Beenhakker offers mother-in-law of all battles

Slaven Bilic does have a sense of humour, but does not necessarily strike you as a man who wants to trade mother-in-law jokes, especially not during the serious business of a tournament that he believes his nation can win.

Even though Croatia have qualified for the last eight of Euro 2008, and even though Bilic is set to rest virtually all his first-choice players, especially as five are on yellow cards, he quickly dismissed a quip by Leo Beenhakker, the Poland coach yesterday. "Maybe I can call my old friend Slaven Bilic and ask him to play his mother-in-law as a striker against Poland," Beenhakker said. Bilic's reply? "Well, I'm divorced," before adding of the Poles: "They have a chance and they have a team, so he doesn't need my mother-in-law."

Beenhakker is perhaps right to be fatalistic. Austria's controversial last-gasp equaliser against them on Thursday means that their chances of progressing are slim. A victory, and it needs to be a convincing one at that, against the Croats may not be enough. Asked whether his team are capable of winning by the three or four goals they need, the Dutchman said simply: "I don't know."

Beenhakker has also talked about ringing the changes, but scanning his squad list, and in the absence of the injured Jakub Blaszczykowski and Maciej Zurawski, his options are sorely limited, especially as striker Ebuzebiusz Smolarek has disappointed.

Bilic will shuffle his pack with ease and the story for Croatia will be the selection of veteran Dario Simic to win his 99th cap and captain the side, and the expected return of Ivan Klasnic after the 28-year-old striker recovered from a kidney transplant last year.

"We are going to field the strongest team possible, but we are not going to take risks," Bilic said. "I have no fear that they will embarrass us. I believe in this team, like I believe all 23 players in the squad."

That belief is shared, especially as Bilic has built the kind of "club" mentality and spirit within the Croatia squad that is so admired – and envied – by other coaches, including England's Fabio Capello, who spoke about it last week.

The Croat left-back Danijel Pranjic said: "Bilic is very important to us. He was a player for a long time and he knows everything about football. He's more like a colleague – there are periods when he's a coach and periods when he's a friend, though he hasn't played guitar for us yet. Maybe before the quarter-finals."

Croatia (probable, 4-4-2): Pletikosa (Spartak Moscow); Corluka (Manchester City), Knezevic (Livorno), Simic (Milan), Pranjic (Heerenveen); Leko (Monaco), Pokrivac (Monaco), Vukojevic (Dynamo Zagreb), Rakitic (Schalke); Kalinic (Hajduk Split), Klasnic (Werder Bremen).

Poland (probable 4-2-3-1): Boruc (Celtic); Wasilewski (Anderlecht), Jop (FC Moscow), Bak (Austria Vienna), Zewlakow (Olympiakos); Dudka (Wisla Krakow), Lewandowski (Shakhtar Donetsk); Krzynowek (Wolfsburg), Saganowski (Southampton), Guerreiro (Legia Warsaw); Smolarek (Racing Santander).

Referee: K Vassaras (Greece).

Misses next game if booked: Croatia Leko; Poland Wasilewski, Bak, Lewandowski, Krzynowek, Smolarek.

Poland v Croatia. Today, 19.45, Klagenfurt, BBC3

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment