Bilic unimpressed by 'predictable' England
Croatia coach Slaven Bilic has begun the mind games ahead of the crucial World Cup qualifier against England in Zagreb by labelling Fabio Capello's side as 'predictable' and that he 'expects' his side to win the group and qualify automatically for the finals.
Although both England and Croatia have only played one qualifier, Wednesday night's game is already seen as having a huge influence on the final outcome.
Both teams had unspectacular victories over Kazhakstan and Andorra at the weekend and will hope for an improved performance in midweek.
Croatia appear to have the Indian sign over England after winning both clashes in qualifying for Euro 2008. Bilic's victory at Wembley also sent Steve McClaren's side crashing out of the tournament and cost the coach his job.
With Fabio Capello at the help many had expected a bright new future for the England team but that is yet to materialise and Bilic feels he will again come out on top. In October 2006, Croatia beat England 2-0 courtesy Eduardo and a calamitous Gary Neville own goal.
Bilic told The Sun: 'England can't play good football because they play predictable football. I don't know why. I would know that if I was training with them and speaking to them.
'As a national team manager you have to talk to them. If I was England manager I would find out because, really, I don't know why they sometimes perform nowhere near what they can.
'No one is fearing England. 'If anyone should be worried about Wednesday, it's England.
'I expect us to win the group. I expected that two years ago and now definitely so. My team is definitely better than the one that beat England twice.'
Former West Ham and Everton defender Bilic went on to outline the unusual methods he uses to get the best of out his players.
'Sometimes I lie in the bed with my players,' he revealed. 'I go to the room of (Vedran) Corluka and (Luka) Modric when I see they have a problem and I lie in bed with them and we talk for 10 minutes.
'You have to do it. Sometimes football managers think 'If you do that you're losing the distance and the authority'. No, you're gaining.'
Bilic has warned England that Croatia have improved since this summer's European Championships.
"Since the Euros we are playing even better,'' said Bilic. "There is no reason to suspect that we will now fall down. Our ball is rolling forward.
"We expect a great game on Wednesday. Against Kazakhstan we played as we planned, the only question was if our supremacy on the field showed on the scoreline.''
Bilic has revealed that being a candidate for the West Ham job has led to his players poking fun during training.
"It is great that I'm linked to the club from the best league in the world but it doesn't make my work with the national team harder,'' he said.
"In training we always make jokes. Players tease me to take them to England as well. The interest of West Ham is proof that we are doing a great job with the national team.''
Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric believes England will want to settle old scores after getting beaten in their last two meetings against Croatia.
"We beat England twice in the last qualifying campaign, but this time it will be more difficult because they will want revenge,'' Modric said.
"England didn't go to Euro 2008 because of us so they will try to make it difficult, but I am still confident we can win.
"Beating England last time meant a lot for Croatian football because we showed the world that we can beat the biggest teams, which meant a lot for our confidence.''
Modric missed a penalty when Croatia crashed out of the Euros, and he added: "We were unlucky against Turkey in Euro 2008. We thought we could win the competition, so it was disappointing.
"Because of this, we want to qualify for the World Cup and show more quality there. That will be massive for us and our country.''