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Season review: Croatia

Published: Wednesday 22 June 2011, 11.46CET
NK Dinamo Zagreb stole the show by wining a domestic double under two different coaches, while the 'Croatian Peter Crouch' was in prolific form and RNK Split capped a remarkable rise.
by Elvir Islamović
from Zagreb
Season review: Croatia
Dinamo Zagreb won a domestic double last season ©PIXSELL
Published: Wednesday 22 June 2011, 11.46CET

Season review: Croatia

NK Dinamo Zagreb stole the show by wining a domestic double under two different coaches, while the 'Croatian Peter Crouch' was in prolific form and RNK Split capped a remarkable rise.

NK Dinamo Zagreb were deserved champions, but there was intrigue aplenty elsewhere in the Croatian top flight. RNK Split capped a remarkable rise by coming third, Ivan Krstanović was in prolific form and Ante Vukušić came of age.

Champions: NK Dinamo Zagreb
Dinamo wrapped up their sixth successive First League title in routine fashion, finishing 17 points ahead of runners-up HNK Hajduk Split. A run of 22 league games unbeaten between early August and mid-April epitomised the dominance of the capital outfit, who conceded only 12 goals in their 30 fixtures.

Cup final: NK Dinamo Zagreb 5-1, 3-1 NK Varaždin (Dinamo win 8-2 on agg)
Dinamo repeated their 2010 double with a comfortable success. This time round, though, their second piece of silverware of the campaign came under a different coach, Marijo Tot stepping into the breach after Vahid Halilhodžić's departure following the club's league triumph. Krunoslav Jurčić has since returned to the helm after a year away.

European places
NK Dinamo Zagreb – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
NK Hajduk Split – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
RNK Split – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
NK Varaždin – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

Player of the year: Ivan Krstanović (NK Zagreb)
Though the champions were packed full of quality Krstanović, the division's top scorer with 19 goals, is UEFA.com's top pick. The 28-year-old's potency in front of goal helped save his club from relegation and earned the 1.96m tall 'Croatian Peter Crouch' a summer move to Dinamo.

One to watch: Ante Vukušić (HNK Hajduk Split)
Just 20, Vukušić is one of the hottest prospects in Croatian football. The second-highest scorer in the top flight with 14 goals, this Under-21 international has already attracted praise from senior coach Slaven Bilić. Vice captain at Hajduk, he will have further opportunity to enhance his reputation in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League.

Surprise package: RNK Split
In the fourth tier of Croatian football just four years ago, Split are now the third best team in the country. Their dream debut in the top flight, masterminded by experienced coach Ivan Katalinić and star player Ivica Križanac – a winter signing from FC Zenit St Petersburg – earned the prospect of European football next term.

Number: 10
Imperious throughout, Dinamo Zagreb nevertheless showed their mettle on plenty of occasions, grinding out ten of their 22 league victories by a 1-0 scoreline.

Leading scorer: Ivan Krstanović, NK Zagreb (19)

Relegated: NK Hrvatska Dragovoljac

Promoted: NK Lučko

Quote
"There is a huge pressure when you are playing for Dinamo Zagreb. You can have 15 victories in a row, but when you lose the first one alarm bells start to ring and there is the question: 'What is going wrong?!.' Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid also lose a few matches against weaker teams, but when we lose it's a shock and everything we did good turns to bad."
Dinamo captain Milan Badelj reflects on the demands of playing for the Croatian champions

Last updated: 08/07/11 16.52CET

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