Davor Suker, one of Europe’s greatest-ever marksmen, never enjoyed much success in front of the Kop – nonetheless, he’s expecting a ‘festival of football’ when Brazil and Croatia meet at Anfield next month on the Brasil Global Tour.
Now president of the Croatian Football Federation, Suker, the top-scorer with six goals at the 1998 World Cup, will be on Merseyside to watch his nation lock horns with the Samba Kings as the countdown to Russia 2018 continues.
Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren will be one Croatian player in familiar surroundings on June 3 and Suker reckons Zlatko Dalic’s men are ready to go toe-to-toe with one of the most iconic teams in world football.
“[Anfield] is one of the more charismatic stadiums and you also have the big club there,” said Suker, who hit 45 goals in 69 games for Croatia.
“Everyone who has the chance to visit Liverpool’s stadium to enjoy [it] understands it.
“Croatian players who will be there and Croatian fans; it will be absolutely exciting to watch the game and be part of the big festival of football.
“[Lovren] will be a really nice host for the Croatian football family.
“And of course, Liverpool will make a great game and a great atmosphere, and I would like all football fans in the United Kingdom to just come and enjoy this friendly game.
“Brazil, of course, is one of the biggest teams in the world and, you know, Croatia; we are [a] small country, but we are so proud and we have quality players.
“I expect [Luca] Modric, [Mario] Mandzukic, [Ivan] Perisic, [Ivan] Rakitic to have a big battle against the Brazilian players in the midfield and of course, we need to make [a] good game.”
Suker joined Arsenal ahead of the 1999-2000 campaign and suffered defeat both times the Gunners met Liverpool that season, Gerard Houllier getting the better of Arsene Wenger home and away.
With 20 goals in 22 games, he still holds the best goal-per-game ratio in UEFA European Championship finals and qualifiers.
In finishing third at the 1998 World Cup, Croatia pulled off a major shock in their first appearance on football’s greatest stage.
Suker is backing Lovren and Co. to upset the apple cart once again – after they’ve flustered the likes of Neymar and Phillippe Coutinho.
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“Brazil is one of the top teams in [the] world and it’s so exciting and so nice to have this chance,” said Suker.
“I hope we can make [a] great game because [Zlatko] Dalic and the players; it’s a big test for us.
“I am president and I don’t like to make so many big comments.
“I would like to have all players healthy and all players in the best competitive time to play well, and of course, [the] expectation of [the] Croatian family of football is to be [the] surprise of the World Cup – I have that secret wish.
“This is the World Cup. Every dream of each kid. All kids around the world can dream of playing for the national team.
“Of course, England is a great country for football, Brazil is a great country for football, and so is Croatia.
“All ingredients to enjoy the game.”