Croatia will be wary of leaders France when the teams meet in UEFA European Championship Group B after Les Bleuets posted a convincing opening victory against Serbia, who will be looking to recover against England in the section's other game on Friday.
Pierre Mankowski's France side were 6-0 victors over the Netherlands in their final Elite round qualifying match and they continued their fine scoring form with a 3-0 defeat of ten-man Serbia in their opening match in Estonia. Another triumph on Friday would see the 2010 winners through to the last four with a game to spare and their coach believes the opening minutes in Haapsalu will set the pattern for the encounter.
"I believe that both teams will try to impose their game," Mankowski told UEFA.com. "Croatia have a very strong team and in their 1-1 draw against England they played at a high level. I think that it will be a very tight match and we will have to be very focused throughout in order to take a positive result."
His counterpart Dinko Jeličić, meanwhile, admitted that even if France were favourites, his side – who are still without suspended midfielder Filip Mrzljak – would go into the game with the same mentality as they did against England. "We are aware of our opponent's strength and know that this will be tough," he said. "We got a point against England but went out to win that match. We will be trying to do exactly the same now even if France are tipped by some to go on and win the tournament."
Meanwhile, England's Noel Blake wasn't willing to judge Serbia on their defeat by the French, saying he learned nothing from watching re-runs of the game in Rakvere. "I know Serbia are better than what we saw against France, they wouldn't be here otherwise," the coach told UEFA.com. "We know Serbia will give us a good challenge and we're looking forward to it. My players are in excellent fettle and have a lot of tournament experience. It's been a good year for us in terms of team harmony and we'll face our opponents on Friday with optimism."
Serbia must plan without the suspended Aleksandar Mitrović, following his red card against France and, according to coach Zoran Marić, the team will use a different approach against the 2005 and 2009 runners-up. "I will try to change some things; we cannot play the same way as we did against France," he said. "Let's see if that will be enough for us to get a better result and for us to give a better presentation of ourselves."
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