Veteran Croatia coach Otto Baric has claimed that he and his squad are confident of beating England in Lisbon next Monday and advancing to the quarter-finals of Euro 2004.
The 71-year old was encouraged by his team’s performance in holding champions France to a 2-2 draw in Leiria last night, and believes that his players can upset the odds and qualify from Group B.
Having gone into the interval 1-0 down to an Igor Tudor own goal, the Croatians raised their game in the second half and gave the reigning champions a real fright with two goals in five minutes just after the interval.
Milan Rapaic equalised from the spot after Manchester United’s French defender Mikael Silvestre gave away his second penalty in as many matches. Rangers striker Dado Prso then capitalised on an error by French skipper Marcel Desailly to give Croatia a surprise lead.
Only a sloppy back pass from Tudor, which was intercepted and converted by David Trezeguet, allowed the French back into the match, and Baric insisted that his side would take confidence from their performance into the game with favourites England.
“Against England we will be 100% motivated and ready,” declared Baric, who will stand down after the tournament.
“My boys are very motivated and of course we think we can win. After the 0-0 draw with Switzerland I gave them all the day off, but all of them except Robert Kovac came into training. That proves how motivated they are.”
Croatia will be looking to emulate their 1998 World Cup squad, who upset the odds and plenty of fancied opponents as they stormed to the semi-final stage.
Man of the match Prso agrees with his coach, reflecting the positive mood amongst the Croatian players.
“The French took us lightly and maybe didn’t approach the game as they had against England. We can beat England, we are confident,” he said.