Croatia to play in front of first full crowd since 2014by William Odinga 20/03/2017 11:32:00 0 comments 1 Views
- Croatia last played in front of a permitted full home crowd back in October 2014
- Hooliganism meant Croatia fans were banned for several home matches
- Croatia take on Ukraine in a World Cup qualifier at Zagreb's Maksimir Stadium
- Coach Ante Cacic said he would not consider recalling Liverpool's Dejan Lovren
Published: 11:20 EDT, 20 March 2017 | Updated: 11:32 EDT, 20 March 2017
Croatia will play to their first full home crowd at a competitive match for almost two and a half years this week, in a World Cup qualifier which coach Ante Cacic hopes will show his side has healthy support.
Hooliganism meant fans were banned from several home matches - the last time they had a full home crowd was in a 6-0 win over Azerbaijan in October 2014 - but Friday's clash against Ukraine will give them a chance to refute claims that Croatians are not fond of the national side.
'Finally, we will have the massive home crowd support we need,' Cacic told a news conference after naming his squad to face the Ukrainians on Friday.
Croatia are allowed a full home crowd for the first time since October 2014 vs Azerbaijan
The Croatians top Group 1 with 10 points from four games, two more than second-placed Ukraine.
'I am confident the match against the Ukrainians will deny a loud minority claiming that most Croatian football fans don't like the national team and want to boycott us,' Cacic said.
Croatia last enjoyed partial home support in March 2015 at a 5-1 win over Norway in Zagreb's Maksimir stadium, where a section of the ground was closed for the Euro 2016 qualifier after fans had caused crowd trouble in a 1-1 draw at Italy.
Croatian fans fighting in the stands during the Euro 2016 group match against Czech Republic
Croatia fans throw flares onto the pitch at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne
The match against the Norwegians was marred by racist chants and that forced the Croatians to play their next home game against Italy behind closed doors in Split, where a swastika emblazoned on the pitch by a chemical agent days before the kick off became visible during the game.
'I am a man of the people and I can see for myself how much the people love the national team,' Cacic said. 'The team means a lot more to our nation than some people suggest with their poisonous attitude.'
Ivan Perisic wheels away after scoring the winner for Croatia against Spain at Euro 2016
Cacic will be forced to field a makeshift side against Ukraine, with defenders Sime Vrsaljko and Vedran Corluka injured and winger Ivan Perisic suspended.
Asked whether he considered recalling Liverpool's out-of-favour defender Dejan Lovren, Cacic said:
'Not now, but if he is fit and playing for his club in May, he will be in contention.'
Croatia coach Ante Coric said Liverpool's Dejan Lovren will not be recalled to the squad