Wednesday Jul 11, 2018 | By: AFP
LONDON: World Cup glory beckons for Croatian stars such as Luka Modric after several traumatic experiences at major tournaments, says their former coach Slaven Bilic.
The charismatic 49-year-old — who is in Russia as a TV pundit for English broadcaster ITV — told The Daily Mail Modric and fellow superstar Ivan Rakitic will pose problems for England in their World Cup semi-final on Wednesday (today) they have not had to encounter thus far.
“Luka and Rakitic are the best midfield pair in the World Cup,” said Bilic.“But don’t underestimate the rest of the team either. For me, Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida have been fantastic centre backs, among the best in the World Cup.
“England will be a different opponent to Denmark, Russia or even Argentina.“They really have a lot of pace, like Belgium, and get plenty of numbers forward. Croatia will have to plan for that. But Croatia can also cause England problems they haven’t had before.”
Bilic, who is a mentor to several of the present squad including Modric having nurtured their talent as Croatia’s Under-21 handler before becoming head coach of the national side, added he is confident this team can go one better than he and his teammates in 1998 and reach the final.
Bilic, who is presently out of work having been sacked by Premier League side West Ham last season, experienced some of the highs and the lows with the Croatian players such as being seconds away from the Euro 2008 semi-finals only for Turkey to level and progress on penalties.The Croats were to suffer a similar late reverse when eventual champions Portugal defeated them in extra-time of the Euro 2016 last-16 clash.