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Bilic in no mood for larking around

SoccerNews in European Championships 11 Jun 2008

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Croatia coach Slaven Bilic showed he was in no mood to joke around on the eve of his team’s crucial Euro 2008 Group B clash against Germany here on Thursday.

During Wednesday’s pre-match press conference, Bilic, who plays in a band and writes his own music, was asked to make a comparison between the German team and a style of music, but he was less than impressed.

“This is not the opera, this a football match. I know we’re in Austria but please don’t ask me these questions,” he barked back.

“This is for kids magazines or metalheads, not for the day before a match and plus I already answered it yesterday from one of your Bulgarian colleagues.”

This match-up has evoked memories of one of Crotia’s finest football moments, at the 1998 World Cup in France when they beat Germany 3-0 in the quarter-finals, before losing to the hosts and eventual winners in the next round.

Bilic, who played in that match, dismissed any notion that it could have any influence on this one – the teams have played two friendlies since, one ending in a draw and the Germans winning the other 2-1.

“I certainly like to think back to that match as all Croatians do because it is one of our great victories, maybe even our greatest victory,” he said.

“But I don’t think that means much now because it won’t give us an extra corner kick or anything. But it’s a nice souvenir.”

He also said he wouldn’t be showing a video of the match to the players to motivate them.

“We won’t do that, we mentioned it a few times because some of my players were children then and they sometimes ask us what it was like back then and how it felt.

“But there’s not much point in showing how (Robert) Jarni scored and how he beat (Andreas) Koepke the German goalkeeper because these players won’t play.”

Captain Niko Kovac agreed with his coach that history had no bearing on this match.

“That’s all in the past, we all watched it on television if we weren’t there but we live in the present and everything has changed over the last 10 years,” he said.

“Football has grown much faster, we are us and the side that played in ’98 were other players.

“But we’re optimists and we believe we have a realsitic chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.”

Croatia are generally considered to be one of the outsiders for the title but Bilic agreed that a victory over the Germans would turn them into genuine contenders.

“Definitely. Any team that beats Germany can hope to beat anybody but this championships has shown, even though there’s been only one draw, that the teams are more or less even,” he said.

“Even with the outcome of matches such as Spain-Russia and Netherlands-Italy all the sides are well prepared and motivated.

“Sometimes it’s a decision taken in five seconds that makes the difference, remember (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic’s goal.

“The Russians hit the post, although the 4-1 (Spain) win was justified but still it could have been different, so with each new match and new start you have to be fully concentrated, focused and courageous, and of course you need that little portion of luck.”

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