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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 4, 2007

Bilic happy after Croatia's Rakitic cleared to play

ZAGREB, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said the presence of Ivan Rakitic would boost his team after the Swiss-born midfielder was cleared by FIFA to play in the Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Andorra.

'We are delighted to finally have Rakitic with us and he will definitely play a part in both matches,' Bilic told reporters in Croatia's training camp in Catez, Slovenia.

'He is a brilliant prospect and will certainly add depth to our squad.'

The world soccer governing body last week gave the go-ahead to the 19-year old, who plays for Bundesliga side Schalke 04, to join the Croatian national team after he sat out their friendly with neighbours Bosnia in August.

'I am yet to decide what position he will play in but I am convinced that he will fit in perfectly,' Bilic said.

The 38-year old coach will miss Parma striker Igor Budan who pulled out of the qualifiers with a thigh injury and has called up Dinamo Zagreb's Ognjen Vukojevic to replace him.

Bilic also warned his team to take nothing for granted against underdogs Estonia and Andorra who have only pride to play for in Group E.

'Matches where a win is considered a foregone conclusion are the most difficult to play and we must stay focused in order to remain in the driving seat,' he said.

Croatia host Estonia on Saturday and are away to Andorra on Sept 12.

Croatia top Group E with 17 points from seven matches, ahead of Israel who have 17 from eight. Third-placed Russia have 15 from seven followed by England on 14 from seven.

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