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Bilić rises to the big occasion

Published: Friday 12 October 2007, 23.32CET
Slaven Bilić promises that Croatia will be "aggressive, but clever and patient" as they seek the win against Israel that could result in EURO finals qualification.
by Elvir Islamović
from Zagreb
 
Published: Friday 12 October 2007, 23.32CET

Bilić rises to the big occasion

Slaven Bilić promises that Croatia will be "aggressive, but clever and patient" as they seek the win against Israel that could result in EURO finals qualification.

Slaven Bilić promises that Croatia will be "aggressive, but clever and patient" as they seek the win against Israel that could lead to UEFA EURO 2008™ qualification.

Sold-out stadium
Victory at Zagreb's Maksimir Stadium could be enough to book Croatia a place in Austria/Switzerland next summer provided England beat Russia in Moscow next Wednesday. The 35,000 tickets for Saturday's game are sold out, with many anticipating a major celebration in the capital should Bilić's side put the seal on an impressive Group E campaign.

'Clever and patient'
"We will be aggressive, but clever and patient," said the coach. "I can promise that we will be the dominant team and we will look to score from the first minute, like we always do. I promise a good match, where we will try to do everything that people in the stadium expect of us. If we do that, I hope everything will turn out well for us."

'Cult following'
Bilić is being widely praised at home for his efforts but has preferred to deflect the attention on to his squad. "People are not coming to see me or my assistants – they are coming to see the boys play," the 39-year-old said. "We are not lying when we say that we play lovely, high-scoring football. People see that and they are coming to see us and cheer us on in every match, whatever the opposition. It's great. This national team finally has a cult following."

Near and far
With a full stadium to roar them on, Bilić and company must now negotiate the final hurdles to UEFA EURO 2008™. "My players don't need extra motivation for this match, but if there is any, it's the importance of these three points," he said. "We know how close we are and how far we have travelled together. But we have a difficult match and if we fail, everything will get complicated again."

 
Last updated: 13/10/07 10.21CET

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