SLAVEN Bilic has a lovely way with words and he’s such an all round good egg that it is almost possible to forgive the fact that he managed to patronise Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland when he announced his final Euro 2012 squad.
An expert in the back-handed compliment, Bilic has presented Trapattoni with a nice little article to pin to the dressingroom wall on June 10.
“With all due respect I feel for them, we want to start the tournament with three points,” he said about Trap’s team.
“They are our chance. They are tough, strong, well-organised and defend very well. The only surprise could be if Trapattoni made them more offensive. But that would only make us happier.”
Perhaps it’s the fact that Bilic has simply echoed the sentiments of many Ireland supporters which make his comments less sharp than they might have been coming from say someone like Jose Mourinho.
But it was still a put down and the players won’t like that. As they troop through Dublin in a whirlwind of charity work and corporate promotion, they are optimistic to a man.
Trapattoni has implanted an unbreakable confidence in his players which should last at least until Ireland play Croatia but for Bilic, Trapattoni’s team is the only one he will be confident of gathering three points from.
Let’s be honest, after last year’s worrying friendly against Croatia at Lansdowne Road, he has a point.
Bilic has told the Croatian FA that Euro 2012 is his last tournament as national team manager which will put several clubs around Europe and in the Premier League on high alert.
That has allowed him the freedom to make a few unpopular decisions like excluding Mladen Petric and recently naturalised Brazilian Sammir from his 27-man preliminary squad.
But the core of his formidable team remains intact even if he has injury concerns over Niko Kranjcar and Dejan Lovren.
“We have some problems,” he acknowledged. “Lovren and Kranjcar are injured. If the Euros started in seven days time, they couldn’t play.
“But I will wait for both of them. We will start our preparations on the 16th of May.”
CROATIA PRELIMINARY EURO 2012 SQUAD
Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Ivan Kelava (Dinamo Zagreb), Goran Blazevic (Hajduk Split), Domogoj Vida (Dinamo Zagreb), Vedran Corluka (Bayer Leverkusen), Josip Simunic (Dinamo Zagreb), Dejan Lovren (Lyon), Sime Vrsaljko (Dinamo Zagreb), Gordon Schildenfeld (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ivan Strinic (Dnipro), Danijel Pranjic (Bayern Munich), Jurica Buljat (Maccabi Haifa), Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Tomislav Dujmovic (Real Zaragoza), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Luka Modric (Tottenham), Ivan Perisic (Borussia Dortmund), Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham), Milan Badelj (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivo Ilicevic (Hamburg), Ivica Olic (Bayern Munich), Nikica Jelavic (Everton), Mario Mandzukic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikola Kalinic (Dnipro).