The FIFA U-20 World Cup has lost arguably its most noticeable attacking duo as Croatia depart the tournament following their 2-0 defeat to Chile.
While Marko Livaja and Ante Rebic fought hard to find a goal against the South Americans, the game ended as the first at Turkey 2013 in which neither had managed to get on the scoresheet. However, the duo look set to go far, and there's little chance you will miss them in the act.
Thanks to two eye-catching coiffures, the pair have been particularly obvious leading the Europeans' line. Their hairstyles could even be said to have mimicked the positions they play, with central striker Livaja having sported a more traditional mohawk. His was shaved but left longer and styled to sharp point in the middle – while given a touch of flair with a flash of blond dyed in.
Rebic on the other hand operated in a wider role, primarily on the left flank, but with the freedom to drift across the front-line. This is much like his more shorter-style mohican, which covers a wider area than Livaja's but is still striking with shaved sides and a line scored along the left side.
“It's starting to grow out a bit now, and it needs doing again,” said Rebic, stroking the slowly lengthening back section, which begins to mask his signature look. “It's his brand,” goalkeeping coach Filip Susnjara, who is sat alongside, chips in.
The forward pair have had their respective looks for a little while now, and it has certainly meant they were hard to miss. “I quite enjoy being noticeable and standing out up front,” said RNK Split's Rebic, draped over a sofa in his Bursa hotel, before continuing with a sideways glance, “though I don't think Marko does so much.” Atalanta forward Livaja, the more circumspect and contemplative of the two, replied: “For me it's just a bit of fun.”
With players like [Mario] Mandzukic up front, it's a very difficult team to break into, but it's what we are both hoping for and aiming to achieve.
Their hair is far from the only reason why they turned heads in Turkey. Scoring three times between them in the group stage, the pair got all but one of Croatia goals at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Making one for either player too, they struck up something of an effective partnership, but Livaja explains instinct was the biggest part to play in helping the team reach their goal of getting to the knockout stage. Unfortunately for them though, it was no further.
“We are both forwards, it's what we are meant to do,” he said, with his goal coming as the crucial equaliser against Uzbekistan. “I wouldn't say that we have a special connection, it's more just an understanding of football I think. We've just been doing what the coach has asked of us, and it worked pretty well.”
With their tournament now over, they must look to the future. On the pair's chances of finding their way into the senior squad, Susnjara is confident. “In my opinion, they are both on the right track,” he said. “It will take time, but I can see them both becoming regulars in the U-21 side and then potentially the senior team after that.”
If they can make it, Livaja believes the form the pair have shown together at the FIFA U-20 World Cup would only continue, though was under no illusions that they could stroll into a competitive front line. “It's all down to the coach,” he conceded.
“If we were to both get into the senior team and play together, we'd be producing the same as we have been here together. It will be tough though, with players like [Mario] Mandzukic up front, it's a very difficult team to break into, but it's what we are both hoping for and aiming to achieve.”