Blazevic braces for Bosnia

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The Independent Online
Robert Prosinecki will miss Croatia's key World Cup qualifier against Bosnia in Zagreb today - a match the home side must win to keep alive their hopes of a place in next year's finals in France.

The home coach, Miroslav Blazevic, warned yesterday that Bosnia would probably provide much tougher opposition than they did when they lost 4-1 to Croatia in neutral Bologna last October.

With Greece expected to take full points from bottom-placed Slovenia in another Group One match being played today, Croatia must win to keep in touch with the Greeks and the current group leaders, Denmark.

If they win today and when they play Demark on Wednesday, Croatia could move from third to first in the standings. But Blazevic was understandably cautious, especially as he will be without Prosinecki, the most influential player in the side, who is out after straining muscles.

"I am a little apprehensive about the game against the Bosnians, more than I am about the one against the Danes," he said. "We have a tough task ahead of us, as we need to win in Zagreb if we want to go to France."

Since beating Bosnia in Bologna, the Croats have struggled to find their form, managing only draws at home against Denmark, Greece and Slovenia. The Bosnians showed in their last match, a 3-0 win over the Danes, that they are improving.

That victory in Sarajevo last month cracked open the group, and sent a warning to Zagreb. Blazevic said Prosinecki's role of supporting the striking pair of Lazio's Alen Boksic and Real Madrid's Davor Suker would be taken by Silvio Maric, a young Croatia Zagreb midfielder.

Fuad Muzurovic, the Bosnian coach, will lack almost the entire defensive line from the game against Denmark, except for Monaco's central defender Muhamed Konjic.

The Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, is warning today's World Cup qualifier against Belgium is a far tougher proposition than the reverse fixture of last December which the Netherlands won 3-0 in Brussels.

The two sides are level on 15 points in Group Seven, with the Dutch claiming top spot by virtue of their superior goal difference. A win for either side could guarantee qualification, either as group winners or the best runners-up.

A draw would be a reasonable result for both sides. A point in Rotterdam, followed by a home win over Turkey would be enough for the Dutch to finish top but would also give Belgium, who play Wales at home in October in their final game, a chance of progressing as Europe's best second-placed team.