UEFA Euro 2012: Modric is better than Pirlo, says Bilic

Two of the best midfielders in Europe will be on opposite sides during Thursday's European Championship Group C clash between Italy and Croatia, whose coach Slaven Bilic believes his is the better.

Updated: June 14, 2012 01:24 IST
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Poznan: Two of the best midfielders in Europe will be on opposite sides during Thursday's European Championship Group C clash between Italy and Croatia, whose coach Slaven Bilic believes his is the better.

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Andrea Pirlo will pull the strings for Italy while Luka Modric will perform the conductor role for Croatia.

But when asked who is the better of the two, Bilic plumped for the Tottenham star.

"Modric and Pirlo are two playmakers, they're two really strong players," said the 43-year-old, who is stepping down after the tournament to take over Russian club side Lokomotiv Moscow.

"They're not the only players in their teams but they are definitely the most important ones.

"They are playmakers, they're creative, they're so important because if they play well then the rest of their team does too.

"Probably, in my opinion, Modric is at least at the same level as Pirlo, maybe better.

"We'll need to play really well against Pirlo, he's top class so we will have to defend against him.

"He can play on his own, he's creative, he's always running, his technical skills are perfect, he's definitely their most important player."

Pirlo will likely play alongide Claudio Marchisio and Thiago Motta in a midfield three that Bilic has a lot of respect for.

However, he believes they are not on the same level as group favourites Spain's midfield.

"I really respect them, they're not better than the Spain midfield but they're solid.

"If they play to their potential then they're amongst the best midfields.

"You can't compare them with Spain but when you have a solid midfield that makes you strong and it's not easy to play against that so it will be difficult.

"It won't be as easy as it was against Ireland but that doesn't mean we have to change something.

"The most important thing is to be solid, compact, to combine, be creative, press them and be really aggressive, that's the only way to stop them."

Croatia lead the group following their 3-1 win over Ireland and Italy's 1-1 draw with Spain and Bilic's side will reach the quarter-finals if they win.

But Bilic is wary of another Italian talent, Mario Balotelli, who is known for blowing hot and cold, both on and off the pitch.

"He's a top class player, sometimes he's a real genius but sometimes he does weird things, it's a philosophy I think," said Bilic.

"There's a circle and sometimes on this circle there is a small distance between genius and craziness.

"There are other players like that, but he's top class, I respect him, he's dangerous on the pitch."

Croatia have never lost to Italy in five encounters since gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 but Bilic says that won't count for much on Thursday.

"It's a good score we have against Italy and it's always good to hear that we've never lost against them," said Bilic.

"But that doesn't mean anything for tomorrow's match, it's a new Italy team and they play in a different way.

"It's good to read that on paper but it doesn't mean a lot. We're trying not to think about it, we must have faith in our strengths and the way we play and show Italy we're a good team."

The last time the two sides met was in a friendly in Livorno in 2006, won 2-0 by Croatia.

Defender Vedran Corluka made his debut in that match but says this one will be harder.

"We have a great record against Italy and I have great memories from the last match against them," he said.

"We played really well, we won 2-0 but this is a different match. All the players are focussed, we know it will be tougher than the last one but I'm sure we'll play better than we did against Ireland and beat them."

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