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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 14, 2008

Kranjcar: Cup win better than Croatia triumph

Portsmouth's Niko Kranjcar claims winning the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday would top Croatia's momentous victory over England at the famous stadium.

The gifted midfielder is set to face Cardiff in the showpiece event, again treading the famous Wembley turf on which he helped his country into Euro 2008 at England's expense last November before returning last month for Pompey's 1-0 semi-final victory over West Bromwich Albion.

Kranjcar, 23, thought he would never better the feeling he had after Croatia beat England 3-2 in the decisive qualifier, having sparked the show with his early strike from 25 yards.

He said: 'I have great memories of that stadium but, hopefully, the third one will be the best one. Yes, I think this will be the most important.

'When Croatia beat England they came wanting to send a message that they had quality players and a quality team. I think that is just what happened and I have never had any bad reaction here from English supporters over that. They accepted it.'

Now Kranjcar's banging the drum again - this time for Portsmouth.

He said: 'I think the team has done unbelievably great in the last three years and hopefully the next step will be winning the FA Cup.

'It would be a massive result, not only for us as individuals but for the club because to get into Europe is very important.

'It's another step forward, it's another great experience for the club, it's another chance for the club to evolve.'

Kranjcar has been rewarded for developing a harder edge to his game - and maybe his personality, too - with a host of rave reviews during his second season in English football, following a mixed first one after a £2.5million move from Hadjuk Split.

So much so that, inevitably, he's been linked with moves to a string of top clubs, including Arsenal and Tottenham, but he insists he can achieve all his dreams at Pompey.

'Of course I can,' he said. 'The quality is there, you just have to look at the players here and see what they have won in their careers.

'We have a great future here and a team that is ready to play big games.'

Kranjcar will not be drawn on Pompey's prospects in the UEFA Cup, which they will contest next season if they beat Cardiff and justify the bookies' odds-on favouritism.

He said: 'We have to get there first. The only thing we are thinking about at the moment is winning the FA Cup - then we will think about Europe.

'It will not be a formality on Saturday. This season in the FA Cup we have seen practically everyone in the top half of the Premier League except Manchester United go out to a Championship team.

'It could have happened to us and still can. So we will have to try our very best.'

And Kranjcar admits Pompey's players might have taken their collective eye off the ball after reaching the final - and then winning only one of their last six league games, a sequence that ended with four defeats in a row.

He said: 'Probably that's true. It's been there in the back of everyone's minds, although we've never mentioned it. It's probably been one of the reasons but not the only reason why we lost those other matches.

'Yet I'm not worried about our form. Not at all. This is a one-time game, it's a game you wait all your life to play in and it's a game where previous form doesn't matter. What is important is to step onto the pitch and deliver on the day.'