Croatia midfielder Luka Modric relishing Spain clash

 

Luka Modric is calling for more of the same as Croatia attempt to book their place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 with a game to spare.

Slaven Bilic's side opened their campaign with a resounding 3-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland in Poznan last night and top Group C after Italy and Spain drew in Gdansk.

The Croatians and the Italians go head-to-head in Poznan on Thursday evening with Modric and his team-mates knowing a second win would assure them of a place in the last eight before their final group game against Spain.

He said: "That's an amazing game for us as well. I hope we can repeat this performance on Thursday evening and I hope we can win against Italy as well.

"It is going to be a different game, but we have to prepare well, bring this performance and play like we did last night."

The draw between the group's two big guns did Croatia little harm, although Modric insisted they did not even consider what was happening in Gdansk as they finalised their preparations for Ireland.

He said: "It has given us confidence because we won. That game didn't bother us that much and we were only focused on our game and how to win.

"Now we have four days to think about Italy. I hope we prepare well, like we did for Ireland."

Bilic had spoken of his confidence ahead of the game that Croatia would prevail if they played to the best of their ability and in truth, they claimed the points comfortably on a night when the Irish were not at their best, particularly at the back.

Mario Mandzukic got them off to the perfect start with a third-minute header and, after strike-partner Nikica Jelavic restored the lead in the wake of Sean St Ledger's equaliser, the Wolfsburg man saw his 48th-minute header come back off the post and go in off luckless keeper Shay Given.

Modric said: "We played excellently and dominated Ireland in a big part of the game.

"We didn't allow them to have so many set-pieces because we knew they were dangerous from set-pieces.

"In the end, they scored one and that was it. We prepared very well for this game and we showed that."

Asked about the contribution of the in-form Jelavic, Modric was effusive in his praise.

He said: "He has brought his form to the national team. That is what we expected from him.

"Our team knows if he has a chance, he will score, and he showed that. Mandzukic as well played an amazing game. Overall, all the team, every player, was at a high level."

Modric, whose future at Tottenham remains a topic for speculation, was shedding little light on what may or may not lie ahead this summer, and insisted he was thinking no further ahead than the Euros.

He said: "Of course it is very important. When I am playing for Croatia it is always different to playing for a club because it is a bigger responsibility on us.

"The Croatian people are expecting and expectations are high from us, and thankfully we played a great game.

"We fulfilled their expectation and we are extremely happy that we won, and now we have to prepare well for Thursday for Italy."

PA

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