Croatia have punched
above their weight since independence in 1991 and captain Darijo
Srna said they had no fear of playing holders Spain on Monday
with a place in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals at stake.
"We have 23 lions in the squad," Srna told a news conference
before training at the Gdansk Stadium on Sunday.
"We have no complex, no fear of Spain, we don't overly
respect them. All the world will be watching and we've already
shown that we can play with the big teams and win."
Asked why Croatia, a country with a population of just over
four million - the smallest of the 16 nations at Euro 2012 - can
mix it with the big boys at major championships, Srna said there
was something magical about pulling on the national shirt.
"You look at Lionel Messi, he doesn't play so well for
Argentina as he does for Barcelona, the same with Cristiano
Ronaldo, he doesn't play so good for Portugal," Srna said.
"But Croatian players, we play much better for the national
team than we do for our clubs. We are ready to fight."
Croatia finished third at the 1998 World Cup finals, and
have twice reached the quarter-finals of the European
Championship in 1996 and four years ago in Austria and
Switzerland when they were unlucky to lose on penalties.
With a 3-1 victory over Ireland and a 1-1 draw with Italy
here in Poland, they have again shown the "strong mentality"
that coach Slaven Bilic believes will hold them in good stead
against a mighty Spanish side on Sunday.
"This current generation has something special," former West
Ham United and Everton defender Bilic, who will stand down after
six years in charge after the tournament, said.
"The energy is perfect. We play our best when we play better
against the best teams and this is the biggest match for this
generation. It's going to be difficult against Spain but when we
have the ball we'll attack with self confidence.
"I think we'll have some surprises for the Spanish team."
Croatia are level on four points with Spain after two Group
C matches and while an unlikely victory would guarantee them top
spot in the group, a 2-2 draw or higher would also suffice,
irrespective of whether Italy beat Ireland.
Bilic has no time for Italian conspiracy theories though.
"I don't really want to waste any more words talking about
it," he said. "Everyone in the competition and in Italy can be
calm. It's a part of the brain that we don't have.
"If the final score is 2-2, that's it, it's football. If
it's 7-7, then that would be strange."
Bilic said Spain had shown "two faces" at the tournament so
far but added that his team would learn from Italy's performance
when they drew 1-1 with the Spaniards in the group opener.
They will thus play with two strikers in Nikica Jelavic and
Mario Mandzukic, the tournament's joint top scorer with three
goals. Jelavic trained on Sunday after recovering from a fever.
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