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

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
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

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering