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Croatia's historic 3-0 victory against Germany at the 1998 FIFA World Cup may seem like the ideal inspiration on the eve of facing the same opponents, but team captain Niko Kovač says it is not worth watching again now.
Preparing to meet Germany in UEFA EURO 2008™ Group B in Klagenfurt, the 36-year-old dismissed any relevance between Thursday's game and that quarter-final meeting in Lyon ten years ago. "That is history," he said. "All of us have watched it on TV before, if we were not there, and we live in the present. Everything has changed in the past ten years and football has grown much faster. We are 'us' and the team that played in 1998 was someone else." Croatia coach Slaven Bilić, who played in that World Cup win, says he has no plans to arrange a special screening for much the same reasons.
Kovač added: "The match against Germany is certainly a matter of prestige. Germany were champions of the world three times and they are always near the top in terms of football. We also want to be there and we will give our best and fight, and I'm sure that the Germans will approach the match in the same fashion because we are not here to be friends and play cards with each other. We will fight each other for a victory, but I think fair play will dominate the game."
One of three German-born players in the Croatia squad, Kovač has high hopes of a positive outcome on Thursday. "Of course we are optimistic and we believe that we have realistic chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals," he said. "Certainly, for the players who play in the German league, this will be a special match. Once they return to their clubs, they will want to look back upon a positive result, because you know how football players are and this is an additional motivation, apart from the three points." Croatia's official training at the Wörthersee Stadion was disrupted by a huge storm which broke overhead during the session, though the FC Salzburg midfielder does not foresee any issues arising as a result of the downpour. He said: "The pitch is in excellent condition, so we won't have problems with the rain."
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