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Bilić bullish ahead of Germany test

Croatia coach Slaven Bilić believes his team have as much reason to be confident as Germany ahead of tonight's showdown between the Group B favourites.

Slaven Bilić has faith in the creative talents of players like Niko Kranjčar
Slaven Bilić has faith in the creative talents of players like Niko Kranjčar ©Getty Images

Croatia coach Slaven Bilić believes his team have as much reason to be confident as their opponents Germany ahead of this evening's head-to-head between the Group B rivals in Klagenfurt.

Confidence high
Following their winning start against co-hosts Austria four days ago, and Germany's 2-0 triumph over Poland, the match at the Wörthersee Stadion should provide an enthralling spectacle with victory for either side potentially securing them early progress to the quarter-finals. Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Bilić showed he has plenty of faith in his troops. "We approach this game with just as much self-confidence as Germany," he said. "Like them, we also won our first match and we are relieved after the negative pressure we had beforehand. The winning start has give us great belief in ourselves and the way we are playing."

Great power
Despite the obvious faith in his own team, Bilić clearly holds the Mannschaft in high regard, stating that Croatia can consider themselves potential UEFA EURO 2008™ title candidates if they claim a win. "I definitely would consider us a strong contender if we beat Germany," said the 39-year-old. "I believe any team that beats Germany can hope to beat anybody." Croatia's training session was hampered by a deluge of rain, but the outlook is a lot brighter on the injury front. Luka Modrić is ready to feature after training alone on Monday as a precautionary measure due to a slight pain in his achilles tendon and Mladen Petrić is also free of his recurrent back injury, though may well be sacrificed if Bilić tinkers with his lineup.

Tough challenge
Germany coach Joachim Löw admitted his players are feeling more upbeat than ever, but expects a tough night against the Croatians. "It is true that over the past few months we have become more and more self-confident," said the 48-year-old. "We've proved that we've been able to implement what we've practised in matches. We are confident going into the game, but Croatia are a good team with attack-minded players and we will face a tough challenge. We want to dictate our pace on the game – that will be our aim."

Aiming for victory
Asked if he would settle for second place in the group, Löw said it was not an issue he had given much thought to. "It is logical tomorrow that we want to win, simply because both ourselves and Croatia have three points each," he said. "But so far, I haven't spent much time thinking about whether we will be first or second. We want the win because I think it will put us in the quarter-finals." With a fully-fit squad of players, the only potential change Löw may make to his starting XI could be to give defender Arne Friedrich his chance in place of Marcell Jansen. Hertha BSC Berlin defender Friedrich, who was a first-team regular at the last World Cup and UEFA EURO 2004™, could return to right-back with Philipp Lahm moving to the left.