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Boban impressed with Italy but not Croatia

By Simon Evans

SENDAI, Japan, June 6 (Reuters) - Former Croatia captain Zvonimir Boban has criticised his country's team and gives them little hope against group G rivals Italy on Saturday.

Boban, part of the Croatia side that reached the semi-finals in France in 1998, is working during the World Cup as a columnist for a Croatian newspaper and made a surprise appearance at Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni's press conference on Thursday.

Boban said he was hugely impressed by Italy's start to the World Cup but much less so by Croatia's. "I think the match will depend above all on Italy," Boban told reporters.

"The Croatia I saw in the first game (a 1-0 defeat to Mexico) had no play and that is going to be a big problem -- above all against Italy who I have never seen start a competition as convincingly, so determined, so strong and practically perfect on a tactical level," he said.

"But every game has its own story and so there is still hope," added Boban.

Italy beat Ecuador 2-0 in their opening game.

Boban said Croatia's defeat to Mexico might provoke a response out of his compatriots but was sceptical about their chances against Italy in Ibaraki, Japan.

"They will give all they have and more. But you have to look at what they have to give," said Boban.

"The psychological situation is not the best. There is no enthusiasm...but there are good individuals.

"I hope the coach puts out a good team because the Italians are so strong and can exploit every area of the field," said the former AC Milan player who retired from football last season after a brief spell with Spanish club Celta Vigo.

Boban is one of several members of the Croatian team of four years ago who have since hung up their boots but, despite his reservations about the current side, he is optimistic about Croatian football in general.

"A lot of things have changed. But what has not changed is a certain continuity in Croatian football, which has enabled us to qualify for a second World Cup after the cycle of the previous generation came to an end.

"It was success for these lads to qualify. But what struck everyone a bit about the first game was the lack of play. We didn't play and we lost the game.

"Croatia need to play because they have the quality to perform," added Boban.

With Boban in the playmaker role Croatia beat Germany 3-0 in the quarter-finals in France four years ago before losing to the hosts and eventual winners 2-1 in the semi-finals.

Boban won four Italian league titles in eight seasons with Milan and was part of the side that lifted the 1994 European Cup.
06/06/02 09:41 ET

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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not so enthusiastic, but some good points. Zvone je legenda !

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The 98 achievement was phenominal and sets the platform for future generations.But Boban is right when stating qualifying is a achievement...it would also help if we tried to display the true ability of Cro football and not just defense.

Realistically our chances of progressing dont look good but either way the youngsters will benefit from the experience.No one will ever convince me not qualyfying is better than qualifying but not reaching second stage.(correspondence from Yugo's about how they would have done this,that etc.yet look at Slovenia who they could not beat)hence not even qualify.

Go ECUADOR vs Mex.,you never know what CUDO can happen in last round.


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I disagree that it's an achievement simply to qualify. We were favourites to advance out of the group, not heavy favourites, but favourites nevertheless. We aren't what we used to be, but that doesn't mean we've become a team that's "just happy to be there."

I don't believe that Zvone really thinks that anyway, I think he's saying it to help take the pressure off of the players. He knows we need a good performance against the Italians to get a result and being a former captain of the team, he knows what to say to bring out the best in players.

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well, we can be all we want to be ;-)

seriously, i think Croatia will always have good enough team to go to the finals... but that doesnt mean that we will... we didnt qualify for Euro2000 and in between then and now, our players only got older... so I can see why someone would say that it is achivement to be at the World Cup but for me, that will never be enough... we should advance in this group as well... and go beyond that...

we have to believe, thats basic step of sucess

Igra sa srcom i mozkom!

Yes, Croatia played awful against Mexico, and I thought that Team Croatia made a mistake before the game started with Mexico. Too much propaganda was said before the start, and the Croatia did not show what we wanted to. Against Italy, little talk was rumored from the Croatian Team, and a hole new style was played with spirt. Fast and exciting football was played, and Team Croatia won the match 2-0.

Volim te Hrvatska!
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