World Cup preview: Croatia

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16 Jan 2019

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Australia versus Croatia at the 2006 World Cup in Germany was a memorable match for Australian fans.

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A late goal by Harry Kewell meant the match ended in a two-all draw – enough for Australia to progress from the group stages of a World Cup for the first time.

But the match was also particularly memorable for nine players on both sides who had split allegiances.

All Australian-born of Croatian descent, three were playing for Croatia and six for Australia.

Vitor Sabral has the details.

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Then Socceroos goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac was one of the nine players who felt allegiance to Australia – but also to Croatia.

Kalac says it made the singing of the national anthems a tricky task.

“I always got goosebumps and sang the Australian national anthem proudly, but to have the opportunity to sing the Croatian national anthem as well, I probably didn’t sing as loudly as I wanted to, I sort of hummed along to it, which was quite nice, but strange. Yeah, it was a strange feeling.”

Even referee Graham Poll was confused.

He failed to send off Josip Simunic, playing for Croatia, after giving him two yellow cards, because he’d put the first yellow in the Australian column after hearing his Aussie accent.

The link between the two nations was also evident during Croatia’s first World Cup appearance in 1998 when fans flocked to the King Tom club in Sydney for the matches.

Mark Jukic was one of them.

“It was surreal to be surrounded by people who were just jumping up and down, we were miles and miles away but we felt like we were there.”

 

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