When Ivan Perišić arrived at UEFA EURO 2012 it was expected he would provide cover for Ivan Rakitić on the left wing.
Yet two days before Croatia's Group C opener against the Republic of Ireland, coach Slaven Bilić shuffled his pack, moving skipper Darijo Srna to right-back and switching Rakitić from his usual left-midfield berth to the opposite flank and the position vacated by the FC Shakhtar Donetsk player.
The upshot was that Perišić suddenly had a place in the starting XI for the encounter with Giovanni Trapattoni's side, and he did not disappoint. One of the liveliest performers on the Municipal Stadium Poznan pitch, the 23-year-old showcased his shooting ability on a couple of occasions as well as laying on Mario Mandžukić's second, Croatia's third goal, with an inviting cross.
"I could even have scored myself," the Borussia Dortmund midfielder told UEFA.com. "I had two shots. The first was well saved and, as for the other, I really thought I would score in a situation like that, but my shot wasn't good," added Perišić, who hit seven goals in the Bundesliga in 2011/12 but has yet to score for his country.
All in all, though, Perišić's major tournament debut could not have gone much better. "It was my dream to play for Croatia and this was my first match in such a big competition," said the former Club Brugge KV player, who made his international bow in March last year and appeared six times in qualifying.
"I had extra motivation because in my last few matches for Croatia I didn't show what I can really do," he added. "I still need some time to adapt to this team and I hope my game will improve in the forthcoming matches."
As for Bilić's decision to alter his lineup, Perišić said: "During the preparations for EURO we have been changing our tactics and players, and the coach decided to pick this system. He got it right and we can all be happy that he selected this one.
This is the Croatia our fans want to see. If we can maintain this level of play we can do something good, but if we don't we won't have as much chance against Italy and Spain. We need to keep the same motivation and team spirit as against the Irish and anything will be possible."
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