Croatia fined but confident that fan trouble is over and football can be the focus

By Andrew Warshaw

June 21 – Croatia, whose fans have brought shame on tournament after tournament, can consider themselves to have got off lightly after UEFA fined them €100,000 as a result of the ugly scenes towards the end of the 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic last Friday.

The Croatia Football Federation has also been banned from selling tickets to fans identified as “hooligans”. But with tickets for today’s game against Spain all sold, this sanction is deferred until after the tournament.

The UEFA charges related to crowd disturbances, use of fireworks, throwing of missiles and racist behaviour. Croatia fans fought amongst themselves forcing the referee to briefly halt proceedings when flares were thrown on to the pitch.

If there is further Croatian crowd trouble in the Spain match – the final one in Group D for both sides – then the sanction would kick in immediately.

The fine is the second biggest handed out at the tournament after Russia were fined €150,000 last week but whether it will deter the Croatian fans, many of whom are opposed to how the national federation is run, must be questionable.

Last month Croatia were sanctioned by FIFA following discriminatory chanting and ordered to play their next two home World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors.

Despite tightened security and plenty of friendly  banter between various sets of fans, Euro 2016 has not been the best advertisement for goodwill inside the stadiums, with several other countries charged by UEFA because of the conduct of their fans.

But Croatia boss Ante Cacic, who lambasted last week’s troublemakers, and midfielder Ivan Perisic are confident their supporters will behave from now on.

“I’m not too worried,” said Cacic. “I think the organisers and the French police can be more prepared and try to fix all these problems. I think our supporters are going to be much better. We have to be focused on what is going on on the pitch and try to play our best. Everything that is going on with the supporters, all these problems are making us stronger.”

Perisic, who opened the scoring for Croatia in Saint-Etienne with a delicious goal, also backed the supporters to get behind the team properly – and said the players had recovered from the whole debacle of losing concentration.

“It was not easy after the match against Czech Republic but the feelings are now much better and the atmosphere in the team is perfect,” he said. “We played really well against Turkey and all except the last 15 minutes against the Czech Republic. We really hope our supporters will be at their best because we really need them against Spain.”

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