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Croat coach Kovac confident ahead of Brazil match

Posted By: IANS
Croatia players train for their opening World Cup game against Brazil
Zagreb, June 12: Croatia arrived in Sao Paulo Wednesday afternoon and few hours later had a training session at the Arena Corinthians where Niko Kovac's troops will try to stop Brazilians in the World Cup opener.

FIFA World Cup 2014 Schedule; News; Photos

"We did everything we could to prepare our players for that match from tactical point of view. Now it's up to them to show how good they will be in that first match," Xinhua quoted Kovac as saying before the trip from Croatia's base Praia do Forte to Sao Paulo Wednesday.

Since Croatia's players started to prepare for the World Cup the opener against Brazil was always one of the main topics and when they were speaking about that game all in Croatian camp talked about pressure on Brazilian players. Not about the pressure that they would put on their team, but pressure that will come with big expectations from the World Cup hosts.

"We've just been realistic. Brazil is playing at home as big favorites. We want to play the best we can, leaving good impression and our hearts on the field."

That's the least what supporters expect from Croatia stars and many think that Luka Modric will be the key for Croatia's successful World Cup campaign.

"It's crucial for us to be good as a team. Croatia had good results only when we fought one for another. It will be hard to win the battle with Brazilian midfielders and that could be crucial. We want to have possession. We can't put all of our hopes on defence. Brazilia is phenomenal. In my opinion Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Neymar are the best in the team, but all are world class players. They have no weaknesses," Modric said.

His place in Kovac's starting lineup is certain but there are still some doubts about some players. For instance, will Kovac put Nikica Jelavic as his lone striker and substitute for suspended Mario Mandzukic, or would he put Ivica Olic in that role to open space for Eduardo on the wing?

It seems that Jelavic is closer to that central forward position and that Kovac will use Wolfsburg's duo Olic - Perisic as wingers. Other dilemma for Kovac is who will play alongside Vedran Corluka in the heart of Croatia's defence. Will that be Southampthon defender Dejan Lovren or more experienced but recently injured Gordon Schildenfeld of Panathianikos? Schildenfeld hinted that he's fully recovered and ready to face Brazilian forwards.

Kovac is confident that he has enough quality options whoever he'll pick.

"It's obvious that our players want to play in that match. I am optimist. We will not come out with a white flag raised. If we will defend as a team, starting from the forwards, if we will stick to our plans, I am certain that we will have a chance to score."

Among those who will not have a chance to participate in any of Croatian wins is Ivan Mocinic, the 21-year-old defensive midfielder. He has problems with his injured ankle and Kovac has decided to send him back to Croatia.

According the FIFA rules, if there is a medical reason, the team can change a player from 23-men roster. Milan Badelj, 25-year-old Hamburger SV midfielder, who was the last player that Kovac cut from his World Cup squad, will replace Mocinic June 13 after the match against Brazil.

Kovac sticks to the habit not to reveal his starting lineup before the match but if we can draw some conclusions from the latest practice sessions than this will be Croatia's eleven that will start the match Thursday in Arena Corinthians: Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaljko, Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, Kovacic, Olic, Jelavic.


Story first published: Thursday, June 12, 2014, 10:48 [IST]
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