Slaven Bilić was delighted after a 2-1 UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying victory against F.Y.R. Macedonia on Saturday pulled Croatia five points ahead of England and kept them two above Russia at the top of Group E.
"We are glad England were held to a 0-0 draw in Israel, it was a major bonus for us," said Bilić. "This is a big win for us because the Macedonians have shown once again they are a tough nut to crack. It came down to our character and quality." Croatia lead the group with 13 points from five matches, although Russia maintained the pressure with a 2-0 win in Estonia. England and Israel have eight points apiece while F.Y.R. Macedonia, having played a game more, are on seven.
Croatia fell behind to a 38th-minute goal from F.Y.R. Macedonia captain Goce Sedloski, only finding their rhythm after Darijo Srna came on for the second half and Sedloski was sent off for a second bookable offence. Srna drew the hosts level in the 58th minute with a superbly executed free-kick then set up Eduardo da Silva to steal the three points with two minutes remaining. "We pushed on relentlessly after they went a man down and got our reward, deservedly so," Bilić said. "Leaving Srna on the bench was a mistake as he added an extra dimension to our game."
Croatia are next in action on 2 June in Estonia and four days later tackle Russia. "Thankfully, we have a two-month break now before we play two crucial matches in our quest to reach the finals. They are all important but these two could define our campaign," added Bilić. "Our fate is in our own hands and we will concentrate on getting the job done as early as possible."
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