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Bilić backing helps Pranjić soar

Published: Monday 16 June 2008, 19.40CET
It is not often that an international defender confesses to not being very good at defending, but Croatia left-back Danijel Pranjić knows he has his coach's full support.
by Chris Burke
from Bad Tatzmannsdorf
Bilić backing helps Pranjić soar
Philipp Lahm (left) cannot get the better of Danijel Pranjić ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics

PolandCroatia

Goals scored1
 
5
Total attempts44
 
57
Attempts on target15
 
22
Attempts off target21
 
28
Attempts blocked0
 
0
Attempts against woodwork0
3
Corners16
 
22
Offsides11
 
11
Yellow cards7
 
7
Red Cards0
 
0
Fouls committed67
 
69
Fouls suffered41
 
77
 
Published: Monday 16 June 2008, 19.40CET

Bilić backing helps Pranjić soar

It is not often that an international defender confesses to not being very good at defending, but Croatia left-back Danijel Pranjić knows he has his coach's full support.

It is not often that an international defender confesses to not being very good at defending, and even rarer when his team are through to the last eight at a major tournament, but Croatia left-back Danijel Pranjić knows the one man he needs to impress is already behind him.

Excellent display
"It's not my usual position because I usually play in midfield," he says, referring to his club role with Dutch side SC Heerenveen. "My quality is going forward. I'm not really a good defender and sometimes high balls are difficult for me, so I try to attack more." It is an extraordinary admission, particularly since journalists tried to convince Slaven Bilić of precisely that after Croatia's uninspiring 1-0 opening victory over Austria, but Bilić ignored their calls and Pranjić repaid his coach's faith with an excellent display against Germany, setting up Darijo Srna for the first goal in the 2-1 win.

'More like a colleague'
"Bilić is very important to us," adds the 22-year-old. "He was a player for a long time and he knows everything about football. He's a good friend to all the players. After the first game against Austria, there were some critics of my play and he talked to me a lot. He gave me some advice and in the second game I was better." Bilić has been instrumental in creating the kind of atmosphere where players like Pranjić feel free to speak with honesty, and that seems to be one of the team's greatest strengths. "He's part of the family and we want to win the EURO together," noted the left-sided player. "He's more like a colleague – there are periods when he's a coach and periods when he's a friend, though he hasn't played guitar for us yet. Maybe before the quarter-finals."

'Special feeling'
It is easy from the outside to form an opinion that the Croatians are here to have fun, but Pranjić becomes prickly when asked if celebrations raged all night following the Germany win. "Were you there?" he snaps. "Did you see me? I was in my room by midnight. There was only a little party, nothing special." Indeed, that result has fed everyone's desire to go all the way in this tournament. "Germany are a big team, a strong team, so when you win against them it's a big motivation to go further," continues the Našice native. "We hope to play our next few games in the same way. It's a special feeling for any player to be here and maybe you only get to appear in a EURO once in your life. I hope we carry on playing well and get to the final."

Last updated: 16/06/08 17.43CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/news/newsid=718240.html#bilic+backing+helps+pranjic+soar

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