Croatia aim to end Split jinx against Dutch

February 4, 2008

SPLIT, Croatia, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Croatia will be aiming to end their winless home record in Split when they take on fellow Euro 2008 finalists the Netherlands in a friendly on Wednesday.

Croatia have drawn six and lost two matches in the Adriatic city since they gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and their last outing in the popular tourist resort was a 1-1 draw with Brazil in 2005.

Coach Slaven Bilic believes the time has come for Croatia to give fans in his hometown something to cheer about.

'We are delighted to be back here playing one of the strongest European teams and I think this match is in the same bracket with the one against Brazil in terms of crowd-pulling and quality,' Bilic told reporters.

'We will take it as a competitive qualifier, meaning that we will be looking for a good performance and a win,' he said.

Bilic maintains it is time to 'move on' after Croatia's impressive 3-2 win over England at Wembley in November.

'It's our first gathering since the Wembley feat and that was a while back. There is no living on past merits in football and what happened belongs to history books.

'We need to repeat performances at that level as often as possible and Wednesday's match is an ideal opportunity.'

While Croatia will be at full strength, the Netherlands will miss strikers Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie as well as winger Arjen Robben through injury.

Van Nistelrooy picked up an ankle blow in Real Madrid's 2-0 defeat to Spanish Primera Liga rivals Almeria on Saturday while Robben and van Persie are long-term casualties.

Dutch coach Marco van Basten, who left Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt out of his 21-man squad, is likely to field Ajax Amsterdam hitman Klaas Jan Huntelaar on his own up front.