Bilic to remain as Croatia boss

ZAGREB - Slaven Bilic said on Friday he would stay on as Croatia coach despite the team's failure to qualify for the World Cup finals earlier this week.

Bilic, who was praised after the small, soccer-mad nation reached the European Championship quarter-finals last year, said he had the backing of the Croatian football association.

"I believe in this group of players. We have the drive, the motive, and the obligation to ourselves and to the public and we have decided to stay at the helm of the national team," Bilic told a news conference.

After a campaign plagued by injuries and poor form of key players, Croatia failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. The team finished third in its group, behind England and Ukraine, and will miss the finals for the first time since they started competing as an independent nation.

"This qualifying cycle was marked by handicaps and injuries. Something of this scale is unlikely to happen one more time," said Bilic, who has several times been tipped to move to England's Premier League.