Miroslav Blazevic arrives from France to Zagreb airport, Zagreb, Croatia on July 12, 1998. File/AP
Croatia’s famed football coach Miroslav Blazevic, who led the country to a third place finish at the 1998 World Cup, died on Wednesday, the national football federation said. He was 87.
“The whole football family has lost ‘the coach of all coaches’ today,” the federation wrote on social media.
Blazevic died in the capital Zagreb after a long fight with cancer.
Born on February 10, 1935, ‘Ciro’ Blazevic started his playing career in his hometown of Travnik in neighbouring Bosnia.
In the early 1960s, he began coaching in Switzerland and moved in 1979 to Croatia, which was then part of the former Yugoslavia.
In Croatia, he took over Rijeka and later Dinamo Zagreb, where he lead the club to their first Yugoslav championship in 24 years.
“Dinamo’s 1982 win was the crown of my coaching career,” Blazevic told local media in 2021.
From 1994 to 2000, Blazevic coached the national team and racked up a number of impressive wins, including their third place finish at the 1998 World Cup in France.
Eloquent and charismatic, Blazevic remained popular throughout the former Yugoslavia long after he retired in 2015.
As he battled cancer back in Zagreb, Croatia’s current coach Zlatko Dalic dedicated the team’s win in the third-place match at the World Cup in Qatar in December to Blazevic.
“This is for you boss. I can win five medals but you will always remain the ‘coach of all coaches’,” Dalic said after Croatia beat Morocco.