Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Football : Bilic explains England comments


Croatia coach Slaven Bilic insists he was praising England when he said they had lost their "Englishness" under Italian manager Fabio Capello.
Bilic's comments were interpreted as mind games ahead of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier but Bilic said: "I didn't say anything negative.
"I said, in a positive way, that Mr Capello is one of the best managers in the world.
"They are more organised, more solid, they control games almost completely."
Bilic started the psychological sparring ahead of the match at Wembley with his comments at the weekend.
As well as saying that England had lost their Englishness, Bilic added that England "are definitely missing something", which in turn led to Capello thanking his Croatian counterpart for helping him inspire his team.
"There is no need to motivate my players after this fantastic assistance," said the Italian.
Bilic famously led Croatia to victory at Wembley in 2007 that denied England a place at Euro 2008 and led to the dismissal of Steve McClaren.
But England have turned the tables since then, beating Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb last year while a win on Wednesday night would seal a place at the World Cup in South Africa.
PHIL McNULTY BLOG
The inspiration for England will come from the prize within touching distance. It did not need the verbal jabs from Bilic to remind them of the price of victory at Wembley
BBC Sport's Phil McNulty
And Bilic says England would be one of the top teams to watch should they reach the finals as expected.
"They are playing differently now," added Bilic. "They should be better at a World Cup - if they qualify, of course.
"They will still have six months to train together and will be together for three or four weeks, so they will be better and better."
Bilic also launched a passionate defence of his striker Eduardo, who was banned for two Champions League matches for "deceiving the referee" during Arsenal's qualifying tie with Celtic last month.
The 26-year-old was widely criticised after the incident but Bilic said: "Eduardo is a complete man and a complete person.
"He's great as a player, great as a person, great as a father.
2007 defeat is irrelevant - Capello
"I can say that because I've known him since he was 17 - so I know. It can only motivate you more. He knows that he is 100%, horizontally, vertically, diagonally, 100% honest."
Croatia will be without Tottenham's Luka Modric, goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa and Genoa midfielder Ivan Juric because of injury. Defender Vedran Corluka is suspended.
"It's not good to play a game without such world class players," said Bilic. "But we have a good team and we will be ready

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