilic (pictured above), they have one of the best young managers in the world.
If Croatia do win Euro 2008, they will be achieve something which Yugoslavian national team never did. Yugoslavia- nicknamed the 'Brazil of Europe' for their ultra-skilful style, came agonisingly close on many occasions, but never won a major international football tournament. But in 1992, they had a fabulous side (built on Red Star Belgrade’s 1991 European Cup winning team) and were strongly fancied to make an impact at that year’s European Championships. But UEFA barred them from taking part due to the wars of secessions then taking place. Denmark, who had finished second to Yugoslavia in their qualifying group, got a late call-up to replace Yugoslavia in the tournament- and duly won it. 1992 should have been Yugoslavia’s year- but due to the west’s- and in particular Germany’s desire to break the country up by supporting secessionists in Slovenia and Croatia- it was not to be. So I suppose you could say, that looking at the bigger picture, Germany’s two defeats at the hands of Croatia are a form of poetic justice. And if you’re German, don’t blame Joachim Low for the defeat, blame your former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Danke Deutschland!