Slaven Bilić – Master Tactician or Legally Minded Rock Star

One thing you can’t say about Croatia manager Slaven Bilić is that he lacks emotion and this was more than evident during his team’s brilliant 2-1 win against the cocky Germans in their Group B Euro 2008 match. Bilić was jumping around like he had bee’s flying around in his trousers and this alone would have been well worth seeing had it not been for the fact that the game was actually very exciting to watch.

The man is quite a character and at thirty-nine years old is the youngest manager at the Euro 2008 finals, and it must be said that he’s the least conventional as well. Anyone would be hard pressed to come up with the name of a manager who has ever stalked the sidelines wearing a diamond earring, possessing a law degree and is partial to playing heavy metal music on his guitar! Is this the new way forward for football managers? Well, we certainly hope so as his antics and refreshing outlook to the game are just the kick up the arse that the footballing management fraternity was in need of. Maybe a new breed of manager can follow his lead. That way we wouldn’t have to suffer sites like ex-England boss Steve McClaren standing on the sidelines at a rainy Wembley under his umbrella looking like a big girl during, funnily enough, a home defeat to Croatia.

Bilić, who took over the team’s management in July 2006, was an entertaining sideshow during the win over Germany which, incidentally, coupled with Poland draw against Austria, allowed Croatia to go through to the quarter-finals as group winners. Bilić prowled his technical area like a demented animal throughout the game, even though it rained continuously and viewers of the game on TV worldwide, but most especially those in England, were glad he didn’t pull out an umbrella. Mind you, a rendition of ‘Singing in the Rain’ would have gone down rather nicely!

When Croatia scored the opener midway through the first half, Bilić couldn’t contain himself any longer, and rather like a coiled up spring, charged on to the pitch before remembering he wasn’t meant to be out of his technical box so continued his frenzied celebrations in the technical area. He remained quite cool when Croatia doubled their lead but when Germany pulled one back eleven minutes from time, his nerves were apparent for all to see. With his team managing to hold out until the end, Bilić celebrated widely at the final whistle; racing out onto the pitch hugging everybody in joyous celebration.

A decade ago, this tactically astute music playing lawyer was playing in the Croatia team that beat Germany for the first time in the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals by 3-0, fast forward ten years and he finds himself the architect of their second victory.

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