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Strinić reaching peak ahead of Spanish test

Ivan Strinić had what he rated as his best performance in a Croatia shirt in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Italy, but he and coach Slaven Bilić are already turning attention to Spain.

Ivan Strinić tackles Italy's Christian Maggio
Ivan Strinić tackles Italy's Christian Maggio ©Getty Images

Ivan Strinić put in what he rated as his best performance in a Croatia shirt in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Italy, but with Spain up next he says he is not done yet.

Slaven Bilić's men go into the game level on four points with world and European champions Spain at the top of Group C, knowing a high-scoring draw would be enough to take them through. It took a battling performance to reach that position, however, with left-back Strinić to the fore. "I think this is the best match I've played for Croatia, especially as it was against a top team like Italy," he said. "I'm satisfied with myself."

Mario Mandžukić's third goal of UEFA EURO 2012 cancelled out Andrea Pirlo's opener as Croatia claimed a precious point. "It was a game of two halves," said Strinić, 24. "We didn't start like we did in the match [the 3-1 win] against Ireland, but that was also because Italy didn't allow us to.

"In the second half we started to play much better, we had some good chances and were even in a position to win in the end." The FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk defender attributed the improvement to Bilić's coaching acumen. "We made some tactical changes at half-time and started to play with more strength and purpose. We scored the goal and we could even have won."

A victory over Spain would earn Croatia qualification for the quarter-finals as group winners, while a draw of 2-2 or higher would guarantee second spot. And they can take a lot of heart from their performances so far, according to Bilić. "We drew 1-1 against Italy, one of the best teams in the world," he said. "We are still in realistic position to go through and we have a chance. We need to remain confident.

"[Spain] will enjoy more possession but they won't control the ball the whole time and we'll also have chances. I hope luck will be on our side too though our players also need to play the match of their lives." Bilić also hopes for a favour from Ireland, playing for pride after becoming the first team eliminated from UEFA EURO 2012. "I wouldn't swap with Italy now if I was offered that. They need to beat Ireland, who aren't a bad team and will do anything to avoid returning home with no points."