Petric sets sights on prize
Mladen Petric has every reason to be satisfied at the present
time. The 27-year-old scored the winner at Wembley seven months ago
when Croatia downed England 3-2, earning the East Europeans a berth
at UEFA EURO 2008 and condemning their shell-shocked hosts to a
summer on the beach.
And at the current continental showdown in Austria and Switzerland, he and his team are through to the quarter-finals after an unexpected 2-1 victory over three-time European champions Germany, the very country where the striker picks up his wages with Borussia Dortmund. Everything, it seems, is coming up roses for the man with thunder in his left foot.
However, Petric has no intention of resting on his laurels. The 25-time-capped forward, a starter in Croatia's Group B opener against Austria and a late substitute in the win over the Germans, regards the triumph against Michael Ballack and Co as the logical consequence of the belief and assurance built up in the successful qualifying run at England's expense. "Against the Germans, we returned to the football which got us here in the first place. We offered proof of our potential," the Croatian No21 told FIFA.com.
Hungry for glory
Petric emanates a certain aura of relieved gratification, as he knows only too well that life for the Croatians would have been a great deal tougher had they lost to his adopted homeland. "We were heavily criticised after our 1-0 win against Austria, but we've given the right answer and silenced our critics." Indeed, following a distinctly average display at the start of the tournament, Croatia laid on an exhibition of powerful and tactically adept football to which the pre-tournament favourites had no real answer.
Slaven Bilic's men can now justifiably claim a spot among the favourites for themselves, Petric agreed when quizzed by FIFA.com: "Even before the EURO, I was saying we have the potential to spring a huge surprise at the tournament. I think we've gone out and proved that now."
The man who grew up in Switzerland and topped the domestic scoring charts with Basel in the 2006/07 season remains steadfastly convinced he and his team-mates have what it takes to go all the way this summer.
Croatia approach their final Group B meeting with Poland at the Worthersee stadium in Klagenfurt with top spot safely in the bag, increasing the likelihood of Petric returning to the starting line-up, especially as Bilic has already announced changes to last Thursday's winning team. Petric would dearly love to hit the target against the Poles, who must win to stand any chance of progressing from the section, as he battles to recapture the form which saw him run up an impressive seven goals in the qualifying campaign.
One thing is certain: once Mladen Petric has earnestly set about satisfying his hunger for goals, the Croatians will truly become what they themselves have always claimed to be - true potential European champions in waiting.