Bilic: Sweden friendly is acid test for Ireland

Croatia's friendly with Sweden on Wednesday will be a good rehearsal for their Euro 2012 opener against Ireland, coach Slaven Bilic said on Tuesday.

"The Swedes are not identical to Ireland but they have many things in common, namely a vertically aggressive attacking style," Bilic told a news conference.

"Both teams are very good at set pieces and win most aerial battles against their opponents, meaning that we will have to match them every step of the way in terms of endurance, commitment and discipline.

"If we can do that, our individual quality should make the difference," said Bilic, who steered Croatia to the Euro 2008 quarter-finals.

The Croatians, who face Ireland in Poznan on June 10, were seconds away from reaching the Euro 2008 semi-finals, having led 1-0 before Turkey equalised with the last kick of extra-time and went on to win the penalty shootout.

They face a much tougher prospect to reach the knockout stage of the competition this time, with holders Spain and 1968 winners Italy the favourites to progress from Group C to the last eight.

The 43-year-old Bilic said the game with Sweden would give his players a chance to stake their claims for places in the 23-man squad bound for the June 8-July 1 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

"Some media have suggested the team picks itself and that naming the final squad is a mere formality but I can assure everyone here that it's not," said Bilic.

"No player in my team can take anything for granted, they can all either consolidate their positions in the pecking order or compromise them depending on their performances."

Sweden, who are in Group D alongside Ukraine, England and France, will have talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic at their disposal but coach Erik Hamren suggested they would apply a cautious approach against a team he rated highly.

"Croatia are on the same level as England and France, I think they are among the world's elite and we are in trouble if our back four do not perform to the best of their abilities," said Hamren.

"Luka Modric is a world-class midfielder, he is their key player although they also have high-quality physical forwards who are prolific scorers," he added.

Sweden open their Euro 2012 campaign against Ukraine in Kiev on June 11, when England meet France in Donetsk.


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