Bilic hails battling Croatia

Croatia manager relieved after his side bounce back for a hard-earned point

Slaven Bilic: Pleased with Croatia's fightback against Italy

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Slaven Bilic has hailed his Croatian side's battling qualities after their 1-1 draw with Italy in Poznan.

Having convincingly beaten Republic of Ireland on Sunday, Croatia took time to establish themselves in their second Group C game, and were behind at half-time after Andrea Pirlo's curled free-kick.

But an improved Croatia got onto the front foot in the second half and eventually equalised in the 72nd minute, with Mario Mandzukic driving the ball home off the inside of the post for his third goal of the tournament.

Croatia now have four points after two games and face Spain in their final group game, and Bilic was relieved that his side had carved out what could prove to be a vital point as they seek to reach the quarter-finals.

"Italy showed once again they're an exceptional team but I have to congratulate my team for showing willpower and character to fight back in the second half," said Bilic.

Problems

"We had a lot of problems containing (Mario) Balotelli and (Antonio) Cassano in the first half because our midfield was stretched against theirs but we adjusted our strategy in the second half and threw more men forward."

Defender Vedran Corluka agreed that Croatia had struggled before the break but was convinced that his side could get something from their game against world champions Spain next Monday.

"We weren't good enough in the first half but we regrouped at half-time and in the second half we dominated and got a deserved equaliser," said Corluka.

"We still have work to do in our last group match against Spain but we are confident of progressing to the quarter-finals after this."