Nikica Jelavic: Q&A

The Everton striker tells FourFourTwo has high hopes at Euro 2012 for Croatia – but not England...

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How would you describe the mood in the camp going into the Euros?
We didn’t have the best of times in our friendly against Sweden [losing 3-1], which took away some of our momentum, but the atmosphere is nevertheless excellent. We took it as a warning, which will help us to focus and prepare for the tournament.

What do you make of your group?
It’s not easy, but our goal is clear: get through it. After that, anything is possible. We are a good team and others are aware of that. No one will have it easy against us. But it won’t be easy for us in our first game against Ireland either – many people in Croatia think we will deal with Trapattoni’s men easily, but that could be our toughest match.

What do you think of England’s chances in the tournament?
Generally, I don’t have much faith in them. They have individual quality in abundance, and can occasionally play really well. But England always seem to fail at big tournaments. I’ve been following them for years and it’s always the same: they aim high, but end up disappointed. I don’t count them among the favourites. Spain and Germany are way ahead of the others.

Are there any young players who might be in your squad that we should keep an eye out for?
Ivan Perisic, Borussia Dortmund’s attacking midfielder. This young man has strength and style: he can play both on the right and the left side of the midfield, as well as just behind the strikers. He uses both feet and is very good in the air. If given a chance to shine, he could prove a true revelation.

Is it a motivating factor, not reaching the 2010 World Cup?
We were all very unhappy when we failed to qualify for the World Cup. The atmosphere was desperate. But now we’re again taking part in a major tournament and we want to prove to everyone that Croatia is a great footballing nation.

What are your own ambitions?
It will be my first big competition, so my ambitions and motivation are as high as possible.

Do you expect Slaven Bilic to give you a chance in the first XI right from the start?
Of course. I expected to be a fixture in the squad while I was in Rangers, but now, when I’ve gone one step further and started playing in the best league in the world, my hopes are even higher. I also feel that Slaven Bilic has full confidence in my abilities and counts on me very seriously. But the other competitors for a place in Croatia’s offensive line are amazing, so I wouldn’t feel too bad if I started on the bench. After all, we are a team and we have to support each other.

Interview by Dubravko Susec. From the June 2012 issue of FourFourTwo.