Nico Kovac

Croatia coach Kovac apologizes for fan behavior after 16 arrested, match halted in Italy

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Croatia should be hailing its national teamers after the visiting Blazers dominated Italy at the San Siro, just failing to come up with the winner in a 1-1 match.

But instead head coach Niko Kovac is apologizing for road supporters.

[ MORE: Sunday’s Euro qualifying wrap ]

The match was halted twice, once for 10 minutes, as fans tossed fireworks onto the field and a fire appeared in the stands. Sixteen fans were arrested for the disturbances.

From Sky Sports:

“I apologise to everyone, especially the Italians, for our supporters’ behaviour. I was disappointed and helpless, there are no right words for this. If someone has a problem, he has to deal with it outside the stadium.
“This is not the real image of Croatia, Croatians are honest people that respect other nations, while this kind of behaviour leads nowhere. Of course, Croatia will face sanctions, but I think there is no reason for any point deductions.”

The arrests punish the offending parties, and point deductions should always be the last resort considering how many fans, players and coaches are affected. Kovac was visible trying to get the fans to calm down, obviously to no avail in unfortunate scenes in Italy.

Croatia announce final 23-man squad for World Cup

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The list of finalized World Cup rosters keeps flooding in. On Saturday, following a 2-1 victory over Mali, Croatia announced the 23 players that will travel to Brazil.

Niko Kovac didn’t have too difficult a time making cuts from his preliminary roster – but that’s mostly because the injury crisis plaguing the World Cup is all too apparent in the Croatia squad. Hamburg duo Milan Badelj and Ivo Ilicevic and Ivan Strinic of Dnipro all fell to injury, and the injury Niko Kranjcar picked up in QPR’s promotion playoff will keep him out as well.

Along with those four, Kovac also scratched domestic players Duje Cop and Mario Pasalic, as well as Udinese defender Igor Bubnjic.

Despite the injuries, Croatia are set to be a tough opponent for Cameroon, Mexico, and yes, maybe even Brazil. Luka Modric, who dazzled at Real Madrid this season, will frustrate any opponent. Ivan Rakitic, also playing in La Liga, may be lesser-known but is equally capable of creating danger. And, of course, they have Mario Mandzukic up front – although he’ll miss out on the match with Brazil.

Croatia’s 2014 World Cup Roster

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Oliver Zelenika (Lokomotiv Moscow)

Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld (Panathinaikos), Danijel Pranjic (Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dinamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Perisic (Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Mocinic (Rijeka), Sammir (Getafe)

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina)