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Croatia's bright young things

Published: Thursday 21 August 2014, 9.38CET
After Niko Kovač named a young Croatia squad for September's meeting with Malta, Elvir Islamović in Zagreb profiles four of the country's best teenage talents.
by Elvir Islamović
from Zagreb
Croatia's bright young things
Alen Halilović has already won three senior caps ©Getty Images
 
Published: Thursday 21 August 2014, 9.38CET

Croatia's bright young things

After Niko Kovač named a young Croatia squad for September's meeting with Malta, Elvir Islamović in Zagreb profiles four of the country's best teenage talents.

Niko Kovač has named a youthful Croatia squad for September's European Qualifiers as he ushers in a new generation for the Vatreni. Stipe Pletikosa, Ognjen Vukojević and Eduardo da Silva all retired from international football following the FIFA World Cup and Kovač says "it is time to make some changes and bring in some fresh faces". Our man in Zagreb, Elvir Islamović, introduces a few of the leading lights.

Alen Halilović, midfielder
Maybe the most promising talent to emerge in Croatia in the last two decades. Now 18, he entered the record books by becoming the youngest goalscorer in Croatian top-flight history at 16 years and 133 days. He quickly established himself at GNK Dinamo Zagreb as an extraordinary gifted creative midfielder who frequently draws comparisons to Luka Modrić and Lionel Messi. Few in Zagreb were surprised when FC Barcelona came calling in April, signing him on a five-year deal.

Tin Jedvaj, defender
The son of well-travelled defender Zdenko Jedvaj, Tin provided precious defensive mettle after breaking into the Dinamo Zagreb side aged 17. AS Roma acted quickly, bringing the towering centre-back to the Italian capital last summer. With opportunities limited, he has joined Bayer 04 Leverkusen on loan for this season and next, making his UEFA Champions League debut on Wednesday. Solid, strong and speedy, Jedvaj could be the heart of the Croatia defence for years to come.

©Getty Images

Tin Jedvaj in action for Roma

Marko Pjaca, winger
Yet another big talent to roll off the production line at Dinamo Zagreb. Only 19, he is already earmarked as a potential leader of the future Croatia. Fast, skilful, smart and creative, he has all the tricks of the trade of a winger and Dinamo Zagreb expect much from him over the next few years. They owe a debt, though, to Pjaca's first club NK Lokomotiva Zagreb who offered him his first taste of top-flight football.

Mario Pašalić, midfielder
It is two years since Pašalić, then 17, made his debut at HNK Hajduk Split. The composed central midfielder immediately looked at home, scoring 11 goals in 32 First League appearances for Hajduk before being snapped up by Chelsea FC in July. Quick, inventive and with a keen eye for goal, Pašalić will be demonstrating his abilities in the Liga this term after joining Elche CF on loan.

Croatia kick off UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying at home to Malta on 9 September.

Last updated: 21/08/14 12.08CET

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