Croats intent on further progress

Croatia continue the countdown to their Euro 2012 opener against Ireland with a friendly against Estonia today.

Croats intent on further progress

Ireland beat Estonia comprehensively over two legs in their Euro 2012 play off, and today the Croats meet them in Pula.

Slaven Bilic’s men are in Group C alongside defending champions Spain, Italy and Ireland but that has not deterred midfielder Ivan Rakitic, who wants to improve on their quarter-final appearance of four years ago.

“I hope the result will be even better and we want to go even further,” said the Sevilla player.

“Since 2008 we have lost important players, but we still have experience and there are players who played then.

“We are all excited by the challenge and want to play important matches. I am confident we will go further this year.

“I think the quality of this European Championship will be like never before. All of the matches will be difficult and little things will decide the outcome. We have to be ready to seize any opportunities that come our way at all times.”

Meanwhile, Lukas Podolski claims Germany’s Euro 2012 opener against Portugal will determine how far his side go in the tournament.

Joachim Low’s men are in the toughest group of the competition, with Holland and Denmark also in Group B.

“The first game of the tournament against Portugal is decisive,” the Arsenal-bound striker said on “We have to be ready.”

“We are good enough and have developed well enough over the past years that we can say we can win the title.” Low’s side take on Switzerland in a friendly tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Lokomotiv Moscow defender Roman Shishkin has pulled out of Russia’s squad for this summer’s European Championship due to a stomach condition.

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