Former Croatia defender Igor
Stimac took over as the Balkan country's coach on Friday and
vowed to take them to the latter stages of the 2014 World Cup in
Brazil from a tough qualifying group.
The 44-year old Stimac succeeded former Hajduk Split team-mate Slaven Bilic, who stepped down after six years in charge
following an early Euro 2012 exit and took over Russian first
division side Lokomotiv Moscow.
Stimac, who partnered Bilic in the centre of Croatia's
defence when they finished third in the 1998 World Cup, said he
would raise the bar in order to bring the best out of his team.
"I believe we can look forward to better things and I will
do everything in my power along with my staff to raise the level
of our performances and results," Stimac told a news conference.
"We plan to improve things gradually and instil more
confidence into the squad because we want to go to Brazil as
contenders, not as also-rans.
"We are in the toughest of Europe's nine qualifying groups
for the 2014 World Cup and it's also the most competitive
qualifying group for a major tournament Croatia has ever been
drawn in," he said.
The Croatians were pitted alongside neighbours and
traditional rivals Serbia, Belgium, Scotland, Wales and fellow
former Yugoslavs Macedonia.
Stimac was appointed after Thursday's inauguration of former
Real Madrid striker Davor Suker as Croatia's FA (HNS) chief.
Suker, who won the 1998 Champions League with Real and then
took the Golden Boot in that year's World Cup, said he would
meet with Croatian President Ivo Josipovic in due course to
discuss anti-hooliganism measures.
"We are ranked among the world's top 10 teams and as such
highly valued abroad, but incidents such as those some of our
fans caused in Euro 2012 are damaging our reputation," he said.
"We want to be a respected team in Brazil, not one that will
keep paying fines for fan misbehaviour."
Croatian fans repeatedly caused trouble in Euro 2012 and the
HNS was fined after some of them racially abused Italy striker
Mario Balotelli and also displayed racist banners in their 1-0
defeat by eventual champions Spain.
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