Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Confident Croatians Are Spoiling for Fight; EURO 2004 Vieira Warns England They Face Struggle in Group Decider

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Confident Croatians Are Spoiling for Fight; EURO 2004 Vieira Warns England They Face Struggle in Group Decider

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE STAMMERS

CROATIA'S players were queueing up after their battling 2-2 draw with France to serve up warnings and threats to England for Monday's crunch decider in Lisbon.

Striker Tomo Sokota said: "I watched England beat Switzerland and I was not impressed. They were playing against only 10 men for a long period. I am confident we can get the victory we need to reach the last eight."

Man-of-the match Dado Prso was equally confident: "Oh yes, we can beat England. We are confident we can go through."

England, of course, are second in Group B on three points - one ahead of Croatia - and need only a draw to ensure a quarterfinal place.

But just to show it was not sheer bravado from the Croatians, Arsenal's Patrick Vieira added his own note of caution.

Vieira said: "Croatia have to beat England but they are good enough to do that.

"It is going to be a tough game because both teams impressed me with the way they played. It will be difficult for both. Croatia are strong physically and technically."

Croatia certainly served notice of their tenacity against tournament favourites France, who needed a dubious equaliser from David Trezeguet to avoid a defeat that looked unthinkable after they dominated the first half.

Goalkeeper Tomislav Butina clearly was still aggrieved at the goal that deprived his country of a famous win.

Butina's clearance was shown clearly to have struck the hand of Trezeguet before the Juventus striker slid home the rebound from his block.

Butina said: "It was obviously handball.

But we are in a good position.

"I really do not think that England will just settle for defending against us next Monday.

"It is not their natural game to do that and besides, they are a football country - their fans would not tolerate them playing like that, anyway."

Of course there is a outside possibility that France could yet be eliminated - if they lose to Switzerland and England are beaten by Croatia.

That, of course, won't happen and

Vieira said: "Everything is still in our own hands and we are still in a strong position. …

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