Croatia will have to shake off the cobwebs and play a lot better against Euro 2008 co-favourites Germany than they did against Austria in the 1-0 win on Sunday, said their coach Slaven Bilic on Monday.
The 39-year-old – who stated before the tournament that he believed the Croats could win the title – admitted with five or six of his key players off colour it was impossible to change strategy and that if that was repeated against the Germans, who beat Poland 2-0, they could be in for a hiding.
“One cannot say that we are happy,” said Bilic, who typical of his unorthodox style turned on the radio in the dressingroom and played music for his disappointed players after the match.
“Against Germany, it is imperative we raise our level in every department.
“A team can get out of trouble with one player out of form. But not if there are five or six at the same time,” added Bilic, who highlighted shortcomings in defence and in the attacking midfielders, who were accused of not supporting the strikers enough.
Bilic, who was in the last Croatian team to win a Euro match when they beat Denmark 3-0 in 1996, said that the sport was such an odd game that they could still beat the Germans not playing at their best.
“Football being what it is, we could beat Germany by playing less well than we did against Austria. But we can't rely on that happening,” said Bilic, who even wrote and then with his band played the signature tune for the Croats Euro adventure.
Bilic, who signed a two year extension to his present contract last month warding off advances from German and Premiership clubs, tried to draw some consolation from the under par performance by talking up the Austrians – who may have put up a spirited showing but still are ranked below the likes of Guatemala in the FIFA rankings.
“We weren't playing against San Marino yesterday (Sunday), but against a classy host country. If they continue like that, they will have a great chance of qualifying.
“In effect, they made Germany suffer in the first-half of a friendly in February (before losing 3-0) like they did us in the second-half.”
Bilic, whose team qualified out of England's qualifying group recording a famous victory at Wembley to eliminate the English, remained convinced that this was a mere blip and his team could win the title.
“I don't see myself changing either the formation (4-4-2) or the players,” he said.
“What has to happen is simply to put a stop to the stupid mistakes and losing the ball so easily, especially in the danger areas.”
Bilic didn't think that the fact several of the squad play in the Bundesliga would give them a certain advantage.
“It rubs both ways,” he said.
“Robert Kovac (Borussia Dortmund) knows everything about Miroslav Klose and Klose knows everything about Kovac.”
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