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By ESPN Staff

Better late than never for Prso

Otto Baric made one brilliant decision in 2003 - giving Dado Prso the chance to make his mark in Croatia's national team.

Rarely can one player have repaid a coach's faith so quickly.

Prso, an experienced 29-year-old who had been knocking around European soccer for some time, scored the goal that took Croatia to the finals of Euro 2004 giving them a 1-0 win in Slovenia and a 2-1 aggregate victory.

The goal cemented his growing reputation as a man for the big occasion following the four he scored for Monaco in their 8-3 Champions League win over Deportivo Coruna enroute to the final on May 26.

He also scored Croatia's goal in their 1-1 draw with Slovenia in the first leg of the playoff.

But when Baric called him up last March he was uncapped and still relatively unknown in his homeland.

Baric, desperate to find an attacking edge to Croatia's attack and under-fire for calling up more than 40 players in his first eight months in charge, handed Prso his chance in the Euro 2004 qualifier against Belgium.

The pony-tailed frontman did not let him down, scoring in the 4-0 win that kept Croatia's hopes of reaching the finals alive.

'To score on my debut for Croatia was marvellous. I thank both the supporters and colleagues in the team for a wonderful reception,' he said.

Prso has not looked back since, capping a fine year with his four for Monaco against Deportivo - the first time he had scored a hat-trick.

There was nothing in his early career that suggested Prso would rise to prominence in such devastating fashion.

His performances at home clubs in Zadar, Hajduk Split and Pazinka went largely unnoticed and he soon moved to France where he played for Rouen, Saint-Raphael and Monaco.

He was loaned to second division Ajaccio for the 1998-99 season before returning to the French top division club.

In 2000 he won the title with Monaco but in the 2001-02 season a severe knee injury, which sidelined him for eight months, raised fears he might never play again.

'I never lost hope I would come back,' Prso said after his long recovery.

The 29-year-old has now signed a three-year deal with Rangers as they look to regain their dominance in Scotland.

Prso has now secured his place in the national side and it was his brilliant pass that set up Ivica Olic for the only goal in a 1-0 defeat of Group Eight winners Bulgaria last month that booked Croatia's passage to the playoffs.

Once there, Prso did even more than that - scoring both the goals that took Croatia to the finals.