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european qualifying

Croatia coach Bilic plays down England comments

September 8, 2009
By Soccernet staff

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic has played down remarks he made last week about the England side lacking "Englishness" and "aggression".

Slaven Bilic takes training at Wembley on Tuesday
GettyImages / RyanPierseSlaven Bilic rejected the chance to manage Scotland

Bilic, preparing for Wednesday night's crucial World Cup qualifier against Fabio Capello's side at Wembley Stadium, claims that he was misunderstood.

"I praised Fabio Capello and I praised the England team," he said after his side trained on the famous turf on Tuesday night. "Of course they have not lost their Englishness.

"What I said was that they are more organised, more solid, they can control the game almost completely now and are playing a different game. They have won their first seven qualifiers - that is like having three match points in tennis. There are still six months to go before the World Cup and I think they will get better and better."

Capello had earlier spoken with delight about Bilic's comments, claiming that his opposite number had made his team talk for him. He will simply remind the squad of Bilic's quip.

"Thank you Mr Bilic,'' Capello said, knowing victory will secure qualification. "It is the best. I have no need to motivate my players after this. It's fantastic assistance.''

Bilic also rejected claims that Croatia would attempt to wind Wayne Rooney up and get him sent off. "We are not a dirty team," he replied witheringly. "If you have been watching us for the last 20 years you will know that."

Croatia will now be without Ivan Juric after he was ruled out with suspected ligament damage. The Genoa midfielder joins injured playmaker Luka Modric, goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa and suspended defender Vedran Corluka on the sidelines.

"It is a big handicap for us, first Pletikosa and Modric were injured and Corluka is suspended," Bilic added. "Still we do not have time to cry about it now. We still have a good team."