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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 22, 2007

English were over-confident, Bilic explains

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic insisted England had under-estimated the challenge posed by their Euro 2008 qualifying group after his team sent Steve McClaren's side crashing out.

The Croatians and Russia will play in Austria and Switzerland next summer after Bilic's men triumphed 3-2 at Wembley last night.

And Bilic took the opportunity to wryly point out that many had been too quick to assume that qualification was a near certainty when the groups were drawn.

'There is nothing wrong with England football,' he said. 'This is by far the most difficult group. There were three teams who deserved to go through to the European Championship.

'You were just unlucky to get this group. I have watched all the teams and this is difficult.

'I read in the papers that no Croatian player would start in your team. That's ridiculous. Wake up.

'I love your players. They are jumbo jets of football but we are players in a small country who can play good football. We have players with great skill and good lungs.'

Of Wednesday night's result he added: 'It was a great night and we fully deserved to win. Maybe a lack of concentration stopped us scoring more goals.

'We showed great character. It is hard to win here, especially to come back when they equalised. That's why we totally deserved it tonight.

'Well done to England, they were part of an excellent football match.'

Bilic also urged England not to make goalkeeper Scott Carson a scapegoat for the opening goal howler which saw Croatia take an early lead.

Carson, the 22-year-old playing his first competitive international, allowed Niko Kranjcar's 35-yard shot to squirm underneath him in the eighth minute to bring back memories of Paul Robinson's air-shot blunder in Zagreb.

Bilic said: 'There are no scapegoats. We were the better team tonight and that's it. It happened with Robinson in Zagreb - okay you can blame him for the second goal but he was by far the best Englishman on the pitch and so Carson was tonight.'

Ivica Olic scored Croatia's second in the 14th minute before England launched a second-half comeback which saw Frank Lampard score from the penalty spot and Peter Crouch smash home from close range after expertly controlling a David Beckham cross.

Mladen Petric netted the winner which eliminated England in the 77th minute.

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