Player to watch

Nico Kranjcar (Croatia)

The Kranjcar name resonates through the history of Balkans football and Nico Kranjcar plans to make it echo even louder should Croatia go on and win the Euro 2008 title. The 23-year-old midfield dynamo would want to help the Croats through the first phase in Group B at the Euro 2008. The battle-hardened Kranjcar, whose father Zlatko won 11 caps for Yugoslavia and was the first captain of the Croatian national side when they played their first international in 1990, will be relied on to provide the inspiration for the team.

Kranjcar made his international debut in 2004 and impressed at the 2006 World Cup finals, where his father was the coach of the national side, playing in all three of their group matches, displaying a powerful shot and fine passing skills. It was enough to impress European clubs but his then club Hajduk Split opted to sell him to Portsmouth for £3.5m and he has repaid that investment, giving Pompey a more cultured look than previous sides had possessed.

Thankfully for him his move to Portsmouth was not as eventful as when he chose to leave Dinamo Zagreb, after a row with the club’s authorities, and move to rivals Hajduk. His agent was shot dead later that year in what was suspected to be a gangland slaying. Kranjcar scored the opening goal in Croatia’s epic 3-2 defeat of England in the final Euro 2008 qualifier at Wembley which cost the English their place at the finals.