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Forget Austria, focus on Germany, Slaven Bilic tells his Croatia players

Forget Austria, focus on Germany, Slaven Bilic tells his Croatia players

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic has told his players to forget the lackluster 1-0 win over co-host Austria and focus on their next match against tournament favorite Germany.
"We have to raise out game in every aspect," Bilic said Monday. "We are not happy with our performance against Austria, but we know what to do better for the match against Germany which will be dramatically different."
A fourth-minute penalty from Luka Modric _ the earliest in the history of the European Championship _ gave the Croats a 1-0 win on Sunday over co-host Austria, which is considered the weakest side in the 16-nation tournament. In the second half, Croatia's defense seemed to panic and allowed the Austrians several chances.
Croatia next plays Germany in Group B on Thursday.
The two nations have a history of dramatic matches at major tournaments, including a 3-0 win for Croatia that knocked Germany out of the 1998 World Cup quarterfinals in France, and Germany's 2-1 beating of Croatia at the 1996 European Championships in England.
"I'm not losing confidence," Bilic said. "We have the three points. We did not sink against Austria despite the poor second half. Football is a strange game: we can play even worse than yesterday, and still beat the Germans. I would be happy if we repeat our first-half performance against Austria."
He said that he would introduce "some changes" to the team that will start against Germany, including the possibility of putting the 20-year-old Ivan Rakitic, of FC Shalke, into the midfield.
"Rakitic is among a group of players I'm counting on for the Germany game," Bilic said, refusing to discuss details.
Several Croatian players are playing in the Bundesliga, and Bilic said this could work both ways during the match against Germany.
"It is both an advantage and a disadvantage," Bilic said, giving the example of Croatia's defender Robert Kovac, who plays for Borussia Dortmund, and Germany's striker Miroslav Klose, who plays for Bayern Munich.
"Robert knows everything about Klose, and Klose knows everything about Robert, so it works both ways," Bilic said.
Modric said that the win against Austria gives his teammates much needed calm for the Germany game.
"We have a lot of self-confidence, and despite the poor second half against Austria, I'm convinced that we can do well against Germany," the playmaker said. "We will certainly play better."


Updated : 2021-07-30 15:34 GMT+08:00