One of Croatia’s breakthrough players this season has not been included in the country’s squad for the European Championship.
And he is not going to play for Germany, either.
Borna Sosa has been torn between two nations, and that will cause the 23-year-old Stuttgart defender with dual citizenship to miss Euro 2020.
Some regard him as Croatia’s best left winger since Robert Jarni, an 80-time international who played for Juventus and Real Madrid in the 1990s.
Sosa could have been one of the fresh faces in Croatia’s squad, which includes only six players from the team that started the World Cup final against France in 2018.
Ivan Rakitić and Mario Mandžukić have retired, but key players like Luka Modrić and Ivan Perišić still form the core of the team under coach Zlatko Dalić.
Croatia will open Group D against England at Wembley on June 13 in a rematch of their World Cup semifinal match from three years ago, when Mandžukić scored an extra-time winner.
Sosa is a left back who mainly impresses with his offensive skills. Pinpoint crosses are his trademark. In 26 matches, he delivered 128 crosses and set up nine goals for Stuttgart, putting him among the top 11 players with the most assists this Bundesliga season.
The defender grew up at Dinamo Zagreb and had gone through all Croatian national youth teams when he arrived at Stuttgart in 2018 when he was 21. After two years marred by knee, back and head injuries, he started to show his full potential over the past season.
The only thing missing for Sosa was an invitation from the Croatian national team, which lacked consistency since reaching the World Cup final in 2018.
Dalić said he was planning to give Sosa his first call-up for the team’s World Cup qualifier against Malta in March but refrained from doing so to make the defender available for Croatia’s squad at the Under-21 European Championship, which started the same week.
However, Sosa didn’t play at the event in Hungary and Slovenia. He would have had to sit out an old suspension in the first two games, and he cited a knee injury for not joining the junior team for its last group match.
Less than six weeks later, Sosa was announced as a potential national team player — by Germany. He had recently received German citizenship, possible since his mother was born in Berlin.
Germany coach Joachim Löw wanted Sosa as an alternative. But a second look at FIFA regulations showed the German federation that Sosa was not eligible to play for the country’s national team, even without a previous appearance in Croatia’s senior national team.
FIFA amended its rules in September and Sosa had passed the new age limit to switch his eligibility. He was already 22 when he last represented Croatia’s under-21 team in November, weeks after the FIFA change.
While his door to the German national team is closed, Sosa could still play for Croatia. But Dalić didn’t include him in the final 26-player squad for Euro 2020.
With Borna Barišić, Domagoj Bradarić and Joško Gvardiol in the squad, Dalić said “Croatia has a bright future at left back.”
Sosa has issued an apology to the Croatian federation and fans, saying he “made the wrong decision and turned out to be naïve.”
He added he would be “available” as soon as the team needs him — after the European Championship.
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