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Miroslav "Ćiro" Blažević ( ; born February 9, 1935[103354]) is a Bosnian Croat football manager and former Yugoslav football player.

He is the current manager for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national football team. He achieved his greatest success as the coach of the Croatian national team, which claimed third place at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He was appointed as manager to the Bosnia-Herzegovina team on 10 July 2008.

Football career

Early career

Blažević was born to a Croatian family in Travnikmarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker. His career as a player was, by his own admission, average; therefore, he began his coaching career at a relatively early age. He started as a coach where he ended his playing days—in Switzerlandmarker. He first led FC Veveymarker (1968-71) then his former team FC Sion (1971-76), FC Lausanne-Sport (1976-79) and finally Switzerland's national team (as interim coach for two games in 1976).

Success with Dinamo

Blažević returned to the former Yugoslaviamarker in 1979 to coach NK Rijeka. After winning solid 10th place with Rijeka in a strong Yugoslav Football Championship in 1978-79, Blažević went to NK Dinamo Zagreb, one of Yugoslavia's four most respected teams (the other three were Crvena Zvezda, Partizan Belgrade and Hajduk Split) in 1980. After a mediocre first season, where Dinamo finished in 5th place, Ćiro became a legend in 1982, winning the Zagreb outfit their first Yugoslav Championship success for 24 years.

Next year, Dinamo won the Yugoslav Cup and led a long battle with Partizan and Hajduk in the league. Partizan became 1983 champions and Blažević left Dinamo for the first time. He claimed that he had to escape because he was about to be arrested as one of the leading Croatian nationalists; while Ćiro was by no means popular with the authorities, many see this as pure self-propaganda.

However, Ćiro went back to Switzerland, winning the Swiss Championship with Grasshopper-Club Zurich in 1984. After that he briefly coached Greek club PAOK Thessaloniki in 1985. In 1986, Ćiro was once again in Yugoslavia, this time as manager of Kosovo's Pristina FC. Under Ćiro's command Pristina achieved First Division status.

In the same year he became Dinamo Zagreb's coach for second time; during this period he failed to accomplish any significant results and therefore left again in 1988. His next team was FC Nantes of Francemarker; Ćiro was there until 1990.

Croatia tenure

In the 1990s, with Croatia gaining independence, Ćiro joined the Croatian Democratic Union and became President Tuđman's admirer and close friend. For the third time he became Dinamo (then named NK Croatia Zagreb) coach and president at the same time. Ćiro won the 1993 Croatian Championship and 1994 Croatian Cup, but then left his favorite club once more, citing his reasons for doing so as needing to focus on managing the Croatian national team.

Ćiro was national team manager from 1994 on a part-time basis, but only a year later it became a full-time job as Croatia faced its first qualifying ciclus for the European Championship. Croatia won the first place in qualifying group, sensationally ahead of Italy and directly entered Euro 96 in Englandmarker. Blažević was about to gain some worldwide fame.

Croatia passed group stage with wins against Turkey and current European champions Denmark and loss to Portugal, to face Germany in quarter-finals. Germany won 2-1 and went on to win the event, but Ćiro and Croatians claimed that the Swedishmarker referee Leif Sundell was somewhat biased towards the Germans.

However, greatest things lay ahead, as Croatia was trying to qualify to the 1998 FIFA World Cup in Francemarker. They won second place in the qualifying group behind Denmark and ousted Ukraine in a play-off for the tournament.

1998 World Cup

The Croatian squad of 1998 was full of accomplished players who played for top European clubs, including the likes of Zvonimir Boban, Davor Šuker and Slaven Bilić, and they were well led by Blažević. In France they created one of the greatest all-time World Cup sensations by winning the third place play-off. In the group stage, Croatia eliminated Japan and Jamaica, suffering a non-significant loss to Argentina in the final game. In the knockout stages they passed by Romania, winning 1-0 from a penalty kick. This prepared them for a quarter-final against Germany. Ćiro and the Croatians got their revenge with a shocking 3-0 win that stunned the world. However, Croatia were stopped by the hosts France in semis; a somewhat undeserved 2-1 defeat to the eventual champions. It should be noted that Blažević made a critical coaching decision in that semi-final as he failed to insert his most talented player Robert Prosinečki when the game was in the balance at 1-1. Instead he opted for Silvio Marić to replace the injured Boban after halftime and Croatia eventually lost the game 2-1. In the third-place match, Prosinečki started and immediately made his presence felt by scoring the first goal and delievering a wonderful defence splitting pass which resulted in Croatia's second goal. Croatia won against Holland 2-1 to claim the bronze. Just like in 1982, Ćiro was again the national hero and number one.

The rest of his stint as Croatian manager was not so successful. Croatia failed to qualify for Euro 2000, after finishing a disappointing third in a qualifying group behind FR Yugoslavia and Ireland. Ćiro retained his position and began to build a new team, filled with younger players for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. However, after Croatia opened the qualifiers with two draws, he was forced to resign in autumn 2000.

Iran tenure and return to Croatia

Well known for his 1998 sensation, Ćiro accepted an offer to lead the Iranian national team. He quickly developed a following among many of the Iranian fans. Ćiro kept the 3-5-2 formation that Iran had played with previously in the 96 Asian Cup, in which Iranian national team had won third place. He also introduced new players to Team Melli such as Rahman Rezaei, Javad Nekounam, and Mirzapour. Known as loudmouth and showman, Blažević stayed true to form by claiming he would hang himself from the goalposts if Iran failed to beat Ireland in the deciding qualification playoff for the 2002 World Cup. Ireland won 2-1 on aggregate, the defeat that marked the end of Blažević's time in Iran as his assistant Branko Ivanković took over.

