Croatia v Turkey: Bilic happy that his Croatian stars are down to earth

For a Premier League full of millionaire footballers who train behind closed doors and drive cars with tinted windows, Slaven Bilic's claim yesterday that Croatia are a team that is accessible to the people they represent was particularly poignant. The manager that dealt England two crushing blows in qualification for Euro 2008 is on the brink of a semi-final place.

Bilic's Croatia team face Turkey in Vienna tonight having first served notice to Europe of their potential by beating England twice in qualifying. "People are crazy about football and in Croatia children play it everywhere," he said. "The stars are perhaps closer to kids and common folk than in some larger wealthier countries. A kid can meet Niko Kovac in half an hour after training or at the team hotel – that's easier in Croatia."

The team's captain, Kovac announced yesterday that he would be retiring from international football after Euro 2008 although Bilic was adamant that Croatia could go further. The former West Ham and Everton defender's star has risen considerably since he first faced England in October 2006 and there can be little doubt that he will be a target for a Premier League club, possibly even this season. As well as the manner in which his team have played, it has been the way that the Croatia manager has been able to articulate the hopes and passion of his countrymen that has impressed.

"The reaction was laughter and ridicule when I was saying that our group was the most difficult," Bilic said. "We were saying the Russians were a great team. I can't be sure but I think England and probably Israel would have qualified in an easier group.

"We do have a special spirit, it's not peculiar to Croatia it's the same as all sides here. We have a love for our country and God. Whether we win or are one of the favourites, we said before Euro 2008 that our team can play well against anyone in Europe. That will remain our opinion of ourselves. A good result against another team is no longer a surprise. On the contrary the opposite would be a surprise."

Croatia announced that the striker Igor Budan had been sent home after failing to shake off a knee injury, the second of their players to have to withdraw from the tournament. Bilic said that they did not fear Turkey's propensity for coming back from unpromising situations. "We know the Turks came back twice against the Czechs and against the Swiss," he said. "This shows how strong they are – they have good quality and morals and don't give up. This is reason for praise but it also shows their weaknesses because nobody wants to trail their opponent and then come back."

Turkey have problems of their own with goalkeeper Volkan Demirel and midfielder Mehmet Aurelio suspended. Emre Gungor is out for the rest of the tournament, Servet Cetin is injured, Emre Asik has a head injury and Gokhan Zan has not yet recovered. Emre Belozoglu and Tumer Metin are also doubts.

Croatia (probable, 4-1-4-1): Pletikosa (Spartak Moscow); Corluka (Manchester City), R Kovac (Borussia Dortmund), Simunic (Hertha Berlin), Pranjic (Heerenveen); N Kovac (Salzburg); Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Modric (Tottenham Hotspur), Kranjcar (Portsmouth), Rakitic (Schalke); Olic (Hamburg).

Turkey (possible, 4-4-2): Rustu (Besiktas); Altintop (Bayern Munich), Emre Asik (Galatasaray), Ugur (Fenerbahce), Balta (Galatasaray); Kazim (Fenerbahce), Gokdeniz (Ruban Kazan), Mehmet Topal, Ardan (both Galatasaray); Nihat (Villarreal), Tuncay (Middlesbrough).

Referee: R Rosetti (Italy).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas