ZAGREB (Reuters) – Croatia manager Slaven Bilic has dropped veteran international strikers Mladen Petric and Ivan Klasnic from the squad for next month’s European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
“It was hard to leave them out but it’s part of the job,” Bilic told a news conference on Thursday. “They are quality players who have done a lot for our side. Unfortunately, they are strikers, the one part of our team where we have the best options so there was simply no room for them.”
Klasnic, 32, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2007, had a disappointing season at Bolton wanderers, while Petric, 31, was also plagued by injuries and poor form at German side Hamburg.
Bilic is likely to pair in-form Everton striker Nikica Jelavic and Wolfsburg’s Mario Mandzukic up front. Two other stalwarts, Bayern Munich’s Ivica Olic and Brazilian-born Eduardo of Shakhtar, have not played regularly this season.
The 43-year old coach, who took over Croatia in 2006, confirmed he would step down after the finals.
“This is my last tournament. After this, I shall certainly no longer be the national coach. But before that, we must focus on the big job that’s coming up,” Bilic said.
Croatia open their campaign in Group C against Ireland on June 10.
“With all due respect I feel for them, we want to start the tournament with three points. They are our chance,” Bilic said.
He said Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni was sticking to tried and tested players and no surprises were likely.
“They are tough, strong, well-organised and defend very well. They only surprise could be if Trapattoni made them more offensive. But that would only make us happier,” Bilic said.
Also in Group C are world and European champions Spain and Italy.
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- Greece beat Croatia 2-0 to top Group F
- Injured Negredo drops out of Spain squad