Croatia seek to protect unbeaten home record + Lineups
Posted June 5, 2007on:
ZAGREB, June 4 (Reuters) – Croatia will be looking to stretch their unbeaten home run to 32 competitive matches and stay top of Group E when they meet Russia in their Euro 2008 qualifier on Wednesday.
( WHAT DOES THIS PICTURE HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING??? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!! THATS THE WHOLE POINT!!!)
Coach Slaven Bilic is confident his team – never beaten in a European or World Cup qualifer at home since they began playing them in 1994 – can overcome fatigue and take a big step towards next year’s finals in Austria and Switzerland after labouring to Saturday’s precious 1-0 win at Estonia.
‘We are running on fumes after a long season while the Russians are in better shape because they are not even half-way through theirs,’ Bilic told Croatian media.
‘However, a lot is at stake against the Russians and I expect the players carrying the mantle in our team to rise to the occasion. We know a draw would be good enough but we want to treat our fans to a win,’ he said.
Croatia lead the group with 16 points from six matches. Israel have 14 from seven, Russia 14 from six while England, who visit Estonia on Wednesday, have 11 points from six games.
The Croatians will be at full strength and their hopes will once again largely rest on the lethal finishing of striker Eduardo da Silva, who kept them in the driving seat on Saturday with his sixth goal in as many matches.
Bilic hinted he would field Ivica Olic from the start to partner da Silva up front and give a weary looking Mladen Petric a rest while AC Milan’s Dario Simic appears set to replace Vedran Corluka at right back.
Russia coach Guus Hiddink will miss number one goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev who is out for the rest of the year after tearing his knee ligaments while livewire midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is doudbtful with a thigh injury.
Hiddink was not entirely happy with his team’s performance in a 4-0 stroll over Andorra in which Kerzhakov scored a hat-trick and said poor finishing that denied them more goals could be costly against Croatia.
‘Our finishing wasn’t good, we wasted too many scoring chances and against a good team like Croatia we just can’t afford to make the same mistakes,’ the Dutchman said.
Croatia: 1-Stipe Pletikosa; 2-Dario Simic, 4-Robert Kovac, 3-Josip Simunic, 8-Marko Babic; 11-Darijo Srna, 10-Niko Kovac, 19-Niko Kranjcar, 14-Luka Modric; 18-Ivica Olic, 22-Eduardo da Silva.
Russia: 16-Vyacheslav Malafeyev; 2-Vasily Berezutsky, 5-Sergei Ignashevich, 22-Alexander Anyukov, 27-Alexei Berezutsky; 17-Konstantin Zyryanov, 18-Yuri Zhirkov, 20-Igor Semshov, 15-Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (or 23-Vladimir Bystrov); 10-Andrei Arshavin, 11-Alexander Kerzhakov.