Croatia: Darijo Srna


Written by Colby Leachman in 2013

Edited by Andrew Istler in 2015

Defender/Midfield, #11, 33 Years Old

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Before becoming the most capped player in Croatian history, Darijo Srna grew up in Metkovic, Yugoslavia (now Croatia).  His father is a Boznian national while his mother is Croatian. As a young kid, much of his early football expertise came from his father, a former professional soccer player for FK Sarajevo. As he grew older, football became point of contention during the Yugoslavian Wars, however his father continued to encourage his growth in the sport (1).


In his first years of club soccer Srna, faced lots of discrimination due to the on going conflicts between the Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks. The corruption in the Yugoslavian leagues during the war worked to further compound this problem. Despite this, Srna talents were hard to ignore and at the age of 18, Hajduk Spit signed him to his first professional contract (1).


While at Hajduk Spit, Srna was able to solidify a starting role in their formidable defense. He aided the club in the two Croatian league cup championships as well as three UEFA Champions League appearances. His good form was did not go unnoticed and after four years he transferred to Shaktar Donetsk in 2003 (2).


Immediately upon his transfer Srna made a noticeable impact at Shaktar Donetsk. Within his first year, he cemented himself as a Donetsk regular; recording 29 appearances for the club and three goals. At Shakta, Srna’s technical abilities grew and his presence in the midfield began to offer both defensive and offensive advantages. In his first five years with the club Srna was instrumental in helping catapult Donetsk to the top of the Ukrainian League. During this time, the club won 3 Ukrainian Cup titles, 3 Premiere League titles, and a Super Cup title (3).


Srna’s, club consistency and leader-ship paid off in the 2009-2010 season as the team elected him captain. As captain, Srna has continued to flourish. He proved him self as a wily midfielder with a knack for great free-kicks and set pieces. During this time he became the teams defensive hub. His hard-nosed tackling and his relentless play set the tempo for the rest of the team. In 2011, he led the club to arguably its most successful season to date as they won the Ukrainian Cup, The Premiership, the Super Cup (With an astounding 7-1 victory), and made an appearance in the Semi-Finals of the UEFA cup. In the same campaign, UEFA selected Srna to the UEFA Champions League Team of the Year(2)(4).


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Since this historic season, Srna has continued to progress as a prolific footballer. In the last two seasons with the club they succeeded in winning their sixth club title and fourth Ukrainian Cup since 2003. To top it off, Srna finished the season as the assist leader (12 assists) in the Ukrainian league during the 2012-2013 campaign (5).

Srna’s international career for Croatia started shortly before his transfer to Shaktar Donetsk. He recorded his first international cap during the nations friendly against Romania. However, his first consistent playing time for the national team began as a substitute during Euro 2004(6). He provided the team crucial spark from the bench but Croatia was eventually eliminated in the first round.


From 2006-2008 Srna became a key player in the Croatian squad. During the 2006 World Cup, he became the teams leading scorer as a defender/mid-fielder with five goals in nine appearances. His dazzling form continued into the Euro 2008 as the team made it to the quarterfinals only to suffer a devastating loss in PKs to Turkey(6). Despite their failure in the tournament, the team elected Srna captain of the squad directly after the tournament.



The Croatians showed a disappointing display of form during their run in the 2010 World Cup Qualifiers. After a 3-0 loss to England, the Croatians fell behind Ukraine and subsequently failed to make the 2010 World Cup. However, under Srna’s leadership the team has bounced back with an impressive run in the 2012 Euros and a solid performance in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.


After their allocation to group A for Rio, the expectations for Croatia success are high. They, behind Brazil, have the second highest ranking in the group (16th in the world). However, much of this success will rest on the shoulders of Srna. According to sports Journalist, Giovanni Albanese Srna, “is the team’s leader—their heart and soul(7).” On the pitch, Srna leads by example. He is rarely the most skillful player on the field but he always plays hard, fast, and never gives up. Furthermore, Srna will also be one of the most experienced players on the squad. He will be vital in leading the younger players such as Mandzukic and Jelavic to success.


While expectations are high, Rio will also greet Srna with skepticism. At age 33, many believe that the peak of his career is behind him. He will be forced to prove that he is more than a wily veteran, but also capable of contributing to the team in all facets of the game. While his place at Shaktar seems solidified, this world cup could very well be his last for Croatia. And although his future on the national squad wont exactly be decided by his play in Rio, it will certainly be a factor to keep an eye on.


Croatia was tested in their first match, they were pinned against the host and tournament favorite Brazil. The came out ready to play and took an early lead with a Marcelo. Srna was not able to keep Brazil’s Neymar in check though and he ended up scoring two goals in the contest. Brazil ended up adding another goal to prevail over the Croatians 3-1.[8]

Srna the Croatians had something to prove. Their next match was against Cameroon and the Croatians needed a victory. They came out hot and never turned back. They went into the half with a 1-0 lead. In the second half the Croatians absolutely dominated. The result of the match was a 4-0 massacre. This win is just what Srna and the Croatians needed. [9]

Their last match of group play would determine if they advanced to the knockout round. Mexico was a tough opponent and proved that throughout the match. The teams went into the half 0-0 and it didn’t seem like either team would find the back of the net. However, in the 72nd minute Mexico scored putting them ahead 1-0. 3 minutes later they scored again adding to their lead. In the 82nd minute Hernandez for Mexico sealed the deal with another goal making it 3-0. Croatia didn’t go down without  a fight though, in the 87th minute Croatia finally put one on the board. The end of the game meant the end of the 2014 World Cup for Srna and Croatia.  [10]


Click here to return to the Players to Watch home page.

Continue on to Group A – Mexico: Javier Hernández

Group A – Brazil: Neymar

Group A – Cameroon: Samuel Eto’o

Click here to return to the UEFA page.

Learn about Croatia’s National Anthem


How to cite this article: “Croatia” Written by Colby Leachman (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).


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