Group B's stand-out player on the opening day of the 2013 UEFA European U17 Championship, Alen Halilović talks to UEFA.com about his tournament hopes and inspirations.
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It was no surprise to those who have followed his progress to date that Croatian playmaker Alen Halilović stood out in Group B on the opening day of the UEFA Under-17 European Championship in Slovakia. The youngest scorer in Croatian league history, the GNK Dinamo Zagreb starlet is confident of progressing out of the section, despite the opening day draw with Italy. "We are playing for our country and we want to give our best," said the 16-year-old No. 10, who picked out Spain's David Silva as the most obvious comparison to himself.
UEFA.com: How satisfied are you with the opening 0-0 draw with Italy?
Alen Halilović: We were close to victory against Italy, but there is no reason to be down. Italy are a top team and we need to be satisfied with 0-0. Of course we are sorry that we could not score from some great opportunities, but I believe it will be better in the next match.
UEFA.com: The Italians often used two or three players to mark you. How difficult was that?
Halilović: I saw that they double-marked me sometimes, I believe they watched a lot of our matches and they were prepared for us. That is the reason it was more difficult to play for me, but in the second half we were much better and we should have scored a goal.
UEFA.com: How is the atmosphere in the team?
Halilović: The atmosphere is fantastic. I've never experienced a better atmosphere, not only among the players but also with the coaches and staff. We all have a great relationship and also have a great coach in Ivan Gudelj. He is helping me a lot, giving me good advice and he is a very positive person. One of the best coaches I have had.
UEFA.com: You have played UEFA Champions League football for GNK Dinamo Zagreb. Is that an advantage over other teams?
Halilović: It is a slight advantage for me that I have played seven or eight matches for Dinamo, and also in the Champions League. That was a big experience for me, but there are more players in the team like me. Ante Roguljić is training with FC Salzburg's first team, and Josip Bašić is with [HNK] Hajduk Split too.
UEFA.com: You are the focus of public attention in Croatia now, and many scouts came to see the team play. Do you feel under pressure?
Halilović: It was pressure for us when we were a bit younger, but we came through the first qualifying round, then the elite round. There were also scouts there, so we are used to the attention of the scouts and public, so we do not think about it any more. We are playing for our country and we want to give our best.
UEFA.com: Many people who have seen you play have commented on your qualities, and said you are the side's best player. How does that make you feel?
Halilović: I believe I've showed my qualities already and I am glad if somebody is saying something nice about my football, but I am only 16 and I need to give my best and to improve not only in this championship, but for all the others in the future. I need to work hard and that is it.
UEFA.com: Many people are comparing you with Luka Modrić and even Lionel Messi. What do you make of those comparisons?
Halilović: I think I am not anywhere near Messi or Modrić. Leo Messi is something special, he is like from another planet, and Modrić is more of a defensive midfielder and I am more focussed on attack, playing offensively and scoring goals. If I have to compare myself with somebody that would be [David] Silva from Manchester City. He is one of my favourite players, I watch him a lot. But he is not my main idol, the No. 1 for me is Messi.
UEFA.com: Your father, Sejad Halilović, was one of the best Dinamo Zagreb players during the early 90s and is a former Bosnia and Herzegovina international. Does he pass on his experience and advice?
Halilović: He will not criticise me, he will react only when I ask him for advice. I always want to hear his opinion. He is my father and he knows me best. He knows what I need and he is always telling me that I need to work hard but to enjoy football at the same time.