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Bilic claims England have weak link

7 September 2009 11:55

LONDON (AFP) - Slaven Bilic has backed his Croatia side to burst England's World Cup bubble by exploiting what he has identified as a missing link in the make-up of Fabio Capello's squad.

England's fortunes have been transformed under Capello and, after seven straight wins in their qualifying campaign, can clinch top spot in group six and a place in next year's finals by beating Bilic's men at Wembley on Wednesday.

Croatia, in contrast, are struggling to claim a play-off spot and it all seems a very far cry from November 2007, when Bilic's men claimed a famous 3-2 at Wembley to deny England, then managed by Steve McClaren, a place at Euro 2008.

The Croatian coach however is far from ready to accept that Capello has made England unbeatable.

"They have some advantages but they are also missing something from their game," he said.

"They are missing some Englishness, some of the things that have always made England teams difficult to defend against and play against.

"All I will say is that they are definitely missing something and we know what it is. But of course I am not going to tell you now what it is. It is our secret."

Bilic also believes that memories of the way Croatia played on their last visit to Wembley will boost his side's chances, despite the absence of injured playmaker Luka Modric.

"We did not beat them 10 times in a row but, having said that, we are the only team in the world to have done it twice," Bilic told The Guardian. "We did it one after the other and that's important."

England claimed revenge for the Euro 2008 qualifying defeats by beating Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb at the start of the current campaign and Bilic's squad's recent tendency to fail to perform to its potential was again in evidence as they made hard work of securing a 1-0 home win over Belarus on Saturday.

Croatia go into Wednesday's match in second place in the group with a three-point advantage over Ukraine but their rivals for the play-off spot have a game in hand.

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