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Croatia must find way to get best out of Modric

Somewhat surprisingly, Croatia coach Slaven Bilic had claimed before Thursday's 1-1 draw with Italy in Group C that Modric was better than his opposite number Andrea Pirlo.

Such a remark was tempting fate and Pirlo clearly outshone his opposite number in midfield, dictating the first-half rhythm as Italy created a hatful of chances and even scoring himself.

Croatia, on the other hand, had trouble stringing passes together, especially during the first half, and depended on the physical presence of Nikica Jelavic and Mario Mandzukic rather than Modric's craft to worry the Italians.

Modric did, however, play a role in closing down Pirlo in the second half, a key factor as Croatia fought their way back into the game and looked the more likely winners after Mandzukic's second-half equaliser.

Croatia, quarter-finalists in Austria and Switzerland four years ago, must now beat European and world champions Spain or draw and score at least two goals to go through without depending on Italy's result against Ireland.

"I'm very optimistic for the next match," said Bilic whose side have committed 40 fouls in their two games, more than any other team apart from the Czech Republic.


"I'm really satisfied we've four points from the two games. It could be even better but four points is optimal, realistic and now we have a real chance to go through."

Bilic appeared to be clutching at straws after the game when he criticised referee Howard Webb for failing to award his team a penalty.

"I don't agree with coaches who don't comment on referees," he said. "This is very important for my job. I'm sure that was a clear penalty on Jelavic, and the referee was not good."

"Then there was a foul before the Italy free-kick [from which Pirlo scored]. I didn't like his performance. I think he was a referee who helped the Italian team a lot."

However, anything is a bonus for Bilic who will end his six-year stint in the job at the end of the tournament.

"We have four points after two matches - we would be happier to have six, but this is fair enough," he said.

"I am sure that the whole of Croatia would have accepted a situation where we had four points going into the last game, and we are going into that game with a realistic chance of going through from a group like this."