Croatia coach Bilic denies conspiracy theories

Croatia will not play for a 2-2 draw against Spain at the European Championship, a result that would knock Italy out of the tournament.

By (AP)

Published: Fri 15 Jun 2012, 8:59 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 2:20 AM

“I can guarantee you I’m a sportsman, and they (the team) are sportsmen,” Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said Friday. “No way that we would, even if we have a chance to do it, we wouldn’t even consider it. I can tell the whole of Italy that no way. You can’t believe in God and do it that way, and expect something good to happen in your life.”

After two matches in Group C, Spain and Croatia have four points, while Italy has two. If Italy defeats Ireland in its last game and Spain and Croatia draw 2-2, then the Italians would be eliminated.

At Euro 2004, Italy was knocked out after Denmark drew 2-2 with Sweden, fueling conspiracy theories in the Italian media.

On Thursday, Croatia drew 1-1 with Italy at the Municipal Stadium in Poznan. Mario Mandzukic’s equalizer in the 72nd minute capped a second half recovery after Bilic had changed the formation to deal with Italy’s dominance in midfield.

Given the strength of the Spanish midfield, Bilic may be inclined to play the narrower formation that Croatia used in the second half against Italy. At halftime, Bilic moved Ivan Rakitic from right midfield to a holding position in front of the defense alongside Ognjen Vukojevic. He also pushed Mandzukic out of attack and onto the right wing, leaving Nikica Jelavic alone upfront.

“For me it was very good that we changed the system at halftime, but it was not only because we changed the system, the metamorphosis came more because we changed the style of the play. We pressured them high,” Bilic said. “We have strong belief in our physical strength, and that was a bigger change than the system.”

Bilic, who is stepping down from his role at the end of the tournament to take over at Lokomotiv Moscow, said Croatia will have to play even better if it’s going to get anything from the game against Spain.

“We need to play individually,” Bilic said, “and as a team, the best game of our lives.”

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