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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Jozic the wanderer
Mirko Jozic
Jozic knew early on that he was coaching material
Croatia coach Mirko Jozic has definitely learnt his trade over the years.

Jozic proved that when he helped secure his country's automatic qualification for the World Cup, despite being thrown in at the deep end.

The campaign had already got under way when the Croatian took over from Miroslav Blazevic, who quit in controversial circumstances in October 2000.

Using his tactical nous and making the best use of the natural talent in the squad, he has turned Croatia into a very difficult team to beat.

Jozic factfile
PERSONAL
Born: 1940
Birthplace: Trijl, Croatia

PLAYING CAREER
Played for 6 years at second division clubs in Croatia

COACHING CAREER
1968: Begins coaching at FC Junak
1972: Employed as a youth team instructor by the Croatian Football Association
1989: Takes over as coach of CSD Colo-Colo in Chile before becoming Chile's national team boss 3 years later
1995-99: Stints at clubs in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Portugal
2000: Becomes Croatia's head coach

But Jozic's success so far is not surprising, given the wealth of experience he has attained over his long career.

He began coaching in the late 1960s after realising that his talents lay elsewhere rather than in continuing to play in the lower leagues in former Yugoslavia.

"By the age of 26, I started to feel that I had something of the coach in me," said Jozic, who was born in the Croatian town of Trijl in 1940.

Two years later, he was player-coach at the Junak club in Sinj and led them into the Yugoslavian second division.

In 1972, he got involved in the national team set-up, where he would remain for the next 17 years.

Jozic coached a variety of youth teams and in 1987 he steered Yugoslavia's Under-21s to victory in the World Cup in Chile.

It was there that he worked with future stars such as Darko Pancev, Boban, Prosinecki and Savicevic.

Jozic returned to Chile in 1989 to coach local team CSD Colo Colo to three league titles before a brief spell as national team coach.

Between 1995 and 1999, he continued to broaden his experience with jobs in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Portugal.

But it was not long before he was back in Croatia, this time taking on the role of director of youth development.

Then came his big chance when national team boss Blazevic resigned after a row involving his signing of a controversial petition.

Blazevic put his name to a document criticising leading Croatian figures, including prime minister Ivica Racan and president Stipe Mesic, and quit in the ensuing uproar.

There was only one man in the frame to take over - and so far Jozic has not disappointed.

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