In recent years, Mario Mandzukic has developed into one of the world’s leading strikers. He showed signs of this potential at UEFA EURO 2012, where he was one of the top goalscorers of the group stage, but Mandzukic was unable to prevent the Vatreni’s early exit from the competition.

After the tournament, Mandzukic transferred from Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg to record national champions Bayern Munich, becoming one of the outstanding performers and most prolific scorers in his first season with the German giants. He played a major part in Bayern’s unprecedented treble of league, German Cup and UEFA Champions League and became the first Croatian to find the net in the final of Europe’s premier club competition when he scored against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in May 2013 – a goal that set his team on the way to victory.

The UEFA Supercup and FIFA Club World Cup titles capped an historic year for both Bayern and Mandzukic, who was voted Croatia’s Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013 and Croatia’s Sportsman of the Year in 2013. It is hard to imagine the Croatian national team without the 27-year-old. Mandzukic was the only player, alongside Stipe Pletikosa, to appear in every single one of Croatia’s qualifying games for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, including the play-offs.

He was also the Vatreni’s top scorer with four goals, and it was Mandzukic who helped seal qualification with the opening goal in the 27th minute of the 2-0 second-leg play-off victory over Iceland. Only 11 minutes after his strike, however, Mandzukic received a straight red card and will miss Croatia’s opening match of the tournament – against the hosts Brazil.