Mario Mandžukić's double for Croatia against the Republic of Ireland not only left him level with Russia's Alan Dzagoev at the top of the UEFA EURO 2012 scoring charts but also earned him the Carlsberg Man of the Match award.
The VfL Wolfsburg forward opened the scoring after three minutes at the Municipal Stadium in Poznan and he added a second goal, and Croatia's third, soon after half-time with the help of a fortunate deflection off Shay Given. The fact both goals were headers gave him extra satisfaction, as he explained. "I had to say hello to my dad," he smiled. "He asked me to score a header because I'm a tall guy and this is what I do best. I still can't believe what we just did. It was a fantastic victory. I scored those two goals, but I have to say it was thanks to my team-mates, they played a great game."
The 26-year-old was also thankful for how well coach Slaven Bilić had prepared his team for what was a difficult game against Giovanni Trapattoni's disciplined Ireland side. "It was a hard match," he said. "
We knew it wouldn't be easy. Our coach told us everything about the Ireland team, so we were ready for them. It was important for us to score an early goal so we could play the football that we are capable of. They are fighters, so it was not easy."
Former Valencia CF, Real Madrid CF and ACF Fiorentina striker Predrag Mijatović handed over the award and was quick to praise Mandžukić. "It was not easy," said Mijatović, who scored the winning goal for the Merengues in the 1998 UEFA Champions League final. "Mario did a really great job. It's so important if you can score two in the first match." Mijatović then spoke directly to Mandžukić and tipped him to have a successful UEFA EURO 2012. "I'm sure you can score more goals in this tournament," he added.
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