Juric adds to Croatia woes

Midfielder Ivan Juric became the latest Croatia player to be ruled out of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against England after twisting his knee during training the day before the Group Six match.

Suffering suspected ligament damage, Genoa midfielder Juric joins injured playmaker Luka Modric, goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa and suspended defender Vedran Corluka on the sidelines.

"It is a big handicap for us, first Pletikosa and Modric were injured and Corluka is suspended," coach Slaven Bilic told a news conference on Tuesday.

"Still we do not have time to cry about it now. We still have a good team."

England will qualify for next year's World Cup in South Africa if they win at Wembley, while second-placed Croatia look likely to be involved in a battle with Ukraine for a playoff spot.

Bilic defended his Brazilian-born striker Eduardo da Silva, who is expected to be given a hostile reception by home fans after being given a two-match ban by European soccer's governing body UEFA for diving in Arsenal's Champions League match against Celtic two weeks ago.

"I don't think that will inhibit his performance," said Bilic.

"He is a complete man, a complete person. He is great as a player, as a father, as a person. He knows he is 100 percent right and did not dive."

He also laughed off suggestions that his players would target Wayne Rooney in a physical battle to try and get the striker to lose his temper and get sent off.

"We are not a dirty team," he replied witheringly.

"If you have been watching us for the last 20 years you will know that."


He also said his comments at the weekend about the England team, when he said they had lost their "Englishness" and "aggression" under Italian coach Fabio Capello had been misunderstood.

"I praised Fabio Capello and I praised the England team. Of course they have not lost their Englishness. What I said was that they are more organised, more solid, they can control the game almost completely now and are playing a different game," he said.

"They have won their first seven qualifiers - that is like having three match points in tennis. There are still six months to go before the World Cup and I think they will get better and better."

Bilic steered Croatia to a 3-2 win over England at Wembley on their last visit in November 2007, a result that denied England a place at Euro 2008.

He is not predicting another win on Wednesday but said the players had watched a DVD of that game in their pre-match build-up.

Despite losing key players, Bilic was still optimistic that Croatia could also reach the World Cup finals next year.

"We are used to going to the World Cup now he said, it would be a big blow to our nation not to qualify," he said.

England lead the group with 21 points from seven matches, followed by Croatia who have 17 from eight and Ukraine (14 from seven).