Monday 14 April 2008
Bilić praying for fully fit strike force
by Elvir Islamovic
A number of Slaven Bilić's strikers have had endured prolonged periods on the sidelines (©Getty Images)
With less than two months until Croatia play co-hosts Austria in their first match of UEFA EURO 2008™, coach Slaven Bilić has fitness concerns over three of his strikers.

Eduardo absence
Already without Eduardo da Silva due to the leg and ankle break the Arsenal FC forward sustained in February, several of Bilić's other forwards have endured stop-start campaigns. One of those is Parma FC's Igor Budan, who made his comeback in late January having been sidelined since the end of August, while Werder Bremen's Ivan Klasić still requires time to reach full fitness following two kidney transplants.

'Rest' needed
Completing the trio is Hamburger SV's Ivica Olić who suffered a thigh injury two weeks ago, and requires at least another week to recover. "I've played in all the matches this season and it seems at some point I had to break down," said 28-year-old Olić. "The body needs a little rest. It would be much worse if it had happened, for example, at the end of April. It would distract my preparation for EURO. No one wants to pick up an injury before EURO, but when it starts you are going to the end."

Klasnić goals
BV Borussia Dortmund's Mladen Petrić, who is Croatia's only forward to have had an uninterrupted campaign, says the absence of Eduardo will prove a "big loss" and that the squad will "miss him a lot". However Bilić and Petrić need not panic right now, as Olić will be back soon, Budan is getting better with every game that passes, while Klasnić scored his first goals since February with two in Bremen's 5-1 defeat of FC Schalke 04 on Saturday.