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Croatia trio to miss qualifier after nightclub visit

ZAGREB, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Croatia trio Bosko Balaban, Ivica Olic and Dario Srna have been expelled from their Euro 2008 qualifying squad and fined after leaving the team's training camp to go partying in a nightclub.

Kicked out of the squad by manager Slaven Bilic on Sunday, the trio were fined 30,000 kuna ($5,232) each by the Croatian FA after they attended a hearing on Monday, state radio reported.

Bilic had acted after discovering the players were not in their camp in Slovenia, where the squad are preparing for Wednesday's Group E game against Russia, but had gone to a nightclub in Zagreb, some 25 km away.

The fines handed out at the hearing are the highest possible penalty. The three players apologised to their coach, the FA and the public.

'Although we will now be short of seven players, we are travelling to Moscow without these three,' Bilic told a news conference on Monday. 'If I hadn't acted this way, I would have had to step down from my position,' he added.

Bilic said he would have to consider long-term consequences for the three players, although the FA did not suspend them beyond the Russia game.

Croatia are also missing defenders Dario Simic of AC Milan and Hertha Berlin's Josip Simunic, who are suspended, while Igor Tudor of Juventus is injured. Rangers striker Dado Prso quit the national team after the World Cup.

Group E also includes England, Estonia, Andorra, Macedonia and Israel.