Jelavic out to prove himself on Euro stage

24 May 2012 03:16

Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic is looking to finally translate his potent club scoring form onto the international stage at his first major finals at Euro 2012.

At 26, the Everton star has seen his value and star rise relatively late in comparison to many of the other established strikers at the tournament but he is desperate to silence critics who claim he struggles at the highest level.

With just two goals in 18 appearances for the national side -- against lowly Kazakhstan and in a friendly against Slovakia -- he has much to prove with Italy, defending champions Spain and the resilient Irish Croatia's opponents in Group C.

"As a striker you like to face the best defences because it is only against them that you can truly test yourself," said Jelavic.

"This is what faces us and myself at the Euro and I am keen to show there that I have what it takes at international level to succeed."

Certainly the Bosnian-born marksman has proved himself at club level after a relatively slow start at Hajduk Split -- eight goals in 35 games -- which earned him a move to unfashionable Belgian side Zulte Waregem.

Despite just three goals in 23 appearances, a sharp eyed scout recognised his emerging talent and Austrian giants Rapid Vienna snapped him up in 2008 where he flourished, netting 27 times in 71 matches.

Rangers came calling in 2010 and there was an unedifying three-way tussle for his services, with Jelavic thrown out of the Rapid squad before he eventually signed for the Glasgow side for four million pounds.

It proved to be a battle worth winning for club and player, as he saw his profile rise -- albeit in a league dominated by Rangers and their bitter rivals Celtic as his return of 30 goals in 45 matches saw them win the 2011 title and League Cup.

But in a sign of his growing confidence and ambition, he was offloaded to Everton for 5.5 million pounds in January in what could have been seen as a warning sign of Rangers' current financial plight.

"It was difficult because they gave me a beautiful 18 months -- two trophies, many goals," said Jelavic. "They will have a special place in my heart always."

The player's stock has since risen further after he bagged 11 goals for the Toffees, livening up a moribund frontline and becoming the club's top scorer -- all in a matter of months.

"It is good to have someone up there we know we can rely on and if there are chances made he will put the ball in," said team-mate Leon Osman in April, after the side had scored four goals in three successive matches for the first time since 1954.

"I think the opposition are a bit scared of him because they know he can score goals and they are on the watch for him. When that happens sometimes it releases space for other players in the team."

It is hard to imagine him failing to transfer this form into the Euro, with players such as playmaker Luka Modric creating chances for him.

Former Croatia striking great Davor Suker for one believes Jelavic has timed his rise to the top perfectly.

"Sometimes you need to not rush your career," Suker told the Liverpool Echo. "You need to lay good preparations and now can move on to the main goal of his career. He has a great future"

Source: AFP