Bilic says Croats can beat 'keep-it-simple' Irish

Croatia's coach Slaven Bilic said Saturday he was well aware of the threat posed to his side by the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2012 but insisted if his men performed then they would win their opening Group C match.

"I have followed the Irish team closely. They did not qualify directly but they did have a tough group with Slovakia and Russia.

"I respect their football - they play it simple and it's not that hard to analyse.

"They only know one way to play - I don't know if they will attack us from the outset but for sure Robbie Keane won't be on the bench," smiled Bilic in allusion to Ireland's record goalscorer.

"They also know everything about us but there will still be some tactical surprises.

"We will have to play a great match tomorrow - but if we are at the top of our game I'm sure we'll win," said Bilic.

At Euro 2008 the Croatians - having eliminated England in the qualifiers - crashed out in the quarter-finals on penalties to surprise package Turkey.

Bilic, who leaves his post after Euro to take over Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow, said that the team had moved on since then although it had been difficult to stomach at the time.

"No defeat is easy to stomach but it's forgotten now," he told reporters. "We're only thinking of these Euros," he insisted.

Bilic, at 43 representing a new generation of coaches, will in 73-year-old Ireland handler Giovanni Trapattoni go up against one of the old guard, whom he greatly respects.

"What can I say about Tapattoni? He is a great coach, he's 'Mister Calcio' (he won seven Serie A titles) and he's worked for some of the greatest clubs in Milan, Juventus, in Germany (leading Bayern Munich to a league title).

"He's done great work in getting Ireland to the finals and I have a lot of respect - even fascination - for him. I have only good things to say about him."


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