Dado Pršo believes Croatia are a far better side now than they were during his playing days and the former striker attributes their upturn in fortunes and playing standards to coach Slaven Bilić.
Bilić took charge of Croatia five weeks after Pršo won the last of his 32 caps at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and, since he replaced Zlatko Kranjčar, the team have had renewed success. Not only did Croatia beat England en route to qualifying for UEFA EURO 2008; they also came within a minute of reaching the semi-finals in Austria/Switzerland before losing on penalties to Turkey.
"This is a really good side, with a national coach who has chosen the right staff," said Pršo, 36. "Bilić has talented and special people around him. He will be able to leave with his head held high, because whoever eventually succeeds him will be able to relax in the knowledge that Bilić has created something special. He has created a style of play and brought through previously unknown youngsters who are improving all the time. We have to congratulate Bilić for everything he has done."
Despite a failed attempt to get to last summer's FIFA World Cup, Bilić's charges are going strong again: they top UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group F, playing attractive football. "Croatia play football I really appreciate. They vary their game from one-touch football to many touches, they can do everything. It's a young team, but they play very nice football. It had been a long time since it was like that – during my time we didn't play such attractive football."
Pršo, who famously scored four goals in a match against RC Deportivo La Coruña during AS Monaco FC's run to the 2004 UEFA Champions League final, thinks another reason for Croatia's return to form is the standard of league football their more influential players are experiencing – particularly the quartet involved in Tottenham Hotspur FC's UEFA Champions League adventure.
"Players like [Luka] Modrić, [Niko] Kranjčar, [Vedran] Ćorluka or [Stipe] Pletikosa can only learn there. It will give them a strong physical side because the Premier League is really physical," said Pršo, who finished his career at Rangers FC in Scotland. "It can only do good because they are always together in training and playing together in matches and that can only benefit the national team."
Croatia are two points clear at the top of qualifying Group F and chasing their fourth win of the campaign against third-placed Georgia in Tbilisi on Saturday. That fixture is the first of a double-header that concludes on 4 June, and for Pršo nothing short of two victories will do.
"It is simple: we need six points. When I was a player, I played with two Georgians and they were very good. Georgia is a nation that loves its football, so we must be careful. We must be on our guard because six points may seem easy to get on paper, but teams like Georgia can surprise you. We have to watch out, they are a good side and we respect them, but nonetheless our objective is six points."
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