Euro 2008 - Bilic to field reserves against Poland

Eurosport - Sun, 15 Jun 14:44:00 2008

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic has said he is confident the makeshift team he will pick against Poland at Euro 2008 would live up to expectations.

FOOTBALL 2008 EURO 2008 Croatia Bilic - 0

Croatia have reached the quarter-finals as Group B winners and the Poles must win Monday's game in Klagenfurt by at least two clear goals to have a chance of joining them as runners-up.

"We have complete faith in the experimental side we will field because we play, practice and live as a compact unit so whoever is selected will have plenty of motivation," said Bilic.

"We also have to reward our fantastic fans for their support as I am sure they will turn up in numbers once again."

All the other sides in the group have a chance of facing Group A winners Portugal in the last eight with Germany needing just a draw against Austria in Vienna to go through although if the Germans lose second place goes to Poland or Austria.

The 39-year-old Bilic has other concerns, though, and wants to save his best team for Friday's quarter-final in Vienna against the Group A runners-up -- Czech Republic or Turkey.

"It would be madness to field first-choice players who are on one yellow card and we also have a few with minor knocks and bruises who need a break," he said earlier this week.

"We have pride to play for, just like against England at Wembley, so we are completely determined to field a strong team aiming to continue our winning streak," he added.

He was referring to Croatia's 3-2 win in the qualifiers that stopped England reaching the finals even though Bilic's side had already won the group and had nothing concrete to play for.

The 39-year-old also said reserve centre-back and his former team mate Dario Simic would captain the team on Monday.

"Simic has been a backbone of the squad for a decade and it's only right that he leads the team on to the pitch against the Poles," Bilic said.

Croatia won Group B by beating co-hosts Austria and tournament favourites Germany allowing Bilic, who played with 32-year-old Simic at Euro 96 and the 1998 World Cup, to rest some players against Poland and bring in the veteran defender.

Simic, who has 98 international caps, said he was looking forward to a milestone 100 appearances for his country.

"I hope I will put 100 matches in a Croatia shirt under my belt at this tournament, it would be a perfect farewell if I decide to retire from international football," he said.

"It's a real bonus that we reached the last eight with a match to spare because it means the first-choice players get a week's rest while others get a chance to make an impact."

Reuters

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account