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Jeličić's Croatia relaxed for finals challenge

Published: Wednesday 27 June 2012, 10.31CET
Simply being at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship is "already a big success" for Croatia, whose coach Dinko Jeličić says "anything we do now is a bonus".
by Elvir Islamović
from Zagreb
Jeličić's Croatia relaxed for finals challenge
Croatia coach Dinko Jeličić ©Ivan Klindić
Published: Wednesday 27 June 2012, 10.31CET

Jeličić's Croatia relaxed for finals challenge

Simply being at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship is "already a big success" for Croatia, whose coach Dinko Jeličić says "anything we do now is a bonus".

Croatia coach Dinko Jeličić is predicting his side will play without pressure at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Estonia – their second final tournament in three years after their 2010 debut.

Our main goal was just to get there. We achieved that and it's already a big success for us.
Dinko Jeličić

UEFA.com: What are you main goals at the final tournament?

Dinko Jeličić:Our main goal was just to get there. We achieved that and it's already a big success for us. Now we will first try to be among the six teams who will win a place at the [2013 FIFA U-20] World Cup. But, of course, we have other ambitions and we will try to spring a surprise and go through to the semi-finals. We have the quality to do  that.

UEFA.com: France, England and Serbia will share those ambitions though?

Jeličić: France are a team who like to dominate, they defeated the Netherlands 6-0 in the elite round on their way to Estonia. They are the favourites in our group and really very strong. Serbia were ahead of Germany in the elite round and will be aiming high. England are also a top team, but we are talking about the final tournament; there are no weak teams here.

UEFA.com: Do you think the other Group B teams will respect Croatia?

Jeličić: I am sure they will all respect us because we played two good qualifying rounds and showed we can do a lot with this team. We've achieved our main goal – we got to the final tournament – and anything else we do in Estonia will be a bonus for us. That will be to our advantage, as we have plenty of motivation, but no extra pressure.

UEFA.com: How have you prepared?

Jeličić: Our players haven't had much time to rest, so we've mainly been working on fine-tuning our tactics. We've not been together much, which makes our success even more precious.

UEFA.com: How would you describe your style of play?

Jeličić: We we put a lot of tactical onus on defensive tasks, and then in attack we look for quality possession, and to create chances to score. The elite round match against Georgia [a 3-1 win] was probably our best game; in the qualifying round we played 4-3-3 but in the elite round we alternated 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2, just like Slaven Bilić at UEFA EURO 2012. Slaven is not a big fan of strict formations and I agree with him – it's an old tactic; it's just a starting formation and everything changes during the match.

UEFA.com: HNK Hajduk Split players Mateo Kovačić, Marko Livaja, Niko Datković will miss the finals – how will you compensate?

Jeličić: We'll be much weaker without them, but we have a quality base of 30 to 35 players and we've created a group where the team comes above everything else, so we're not afraid. We'll have enough quality players. We have forwards Ante Rebić and Marko Dugandžić, who was our top scorer in both qualifying rounds. His finishing is excellent and he and Rebić are a powerful attacking duo.

Last updated: 27/06/12 10.35CET

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