Tuesday 21 October 2014

Bilic rallies Croatia after 'disastrous loss' of Olic while Prandelli tries three-man defence

Published 06/06/2012 | 05:00

Manager Slaven Bilic has labelled the withdrawal of injured striker Ivica Olic a "disaster" ahead of Sunday's opening Group C meeting against Ireland in Poznan.

"We will have the same approach, but it's going to be more difficult," he said after watching Ireland's scoreless draw in Hungary, when he confirmed that he had witnessed nothing new from the Irish squad.

"It's quite a shock because it didn't look like a serious injury. We were disappointed when we found out.

"We called up Nikola Kalinic (who was with Blackburn Rovers last season), who is also a good striker ,but the goal and targets remain the same.

"It's not a blow, it's not a problem -- it's a disaster for us. He is a big player, we have many big players but Olic you can't replace.

"In Europe there are no other players like him, so it's not just a massive blow, it is more than that."

Italy's controversial striker Mario Balotelli sat-out yesterday morning's final training session -- ahead of their departure for Poland -- as a precaution after limping out with a tight hamstring.

Cesare Prandelli experimented with three central defenders, with usual midfielder Daniele De Rossi deployed in the middle of a three-man central defence, with Angelo Ogbonna on the right and Giorgio Chiellini on the left.

Prandelli, in what could be interpreted as a barb at his Group C managerial compatriot Trapattoni's austere approach, declared that: "I'm not interested in football that only concerns itself with the result -- I think that playing entertaining football is the best way to win."

Later, speaking after their arrival in Krakow last night ahead of Sunday's Group C clash with Spain, Prandelli added that his side are eager to bounce back after the shock 3-0 reverse to Russia.

"The players just want to play to show other qualities," he said. "They want to show that they have the right determination to be contenders at the Euros.

"That's the spirit we have now, obviously we've analysed our play and we've discovered this team has a great sense of responsibility.

"Where we've proposed a change in system they haven't just shown their availability, they've been enthusiastic.

"This team could even change its tactical system during a game," he said.

Italy switched to a back-three in the latter stages of the Russia game and Serie A champions Juventus pair Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci were unnerved by a similar tactical mid-season switch.

assistant coach Toni Grande has admitted that he is unsure of his side's final line-up ahead of Sunday's opening clash between the big-two.

Alvaro Arbeloa was expected to start after a fine season with Madrid, but he had to pull out of the world and European champions' first training session at their base near Gdansk with a back problem.

Juanfran is likely to step in and do a job for them, a week after the converted winger made a bright appearance there against Serbia.

Cesc Fabregas will play after overcoming hamstring trouble with Xavi Martinez dismissing fears that Italy's build-up may have been hampered by the on-going match-fixing allegations.

"It will be a difficult match," he said. "It is true that right now they are going through delicate moments with the match-fixing topic but it is a nation that always plays with pride."

Irish Independent

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