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By ESPN Staff

Croatia U-21 boss Bilic promoted to top job

ZAGREB, July 25 (Reuters) - Former international defender Slaven Bilic was named as Croatia's new coach on Tuesday, replacing Zlatko Kranjcar who was sacked earlier this month.

The 37-year-old, a member of the team that took a surprise third place at the 1998 World Cup in France, will lead the qualifying campaign for Euro 2008.

'We face a tough, bumpy road in qualifying, but we're not afraid,' Bilic told reporters after his appointment. He will make his debut in a friendly against world champions Italy in Taranto on Aug. 16.

Croatia start their qualifying campaign against Russia away on Sept. 6. In Group E are also England, Israel, Macedonia, Estonia and Andorra.

After leaving home side Hajduk Split, Bilic played for Karlsruhe in Germany and West Ham and Everton in England before injuries cut short his career.

Bilic's assistant will be Aljosa Asanovic, a former team mate at Hajduk Split and the national team.

Croatia's poor performance at the World Cup finals in Germany - they exited at the group stage - led to Kranjcar's dismissal.