Sunday 18 February 2018

Croatia boss Bilic aims to go out with a bang

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

SLAVEN BILIC has confirmed that he will resign as Croatia manager after next month's European Championships.

The former West Ham defender named a preliminary squad for the tournament yesterday, including the likes of Luka Modric, Darijo Srna and Nikica Jelavic in a 26-man panel.

The manager has until May 29 to whittle down his squad to a final 23.

Veteran strikers Mladen Petric and Ivan Klasnic are the most notable absentees from the squad, who face Ireland in their opening match on June 9 -- a game which Bilic is expecting to be tight.

"Ireland are tough, well-organised and defend very well. The only surprise would be if Trapattoni made them more offensive. But that would only make us happier," he said, adding that Croatia are going to Poland with big ambitions.

"We showed in 2008 that we know how to play and we will be ready again.

"I can't say that this side are better than in 2008, but I can say that I think I am better.

"We went to Austria (and Switzerland) to win the Euros and we are going (to Poland and Ukraine) with the same ambitions now.

"In qualifying, more than 30pc of our players didn't have enough playing time with their clubs.

"I am not hiding from that problem, but at the Euros it will not be such an issue as it was in qualifying. We will have a better preparation and we will be together for longer."

Bilic is expected to take up a club job after the tournament, with Locomotiv Moscow reported to be interested in the 43-year-old.

"This is my last tournament," he said.

"After this, I shall certainly no longer be the national coach. But before that, we must focus on the big job that's coming up."

Croatia Euro 2012 prelim squad

Goalkeepers: Subasic, Kelava, Blazevic. Defenders: Corluka, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Simunic, Strinic, Schildenfeld, Vida, Buljat, Pranjic. Midfielders: Srna, Vukojevic, Rakitic, Dujmovic, Modric, Badelj, Kranjcar, Perisic, Ilicevic. Forwards: Mandzukic, Da Silva, Jelavic, Kalinic, Olic

Irish Independent

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