Bilic fears Spurs' bad form will hinder Croatia's key men
Saturday 11 October 2008
The Croatia coach, Slaven Bilic, fears that the crisis at Tottenham could undermine his country's bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Luka Modric is Bilic's key player but the £16.5m signing from Dynamo Zagreb has so far struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane.
Bilic, whose side face Ukraine in Kiev tonight, also has Vedran Corluka in the Spurs squad, with Juande Ramos' men bottom of the Premier League and enduring their worst start to a season since 1912.
"I am worried about the results at Tottenham, where some of our key players are playing – defender Vedran Corluka and in particular Luka Modric," Bilic said on fifa.com. "Luka is aware the situation is not good. He is aware that more is expected of him and that he has to lead the others. One of the things we must do at team headquarters is help set him on the right road."
Modric has been hampered by a knee injury in recent weeks and admits he needs to improve at his new club. "I am not satisfied with my performances at Tottenham. I have to do better and I can do better," he said. "The problem has been a knee problem – it's been causing me pain."
The under-fire France coach, Raymond Domenech, said he was not worried by his own fate before a World Cup qualifier in Romania today that could spell the end of his tenure. "The only thing I'm worried about is the fact that we need to qualify for the 2010 World Cup," Domenech said. "I've said so before and I'll keep saying it – qualifying does not depend on one match alone and there will be more matches after this one," he added. The 56-year-old, whose team began their qualifying campaign with a shock 3-1 defeat by Austria, earned himself a stay of execution with a 2-1 win over Serbia last month. He realises, however, that he is not safe yet, after the French Federation president, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, said that the coach's position would be reviewed after the Romania match.
The abrasive coach received support from his captain, Patrick Vieira, who has not played for France for months because of a thigh injury but should lead the team tonight. "Since he's been left in charge, players and officials must support him, full stop," Vieira said. "He has to stay on until the end, he has to be allowed to keep doing his job."
The Romania coach, Victor Piturca, vowed the game would not be a repeat of the drab goalless draw the teams played out at Euro 2008. The match in June was one of the ugliest of the competition with both sides lacking sparkle in a nervy group stage game.
"I'm sure that this Saturday's match will be totally different from that game," Piturca said. "France have enough spectacular players, while Romania – who play at home – want to win this time."
Piturca said the absence of the injured France centre-back William Gallas could help Romania. "When such a good player as Gallas is missing, the whole of France's defensive system is troubled," Piturca said. "I hope this might be a disadvantage for them."
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