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May 10, 2012

Croatia coach Bilic to step down

Slaven Bilic has announced he will step down as coach of Croatia's national team after Euro 2012.

The 43-year-old confirmed the news at a press conference to unveil a provisional 27-man squad for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine. Bilic took charge of Croatia in July 2006 and led the team to the quarter-finals at Euro 2008, although they failed to qualify for the World Cup two years later.

However, the former West Ham and Everton defender has now decided this summer's European Championship will be his swansong.

''This will be my last championship in charge,'' he said. ''I've given my best and I thank you all, but the hardest job is still ahead of me. I wish my successor all the happiness in the world and hope to leave him some continuity.''

Bilic was unwilling to discuss reports linking him with the managerial post at Lokomotiv Moscow.

''I'm sure you never comment on speculation or rumours so I will not comment on the story of Lokomotiv Moscow. When something happens, I will announce it.''

Bilic's immediate concern is Euro 2012, where Croatia will face defending champions Spain, Italy and Republic of Ireland in the group stage.

The most surprising absentees from his squad were Bolton striker Ivan Klasnic and Hamburg forward Mladen Petric, and Bilic admits it was not an easy decision to omit the pair.

''It was difficult not to call up Petric and Klasnic, but it's part of the job,'' he said. ''They are both quality players. I called them both as they deserved to hear the decision directly from me.

''Unfortunately for these two, the greatest competition for places is in attack and there was simply no room for them.''

Croatia's campaign begins against the Irish on June 10. The squad will be trimmed down to 23 players before May 28.

Croatia's provisional squad for Euro 2012:

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Ivan Kelava (Dinamo Zagreb), Goran Blazevic (Hajduk Split).

Defenders: Domogoj Vida (Dinamo Zagreb), Vedran Corluka (Bayer Leverkusen), Josip Simunic (Dinamo Zagreb), Dejan Lovren (Lyon), Sime Vrsaljko (Dinamo Zagreb), Gordon Schildenfeld (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ivan Strinic (Dnipro), Danijel Pranjic (Bayern Munich), Jurica Buljat (Maccabi Haifa).

Midfielders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Tomislav Dujmovic (Real Zaragoza), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Luka Modric (Tottenham), Ivan Perisic (Borussia Dortmund), Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham), Milan Badelj (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivo Ilicevic (Hamburg).

Forwards: Ivica Olic (Bayern Munich), Nikica Jelavic (Everton), Mario Mandzukic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikola Kalinic (Dnipro).

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