Bilic rues loss of Luka ahead of England showdown
Slaven Bilic has conceded that Croatia will struggle to fill the void left by Luka Modric's injury as the country prepare to face England in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Wednesday.
Croatia must stop England from winning if they are to keep alive their hopes of topping Group Six but the build-up to the tie has been disrupted by a broken leg suffered by their key playmaker - Tottenham's Modric.
The little midfielder, who made such a last impression when Croatia won 3-2 at Wembley to knock England out of Euro 2008 qualifying, was injured in an incident with Birmingham City's Lee Bowyer and is expected to be sidelined for around six weeks.
With his side a full seven points behind England heading into Wednesday's game, Bilic has rued the loss of his main creative force in midfield.
"Modric is at least one of our top players,'' Bilic said. "He is making a difference every week for Tottenham, so we are missing him. It will be difficult to compensate, because we do not have an equivalent player to him. But we are going to try, working with the whole team. Modric is a top, top player, but he is not the only player in our team that has such skilful characteristics.
"We have Niko Kranjcar, we have Ivan Rakitic - so every one of us has to do something more to make up for the loss of Modric.
"In the last three years - this is my fourth now - I know that we have a group of players who can cope with anybody. We can compete at any level, we have our chances to beat anybody.
"Of course there are some players you cannot do without. If you are missing Eduardo for a long time, as we did, then you are going to feel that absence in the way you are playing. Eduardo, Modric - without, it can never be the same. With these players, and with a little bit of luck - or, let us say, a little less unluckiness - we can beat any team in the world.''
Croatia will turn to former Portsmouth midfielder Kranjcar in Modric's absence and he will also help compensate for the loss of his countryman at club level, having joined Spurs on transfer deadline day.
Modric has tipped his friend to make an immediate impact at White Hart Lane after Kranjcar caught the eye during his three-year stay at Fratton Park.
"Niko knows everything about English football and he won't need long to settle, especially with myself and Charlie [Vedran Corluka] already here and of course he knows Jermain [Defoe] and Crouchy [Peter Crouch] from Portsmouth," Modric told the club's official website. "He speaks perfect English as well.
"He's a great player and a great person. He's strong on the ball, has great vision and is a great passer of the ball. He's a dangerous player."