Ireland homework pays off for Bilić


Croatia coach Slaven Bilic felt preparation had been the key to his side’s opening 3-1 Group C win against the Republic of Ireland, whose manager Giovanni Trapattoni urged his team to bounce back and believe in the principles that took them to the finals.

Giovanni Trapattoni, Republic of Ireland manager
Tomorrow we will have time to clarify what happened in the first half. Yesterday I said we were ready for a good performance, but after two minutes we conceded a goal – it was a shame for Shay [Given] as he had three or four players in front of him. He couldn’t see the ball.

They deserved to be in front in the first half because they were superb in midfield. I tried to change things in the second half and wanted to rest Robbie a bit. I put in [Simon] Cox and [Jon] Walters and we played a bit better. The first goal was our mistake – maybe we were tense at the start of the game, but the second goal came at a key time. We have played a lot better than this.

We have to think about the players’ fitness before the next game. If I decide to change it won’t be necessarily because a player had a poor game. Spain only have one point – we need to react psychologically and go again because we have to remember how many games we have played without conceding. We believe in our strength. This evening we met a team who are technically strong but every game in this tournament could bring a surprise.

Slaven Bilic, Croatia coach
I was expecting this kind of result. We prepared well for the game and knew everything about Ireland. We thought we were the better team but you never know. We played them in a friendly in August 2011, when we didn’t play well but we showed tonight how we can play. We were much better today going forward.

I must congratulate my players and both sets of supporters. The atmosphere was great and it was an entertaining match for neutral supporters too. I’m completely satisfied with how we played tonight. We controlled midfield and our wingers were dangerous. Ireland hadn’t lost in 14 games – they were in a qualifying group with Russia, and drew 0-0 in Moscow, so we must be playing really well to beat such a strong team.

They scored from our error. Our goals came from really good play. It can happen that you concede from set pieces – our defence had a blind moment – but we were more creative. You can’t be happy after you concede but it was a good response from our team. From the first minute, I was really sure we were the better team and that we had a great chance of winning the game.

We were dreaming about winning, being in this position. We have three points and are top of the group. We are playing against two teams that may have more quality but I’m sure that Ireland will also play hard matches against Spain and Italy.

Ireland homework pays off for Bilic

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