Luka Modrić has overcome a bout of flu and the star midfielder says Croatia are also in rude health, believing they can even win the tournament – provided they make it through the group stage.
Modrić's illness saw him miss Croatia's 1-1 draw against Norway in Oslo, but the Tottenham Hotspur FC player is fit and raring to go for their UEFA EURO 2012 Group C opener against the Republic of Ireland in Poznan on Sunday. "I am happy with my current condition," he said. "I feel fine and I have been training normally since Monday. The flu is behind me now."
The gifted playmaker is convinced the result Croatia manage against the Irish will set the tone for the rest of the competition. "It's our most important match in the group," he said. "If we win it, then I believe we will reach the knockout phase. I believe we will play at our best and defeat Ireland. We are the favourites and I think we will find a way to beat them. It will not be easy, but I hope we will."
If Slaven Bilić's men come safely through a section completed by continental giants Spain and Italy, then Modrić says Croatia will be able to kick on and surpass their quarter-final achievement of UEFA EURO 2008. "Our primary goal is to get out of the group stage and then anything is possible,
I even think we could go all the way to the end and win the EURO."
Modrić fronted up to the press accompanied by his erstwhile Tottenham Hotspur FC team-mate Niko Kranjčar, who used the occasion to confirm a move to FC Dynamo Kyiv. Kranjčar said: "I am very satisfied as I will be playing for a big club. It will offer me another opportunity to prove myself and to improve again as a player." Modrić commented: "I am sorry to lose Niko at Tottenham, but I am happy for him, even though we will miss him at Spurs."
Croatia's challenge four years ago ended with the agony of a shoot-out loss to Turkey after Bilić's side allowed Semih Şentürk to score a dramatic equaliser within seconds of Ivan Klasnić's 119th-minute opener. The bulk of that Kockasti squad is still on the scene and Kranjčar feels they would no longer falter in such circumstances. "If a similar situation to the Turkey game comes around then that scenario is not going to repeat itself," he said. "The reason we lost to Turkey was a lack of experience. Now we are at our peak and we are more experienced."
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