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Saturday 16 December 2017

Jelavic: Croatia strikers are united

EVERTON star Nikica Jelavic insists there is no jealousy among the highly-rated forwards in Croatia's strike force which faces Ireland in Poznan in just nine days' time.

Croatia have some tasty options up front as the established pair of Ivica Olic and Eduardo have scored 37 international goals between them while Everton's Jalavic and the German-based Mario Mandzukic have also chipped in with a few of their own. They're such a talented bunch that manager Slaven Bilic decided to leave forwards like Bolton's Ivan Klasnic and Hamburg man Mladen Petric (who have each scored 12 international goals) at home.

Bilic has such confidence in his forwards that he's only taken four strikers to the finals, one less than Giovanni Trapattoni, and former Rangers man Jelavic says there are no divas in the Croatian front line.

"We have four very good strikers in the team and there are no tensions between us," Jelavic said from Croatia's training camp in Austria.

"We'll travel to Poland as a team, not as individuals, and I wouldn't mind a bit if I score only a goal or two, and Croatia becomes the European champions. We want to make Croatia proud," added Jelavic, who has become an instant success in the English Premier League since his January switch from Glasgow.

"Behind me are a couple of excellent months at club level and I am aware that people expect a lot of me, but that is a challenge," he says.

"Spain is the team that has to deal with the biggest pressure, however.

"They are professionals and they will not be tired. They have plenty of motives to succeed."

Tiredness could be the Achilles heel for the Spanish side due to the number of games the players have played for their clubs this season, as Jelavic suggested above, but Italy have another world of issues due to the match-fixing investigations that have been a massive blow to the Azzurri's preparations.

Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandzukic has, however, warned against over-playing that card when it comes to facing Italy.

"I am not interested in other teams' problems, such as Italian police affairs, all I care about is how will Croatia play," said Mandzukic, who scored 11 goals in 26 Bundesliga games for Wolfsburg last season, but has drawn blanks recently for the national team.

"That is the most important thing if we are to achieve good results.

"I am not concerned about my lack of goals in pre-tournament games, the goals will come when needed the most. I can hardly wait to play at the European Championship. That is why I started playing football. There is no better feeling than playing for your country and I feel no fear and no pressure," added Mandzukic.

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