Eduardo loss motivates Croatia
Croats confident of coping without Arsenal star
By Ben Collins. Last Updated: June 7, 2008 11:09pm
Bilic: Motivated by Eduardo loss
Croatia are not only confident they can overcome the loss of Eduardo at Euro 2008, but believe they will be motivated by the Arsenal striker's absence.
The Brazilian-born striker was Croatia's top scorer in qualifying with 10 goals but was ruled out of the tournament after suffering a sickening ankle injury playing for Arsenal in February.
"We are motivated because of Eduardo, it's clear because he is very popular among the players," said coach Slaven Bilic.
"He is recovering and may even join Arsenal for their (pre-season) preparations.
"Eduardo's absence is a handicap and we feel it all the time because we consider him one of the best strikers in the world. Arsenal have also felt that but we feel we are a good team and have enough to compensate."
Ivica Olic is one of the men Bilic is hoping can fill Eduardo's shoes and the Hamburg striker is expected to partner Mladen Petric in attack for Croatia's opening game against co-hosts Austria in Vienna on Sunday.
The 28-year-old is optimistic they can make a big impact in Austria and Switzerland and fire Croatia into the latter stages.
"Of course we will miss Eduardo," he said. "He's a great player and he scored more goals in qualifying than the rest of us, but we have good quality players and we'll find a way to get over losing him.
"Myself and Mladen Petric are both left-footed, which is a bit strange for an attacking duo, but that could surprise our opponents. We hope to combine well and explode at the tournament.
"All five strikers here are working hard, improving on a daily basis, and we've come off good seasons with our clubs, so we're confident we can find the back of the net."
Eduardo set up Olic to score in Croatia's 3-2 win at Wembley, which prevented England joining them at Euro 2008 with Bilic's men having already topped the group.
"That was a great game and I have very strong memories of it, but nobody can live in the past," said Olic.
"We're just looking forward to our next match and we hope we can put in the same level of performance against Austria because the England game was our best recent display.
"I'd be quite happy with the same scoreline in Vienna," he added. "The game will show how much progress we've made."