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Warrior, conqueror, symbol: Bruno Petkovic will sweep Croatia to the second World Cup final in a row? | Israel today


Croatia surprised the whole world after the victory over Brazil and they don't intend to stop • Especially when Bruno Petkovic is waiting on the bench who claims: "We don't care about the commentators" • Tonight they meet Argentina

Bruno Petkovic overnight became the hero of the Croatian people.

A Dinamo Zagreb striker was the one who scored the dramatic equalizer in the quarter-finals against Brazil, the big favorite of the World Cup, on the way to the penalty shootout and the sensational victory.

Unlike global superstars like Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic, whom no soccer fan doesn't know, Petkovic is a fairly unknown player.

True, he scored a goal this season against Chelsea in the Champions League, but he also serves as a substitute in the national team.

Tonight, Croatia will face Argentina in the semi-finals, with the aim of repeating what they did four and a half years ago in Russia, an appearance in the World Cup final.

The striker, as he is already used to, will once again start on the bench.

But after a historic goal like the one he scored in the 117th minute against the Selção, the whole world wanted to hear Petkovic speak.

And what he said reminded everyone from where the Croatian players derive their mental strength.

It is a small country, only 3.9 million inhabitants.

And despite that, it has a formidable team, already in its first appearance in the World Cup in 1998, it reached the semi-finals.

In the tournament in Russia, they won both the round of 16 and the quarter-finals on penalties and then beat England in the semi-finals in overtime.

The fighting spirit, and the ability to overcome difficult situations, withstand pressure and never give up - all these characteristics were also reflected in Qatar.

Japan was better in the eighth, but in the penalty shootout the Croatian mentality won.

And so it happened in the quarter as well.

Croatia players celebrate qualifying for the finals, photo: Getty Images

Petkovic said: "I think one of the reasons for this mentality is that we come from a small country. Even though most of the players are young, we all know what happened to our people and how we won independence in the 90s. We learned about history from our parents. That you have to fight and work hard , because without them you won't get anywhere."

Croatia declared its independence and separation from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, which led to the outbreak of war against the Serbian army.

The War of Independence lasted more than four and a half years, during which about 20 thousand people were killed, and about half a million became refugees.

He was born in 1994, towards the end, but some of the older players remember the difficult period very well: Luka Modric's grandfather was executed by the Serbs and he and his parents had to find shelter due to the many bombings of his city, Zadar.

Dian Lovran was born in Bosnia, and when the fighting broke out his family fled to Germany.

They lived as war refugees and after a few years moved to Croatia.

Modric and Petkovic, last Friday, photo: AFP

And the forecast

He started his professional career in Italy, where he arrived at the age of 18. He played in modest teams, such as Trapani, Catania, Varese, Regiana Virtus Antella, before trying his luck in Bologna and Verona.

In 2018, he realized that he would no longer be a big star in the land of the boot, and decided to return home.

It happened right after the team won the semifinals in Russia.

"I remember the match against England," Petkovic recalls.

"At that time I was the fifth or sixth striker of Bologna and the 78th striker of the national team. I almost abandoned the training camp of Bologna to be in the final in Moscow. The foundations of our success in Qatar were laid then. The young players integrated into a well-oiled machine."

Indeed, this is a very difficult team to beat.

And when it comes to penalties, it's impossible.

Croatia lost only one of their last 12 matches in the World Cup (the final against France), and on penalty kicks they won all four duels.

Argentina will of course be the favorite tonight.

But Brazil was also the almost certain candidate to win - and we all saw how it ended.

How does Petkovic say?

"We don't care what the commentators say. We don't listen to them and we don't read what they write. We have one goal and we concentrate only on it. In the end we will see who was right in his predictions."

Winner ratio for Argentina's victory 1.7, for a draw 3.3 and for Croatia's victory 4.7

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Source: israelhayom

All sports articles on 2022-12-13

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