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Croatia mourns ‘coach of all coaches’ Blažević

Miroslav Blažević, the legendary coach who guided Croatia to third place in the 1998 FIFA World Cup, has died at the age of 87.

Miroslav Blažević celebrates one of his many victories as a coach
Miroslav Blažević celebrates one of his many victories as a coach AFP via Getty Images

Blažević, who had been ill for some time and passed away two days before his 88th birthday, was at Croatia’s helm between 1994 and 2000 – a period when the infant footballing country enjoyed considerable success on the international stage.

Having led Croatia to the UEFA EURO ’96 quarter-finals in England, Blažević’s crowning moment came two years later, when a gifted Croatian side including household names such as Zvonimir Boban, Davor Šuker and Robert Prosinečki stormed to the World Cup semi-finals, where they were narrowly beaten 2-1 by hosts and eventual winners France.

Blažević’s team – making their first-ever World Cup finals appearance – went on to secure the bronze medal with a 2-1 success over the Netherlands in the third place play-off, and Šuker earned himself the tournament’s Golden Boot award with his sixth goal.

Distinguished career path

Known as 'Ćiro', the success in France earned Blažević another nickname: "Trener svih trener" – ‘coach of all coaches’ in Croatian. His career also included spells in charge of four other national teams - Switzerland, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and China’s Under-23 team.

Born in Travnik, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Blažević’s coaching career started with Swiss club Vevey in 1963 and his last coaching job was with NK Zadar in 2015. He was in charge of more than 20 clubs in his career; Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split, Nantes, PAOK and Grasshopper-Club are some of the renowned names on a long list.

His biggest success in club football came when he won Yugoslavia’s domestic title with Dinamo Zagreb in 1982 – the club’s first title in 24 years.

“One of our game’s greatest coaches” – UEFA President

In paying tribute, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin described Blažević as “the father of modern Croatian football, and one of our game's greatest coaches. Ćiro's legacy goes beyond any trophy or victory, of which there were many in his lengthy career.”

“His success on the field earned him a place in football history,” the UEFA President added, “and his authenticity, charisma and unique sense of humour established for him the cult status that only true legends of the game deserve.”