JOSIP JURANOVIC will line up with his Croatian team-mates against Lionel Messi and Argentina in the World Cup semi-final on Tuesday evening.
The Celtic right-back produced a faultless performance in the 120 minutes before the penalty-kick shoot-out victory over Brazil to propel his nation into an exciting last-four confrontation on football’s biggest stage – and saw his transfer value sky rocket at the same time.
A couple of days ago, CQN scoffed at reports Juranovic was going on trial to emphasise his qualities and we stated: “Of course, the dependable defensive operator could go out and have an absolute stormer, put Vinicius Junior in his back pocket and inspire his nation to a famous victory. That would see his value go up a notch.”
ON THE RUN…Josip Juranovic in a tussle with Brazil winger Vinicius Junior.
And that was exactly what the 27-year-old defender did during a masterly display against the pre-tournament favourites with the tie ending in a 1-1 stalemate and Croatia again holding their nerve to win the spot-kick showdown – just as they did in the previous round against Daizen Maeda and Japan.
Vinicius Junior, the Real Madrid ace who was seen as one of the South American side’s key players, was so frustrated by the relentless Juranovic, he was withdrawn from the action in the 64th minute.
His replacement Rodrygo didn’t get much joy, either, against the Hoops back-four operator who will almost certainly be leaving Parkhead in next month’s transfer window – if the price is right, of course.
Juranovic had faced Vinicius Junior on two occasions in the Champions League this season with the Real Madrid flyer getting the opening goal in the visitors’ 3-0 win in Glasgow and the Croat and his colleagues suffered in the Spanish capital in the return as they were hammered 5-1 on an evening two early penalty-kick decisions derailed their efforts.
HEAD BHOY…Josip Juranovic takes a sore one as Brazil’s Danilo goes in with a high boot as the Celt raids on the wing during the dramatic World Cup encounter.
The Celt also missed from the spot – his first failure for the club – when he saw towering keeper Thibault Courtois beat away his attempt in the second-half.
Juranovic’s experience in Qatar last night was the other side of the soccer coin.
Amid the aftermatch euphoria, Croatian media outlet NL asked the first question which contained the line “did you take Vinicius Jr out of your pocket or do you still have him there?”
Juranovic merely laughed off the cheeky poser and answered: “We are enjoying this moment.
“The whole team played a very good game against a quality opponent. We are deservedly in the semi-finals.
“Let’s go celebrate a little now and then we have work ahead of us.”
PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS…Josip Juranovic and his Croatia team-mates share the joy after the 4-2 penalty-kick success against Brazil.
He revealed he had had a word with his nation’s captain Luka Modric who is a Bernabeu team-mate of Vinicius Junior before the historic success.
Juranovic added: “I spoke with Modric.
“Vinicius is dangerous, but the boys helped me. We played in the Champions League, so I know how he plays and I prepared well, but as a whole team we played well, we showed discipline and we won.
“I thought we conceded a poor goal, but after the goal they retreated, we saw a chance there and thanks to Petkovic for scoring.”
END OF THE WORLD…Neymar can’t disguise his feelings as Brazil crash.
Superstar Neymar thought he had put Brazil on their way to the semis when he scored in the first period of extra-time, but Bruno Petkovic levelled three minutes from the end and then it was down to penalties.
Dominik Livakovic, who saved three against Japan, was the hero again as he blocked Rodrygo’s drive and all eyes were on Marquinos with the spot-kicks 4-2 in favour of Croatia. He had to score, but he thumped his effort against the base of the left-hand post and it was party time for the underdogs.
Now Messi and his Argentinian team-mates bar the way to a grand finale for Juranovic in the global showpiece a week tomorrow.
The South Americans drew 2-2 after extra-time with Virgil van Dijk’s Netherlands, but won through 4-3 on penalty-kicks.
Now the stage is set once more for Juranovic, a bargain £2.5million buy from Legia Warsaw in August last year, to once again add a few million pounds to his value.