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Bilic savouring Croatia's repeat win over Germany
June 13, 2008 16:42 IST
The Croatian coach played as a central defender in their 3-0 1998 World Cup quarter-final defeat of the Germans but was at a loss in the aftermath of Thursday's repeat win over this year's favourites, which of the triumphs mattered more to his country.
"It's always a lot more difficult in the dugout than on the pitch but I really can't make up my mind which of the two victories I cherish more," Bilic told reporters.
"This is certainly one of the most significant wins in Croatia's history, bigger than the 3-2 qualifying win over England [Images] at Wembley that came after we had already booked our berth in the finals," he said.
Under fire from the Croatian media after a scrappy 1-0 opening win over Austria, Bilic made just one change in his line-up but it made all the difference.
Attacking midfielder Ivan Rakitic, who replaced Mladen Petric, gave his marker Marcell Jansen a roasting on the right flank and swung the game in Croatia's favour early on with his jinking runs.
"We had something to prove after the stinging criticism following the Austria game and I think we performed very well against a strong German side," said Rakitic.
"Once again we raised our game for a heavyweight contest because it's a lot easier to prepare for matches in which we don't have the pressure of being favourites.
"We have a long way to go and only a brief celebration will do as we have to prepare for the upcoming challenges."
Croatia's rivals in the quarter-finals will be either the Czech Republic or Turkey, who are deadlocked on points and goal difference in Group A and their clash on Sunday may go to a penalty shootout to decide who goes through.
Thousands of Croatia fans celebrating in Klagenfurt on Thursday night were looking forward to a showdown with either.
"We don't really care who we play in the last eight and we will come to Vienna (June 20) in numbers to be the extra man for our lads," said 28-year-old Igor Petrinovic.
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