At 18:00 hours tonight, Central European Summer Time, the national football teams of Croatia and Serbia will meet for the first time ever. Now that's a bit of a technicality since Serbia, in its current form, has only existed since 2006 and thirteen years ago, these two sides met as Croatia vs. Serbia & Montenegro in Euro 2000 qualifying. Regardless, the wounds from the Yugoslav Wars are still fresh and emotions are at a fever pitch.
It's not helping that the two head coaches have been central figures in the football manifestations of the conflict and despite their recent words trying to play down this tie as just another fixture, they're both seen as the figureheads of respective nationalistic fervor. This one could get ... interesting.
Here's a bit of pre-game reading, if you're so inclined:
A history of hate by Pietro Paolo Virdis on the WSC.co.uk forum
Seeking 90 Minutes of Peace for Two Teams and Their Fans by James Montague for The New York Times
Sinisa Mihajlovic embodies the bonds broken by Balkan wars by Jonathan Wilson for The Guardian
The Guardian's photo gallery of Croatia-Serbia sporting clashes in the last 20+ years
Chelsea's own Branislav Ivanovic - fresh off Interim Rafatation duty - is expected to captain the Serbia side. Our old friend Cuneyt Cakir will have yet another unenviable refereeing task ahead of him.
Elsewhere, one match is in the books already as Portugal needed a last minute equalizer to escape from Israel with a point. The Hobo played the last 10 minutes for the hosts.
There's plenty of action to follow the supercharged clash in Zagreb, including Poland vs. Ukraine (how very Euro 2012-ish!), Hungary vs. Romania (more tensions!), Macedonia vs. Belgium (i.e. Chelsea South), Scotland vs. Wales (I guess this one has some history, too), and of course San Marino vs. England (ALL THE EXCITEMENT!). Much, much later there will also be the small matter of USA vs. Costa Rica.