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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 14, 2006

England qualifier key test for Croatia's Euro 2012 bid

ZAGREB, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Croatia see next month's Euro 2008 qualifier against England as an important test for their bid to host the European Championship in 2012, the Croatian soccer association (HNS) said on Thursday.

Croatia has teamed up with Hungary in the hope of staging the 2012 tournament but they face competition from Italy and a joint Poland-Ukraine bid. European soccer's governing body UEFA will decide who hosts the event in December.

'If we prove capable of organising the match against England in an orderly manner it will be clear that we'll be able to host the matches at the European championship,' Zorislav Srebric, the HNS secretary general told reporters.

Croatia will play their Group E match against England on Oct. 11 in Zagreb as they bid to qualify for the 2008 finals being hosted by Austria and Switzerland.

Srebric said HNS will meet English FA officials next week to discuss the organisation of the match.

'We're obliged to provide 10 percent of the stadium capacity to supporters of a visiting team. However, we have information that some 7,000 English fans have expressed interest in coming to Zagreb,' Srebric said.

The capacity of the Maksimir stadium in Zagreb is some 38,000 seats. However, not all of them will be available.

'For the sake of comfort and safety, we will reduce the number of tickets on sale,' Srebric said.

The successful handling of supporters, both visiting and local, is a key component of the HNS's efforts to show UEFA it has the ability to stage high-risk games.

Croatian fans were involved in trouble during qualifying games in Malta and Hungary for the 2006 World Cup.

World soccer's governing body FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the HNS last month following Nazi salutes made by some Croatia fans during a friendly against Italy in Livorno.

A UEFA delegation is due to visit Croatia and Hungary at the end of this month to inspect stadiums that could host Euro 2012 matches.