Hamstring injury puts Corluka in doubt for Ireland showdown
Croatia's injury-ravaged build-up to Sunday's Euro 2012 kick-off against Ireland in Poznan encountered more obstacles yesterday as they lost yet another squad member and watched key defender Vedran Corluka limp from training.
The injury to Corluka has ruffled coach Slaven Bilic, with a hamstring problem indicating that the experienced defender will face a race against time to be fit to face the Irish.
"It's not so bad," said Bilic last night. "In the first half hour of training he felt a stretch in the hamstrings. We hope that all is okay. Today we will do a review and we will know more."
Earlier in the day, Bilic had to absorb the loss of Ivo Ilicevic, a midfield understudy, with calf problems, just three days after star striker Ivica Olic was forced out of the tournament. Sime Vrsaljko has been drafted in to replace Ilicevic.
Despite this latest injury setback, gifted playmaker Luka Modric will be fit to take his place in a team he confidently predicts can beat Ireland.
"I am happy with my current condition. I feel fine and I have been training normally since Monday. The flu is behind me now," he said.
"This is our most important match in the group. If we win it, then I believe we will reach the knockout phase. I believe we will play at our best and defeat Ireland. We are the favourites and I think we will find a way to beat them. It will not be easy, but I hope we will."
Italian midfielder Thiago Motta has dismissed speculation that doubts about his side's defensive formation could undermine their chances of qualifying from Group C. "Whether we play a defence with three, four or two players doesn't change anything," said Motta, as coach Cesare Prandelli contemplates the deployment of a three-man central defence in the opening game against Spain.
"It's not important, what counts is that when we play we have the desire to win," said Motta.