ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Zlatko Kranjcar, a former Croatia national team coach who led his team to the 2006 World Cup and also played internationally for Yugoslavia before the country’s breakup, has died. He was 64.
The Croatian soccer association said Monday that Kranjcar died in a Zagreb hospital after a short and serious illness. Croatian media reported that Kranjcar died early Monday after he was hospitalized last month.
Kranjcar launched his career at Dinamo Zagreb in the 1970s, playing as a center forward. He later moved to Austrian club Rapid Vienna, where his career peaked.
Kranjcar also played for the Yugoslav national team and later served as the first captain for an unofficial Croatian national team in 1990. Croatia became independent in 1991 and played its first official match since the breakup in 1992.
Kranjcar coached the Croatian team from 2004-06, leading his country to the World Cup in Germany. Croatia finished third in its group behind Brazil and Australia and was eliminated.
Croatia’s state HRT television described Kranjcar as “one of the best players in the history of Dinamo.”
“Thank you for everything, for the memories, trophies, for creating Dinamo’s great history, for soccer romance and most of all friendship and good spirit and warmth that you spread among all of us,” Dinamo Zagreb wrote on its website.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in a message of condolences to the family that Kranjcar was “one of true greats of the Croatian soccer.”
“The Croatian sports family has lost a true soccer icon,” Plenkovic said.
Kranjcar has also coached a number of international clubs and foreign national teams.
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