Goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa has been a regular part of the Croatian national team for 15 years and his consistency lends stability to the Vatreni defence. The 35-year-old has more than 100 caps to his name, including appearances at UEFA EURO 2008 and 2012 as well as the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups™, and has appeared for the national side at every level from U-15 upwards.
Croatia’s first-choice goalkeeper at Korea/Japan 2002 at the age of 23, he remains in the role to this day. Pletikosa celebrated a special milestone on 6 February 2013, when he won his 100th cap together with team-mates Darijo Srna and Josip Simunic in an international match against Korea Republic. The 2002 Croatian Player of the Year spent his youth and the early part of his senior career at Hajduk Split before moving to Shakhtar Donetsk and later to Spartak Moscow. Pletikosa has amassed six titles in his homeland and Ukraine in a career spanning almost 20 years.
The “Octopus”, as he is affectionately known by many fans, has also suffered several setbacks over the years. He suffered a serious muscle injury shortly before UEFA EURO 2004, resigning him to the role of a spectator at Europe’s biggest tournament. At club level, he also endured a disappointing loan spell at Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur during the 2010/11 season, managing just one appearance for Spurs before moving to top-flight Russian club FK Rostov the following season.
Apart from Mario Mandzukic, Pletikosa was the only Croatian player to feature in all 12 of his team’s qualifying matches (including play-offs) for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Thanks to his exceptional physical fitness, though he will be Croatia’s oldest player at this summer’s competition, it is highly unlikely to be the 35-year-old's final appearance at a major international tournament.