In the world of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, for the past ten years, it has been difficult to shut down two of the most iconic footballers in their generation. The Ronaldo vs Messi debate continues despite the end of a glorious decade of football, in which we saw the rise of the game’s most influential characters.
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Some of them shared the same stadium as Ronaldo and Messi, while there were those, their hard work, their match-winning skills, and dedication made them little known. Mario Mandzukic of Croatia is one of those players who, in my opinion, has never received the praise he deserved throughout his amazing football career.
The first days
Mario Mandzukic faced those turbulent times following the collapse of the great Yugoslavia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a climate of change swept across Eastern Europe, and the newly independent country Croatia had to face a very difficult time.
After his hometown of Slavonski Brod, near the Bosnian border, was annexed by the Liberation War, the German city of Ditzingen, located about 10km from Stuttgart, became the new home of Mandzukic. It is in this city that the young man finds solace away from the war-torn nation.
In 1992, he joined German club TSF Ditzingen, near Stuttgart. Upon his return to his homeland, newly independent Croatia, he spent the period between 1996 and 2003 at NK Marsonia before spending the season in the small town of NK Zeljeznicar. The following season, he returned to Marsonia and in the summer of 2005, moved to NK Zagreb.
Starts with a trip to Dinamo Zagreb
In the summer of 2007, Mandzukic was bought by Croatian powerhouse Dinamo Zagreb for 1.3 million euros, including Luka Modric for a whopping 1.3 million euros, replacing their Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva. On his arrival, he managed to secure his place in the early eleventh, playing most of the second striker position.
At 22, his first season at Maksimir would see him as a living person before and help Luka Modric’s popularity to get more involved in the game. Although he would face a few disciplinary issues, his desire to win and an instant professional attitude made him popular with fans – His style of play explained his past struggles.
The Mandzukic family had to make great sacrifices for such little ones, as were many from the region at that time. It was a graft or a failure in the eyes of the striker and the choice was obvious. He finished his first season at Dinamo with 12 goals and 11 assists in all 29 games, but had a poor training record, collecting eight yellow cards. For more to know about Qatar World Cup tickets Click here.
Mandzukic has scored the most goals in the league, scoring 16 goals in 28 games. He also scored three goals in the UEFA Cup of the season. This was the season of his promotion to the Croatian national team, as he collected eight caps in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
After a frustrating FIFA World Cup in Brazil, where Croatia was knocked out of Group Stages despite playing better, Mandzukic moved on to Italian Serie A giants Juventus. While at Juventus under manager Massimiliano Allegri, competition from other players often saw Mandzukic used in these deep or wide roles, especially on the left, where he won, praising the media for him.
Continuous professional play, thanks to his ability to lift the ball back towards the goal and play without teammates or fall into the middle of the pitch to help get the ball back when his team is illegal. He also had to work as a wide-ranging man on the left side of the pitch, because of his movement.
And the level of work, and his ability to use his height to overcome air challenges, or to use his strength and strength to lift the ball to teammates and create space or opportunities; in this position, he played the mixed role of a targeted man, a left-handed player, and a left-back.
Glory to Russia
By the time the FIFA World Cup took place in Russia, Croatia had become a very strong unit thanks to lessons learned from previous issues. Mario was one of the leading cogs when Croatia Football World Cup side Captain Luka Modric and star Ivan Rakitic pulled the strings to the bottom. In the opening match against Nigeria, he scored a goal for Oghenekaro Etebo and won a penalty, which was successfully converted by Luka Modric, as the match ended in a 2-0 victory for Croatia.
He has been a threat during Argentina’s La Albiceleste 3-0 defeat. During the round-of-16 match against Denmark, he scored an equalizer in the 4th minute of play; following a 1-1 draw after extra time, the Croatia Football World Cup side won 3-2 on penalties.
In the quarter-finals against Russian athletes on July 7, Mandžukić assisted in the first half of Andrej Kramaric’s equalizer. A 1-1 draw after 90 minutes extended the game to extra time, and following a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes, Croatia advanced to the next round with a penalty shootout, winning 4-3 on penalties.
When Croatia played England in the semi-finals, a 1-1 draw after legal time, Mandzukić scored the winning goal in the 109th minute to give Croatia a 2-1 victory, sending the team to the FIFA World Cup final. For the first time in their history. In the final against France on July 15, he became the first player to ever score his goal in a Football World Cup final.
When he headed Antoine Griezmann’s ball into his net to give France a 1-0 lead; he later scored Croatia’s second goal in a hurry and used the error of French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, as the game ended in a 4-2 defeat. With that goal, Mario Mandzukic became the second player in Football World Cup history to drive both teams in the first match and Ernie Brandts of the Netherlands in the 1978 FIFA World Cup again.
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