Underdogs to try they're not here to only make up the numbers.
FIFA U20 World Cup
29 July - 20 August 2011
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Samuel Philip Steinbock
Few gave Croatia a chance of qualifying for this tournament as they had Spain, Italy and Portugal in their group. However, after a 2-1 loss to Spain and a 0-0 draw with Italy, Mladi Vatreni put Portugal to the sword with a 5-0 victory.
It was enough to secure them a second place finish, thus qualifying out of the group stage. However, they met eventual winners France in the semi-finals. Although the underdogs took an early lead through Arijan Ademi, France levelled just before half-time and with seven minutes to go, France scored the winner.
Despite the loss, Croatia booked their place for Colombia 2011 and this will be their second appearance a FIFA U-20 World Cup. Their first came way back in 1999 in Nigeria, with the likes of Stipe Pletikosa, a FIFA World Cup participant in 2002 and 2006, and Jurica Vranjes in the squad.
Billed as outsiders from the off, they managed to progress to the second round after draws against renowned forces Ghana and Argentina. Victory over Kazakhstan put them second in the group and through to the round of 16. There they met a Brazil side led by Ronaldinho, who scored the first two goals in a 4-0 victory.
Coach Ivan Grnja's current crop of youngsters boast an abundance of talent, not least in the form of Filip Ozobic and Zvonko Pamic. After becoming his side's top scorer in qualifying, Pamic was snapped up by Bundesliga high-flyers Bayer Leverkusen and has spent the season out on loan at Freiburg.
Meanwhile, the trickery and guile of midfielder Ozobic, currently on the books of Spartak Moscow, made him the most-fouled player at the U-19 European Championships in France and will surely be one to watch in Colombia.
With these two leading the Croatian front-line, the underdogs will show they are not here just to make up the numbers.