Ćiro then came back in Croatia, first saving NK Osijek from relegation and then again in Dinamo. In his forth term as Dinamo coach, Blažević won the Croatian Championship in 2003, but left again same year after clashing with his long-time friend, Dinamo's vice president Zdravko Mamić.

Ćiro then led Slovenian NK Mura for few months before becoming the coach of Croatian side NK Varteks, a post he held until the end of the season.

Stint at Hajduk

Ćiro controversially announced that he was going to coach Hajduk Split in 2005-06, having expressed his desire to coach the southern Croatian side for decades; many fans were sceptical due to his association with Hajduk's arch-rival Dinamo. Not surprisingly, his arrival caused a great deal of controversy; Hajduk fans had differing opinions, with a significant number seeing Ćiro as a miracle worker that would help Hajduk regain its former glory.

Those expectations weren't met; Hajduk under Ćiro's leadership immediately got eliminated from European competitions, following an 8-0 aggregate defeat at the hands of Hungarianmarker side Debreceni VSC; the 5-0 second leg drubbing being the most humiliating result for the Split club at Poljudmarker stadium. The opening stages of the new league campaign brought about another series of humiliations, finally forcing Ćiro to resign on September 18, followed by Igor Štimac, former Hajduk player and one of his main supporters in club administration.

Neuchâtel and NK Zagreb

In October 2005 he went back to Switzerland and coached Neuchâtel Xamax, replacing Alain Geiger in an attempt to save the club from relegation after they had won just one out of their first 10 games of the season. Although Ćiro achieved some memorable victories with Neuchâtel against Swiss powerhouses FC Basel and FC Zurich, they finished the season in 9th place (in a 10-club league) and went to relegation playoff. They were eventually relegated after losing to another Swiss team Ćiro had managed 35 years earlier, FC Sion, 3-0 on aggregate, and his tenure there ended in June 2006.

Once again, he returned to Croatia, this time to take over NK Zagreb. The club experienced a successful 2006-07 season which saw them finish third behind Dinamo and Hajduk and earned them a spot in Intertoto Cup 2007. However, in the following season the team made for an early exit, losing against their first Intertoto opponent Vllaznia on away goals. After Ivica Vrdoljak and Mario Mandžukić were transferred to city rivals Dinamo Zagreb at the beginning of the season, the team saw a string of mediocre results before finishing the season sixth. Immediately after the last game of the season, Ćiro announced that his stint at NK Zagreb had come to an end by mutual consent between him and the club's chairman.

Coach of Bosnia and Herzegovina

On July 10, 2008 Ćiro was appointed coach of Bosnia and Herzegovina national football team replacing Meho Kodro, who was dismissed by the Football Federation officials after he refused to take charge of the national team for a friendly against Iran. When Meho Kodro was fired, the Bosnian Football Association was disliked by the people because of firing a person who was considered a national hero. However, Blazevic was able to unite the supporters and the Football Association.

Bosnia under Blažević has qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier playoffs, playing a game against Portugal.In Lisbon, Portugal, Bosnia lost 1-0, with a goal scored by Bruno Alves. In Zenica, Bosnia lost 1-0 against Portugal, with a goal scored by Raul Meireles.

Records

National teams record

Team Tenure* Played Won Drawn Lost Win % Points per game Honours
  Switzerland    Sep 1976 - Oct 1976 2 0 0 2 0.00 0.00
Croatia Mar 1994 - Oct 2000 73 36 22 15 49.31 1.78 1996 Euro - Quarter-final
1998 World Cup - Third place
Iran  Apr 2001 - Nov 2001  19 10 3 5 52.63 1.78
 Bosnia-Herzegovina   Aug 2008 - present 12 7 1 4 71.43 2.14
Totals 101 51 26 24 50.50 1.77


*Dates of first and last games under Blažević; not dates of official appointments
Last updated: Bosnia and Herzegovina 2:1 Belgium , 1 April 2009.


Honours

Club



International

1996 Euro: Quarter-finals
1998 World Cup: Third place


Individual



Political engagement

Ćiro is an admirer of Franjo Tuđman with whom he maintained a friendship as well. Ćiro was even a member of late Croatian president Tuđman's party HDZ, but he publicly disagreed with his successor, the pro-European HDZ leader Ivo Sanader. Because of this, Ćiro left the part in 2000 shortly after Tuđman's death, and then decided to run for President of Croatia as an independent candidate. Polls predicting the 2005 presidential election results usually gave him 1-2% of the vote. In the end he got 17,847 votes (0.80%) and was eliminated in the first round of the election.

Following the presidential elections debacle he quit politics, until appearing once again four years later at the 2009 Zagreb local elections where he successfully ran as HDZ candidate for the city council. He claimed that prime minister Ivo Sanader had talked him into re-joining the party and running for office. He is currently the oldest serving member of the Zagreb city council and is a member of the city board for naming streets and squares.

References

  1. http://www.teammelli.com/Coaches/miroslav_blazevic.htm
  2. Blazevic manages to unite Bosnia, The Independent, September 6, 2009



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