Euro 2012: Slaven Bilić hails ‘unbelievably competitive’ Ireland
Croatia manager Slaven Bilić emphasises his "big respect" for the Republic of Ireland ahead of their Euro 2012 opener on Sunday
Slaven Bilić has described the Republic of Ireland as “an unbelievably competitive team” and insisted Croatia will show their Group C opponents respect ahead of their Euro 2012 opener on Sunday.
Croatia were unable to breakdown a resilient Irish defence when Giovanni Trapattoni’s men held the visitors to a goalless draw at the Aviva stadium back in August 2010.
And Bilić is expecting a similarly difficult challenge in their first game, before his side face Italy and Spain in a bid to reach the quarter-finals in Poland and Ukraine.
“I have big respect for Ireland – I played against Ireland last summer,” Bilic told Fifa.com.
“It’s an unbelievably competitive team. They are very solid, they play very simple football, they don’t take a lot of risks.
“But they are still dangerous enough with some really good forwards – two strikers and two wide men who are very quick. One on one, they can decide a game.”
Bilić also reserved special praise for his former Everton team-mate Richard Dunne, with the pair having played together for three seasons at Goodison Park.
“It’s very hard to get a clear chance against them. Richard Dunne is a leader, he’s the organiser. He’s a great player,” he added.
“I admire him. He was young [at Everton], but you could see he was going to the big stage and the big time, and I’m so glad for him. He’s a great guy.”