FORMER Tottenham man Niko Kranjcar believes that Ireland's players can restore some pride when they take on Spain in their second group game in Gdansk on Thursday night.
Kranjcar, now with Dynamo Kyiv, played only a bit-part role in Croatia's 3-1 win last night, coming on as a 72nd-minute sub for scorer Nikica Jelavic.
But he beamed a wide smile when talking about a win which leaves Croatia well-placed to make it into the quarter-finals, insisting that the better team had won the game but also adding that he expects better from Ireland when they face Spain later this week.
"We were so good, it wasn't a case of Ireland being bad," Kranjcar told the Evening Herald.
"I have tremendous respect for Ireland, for the team and for Mr Trapattoni but also for the players, they are all good guys and I know them from England.
"They have shown over the last three years that they are hard to beat and I think they will give Spain a hard game.
"Spain won't have it easy against Ireland. The Irish players are very proud to play for their country and they will hurt after that defeat last night so they will step up their game against the Spanish.
"Ireland is a proud nation with players who love to play for their country, and they have unbelievable support, and I think they'll show that against Spain on Thursday. It won't be easy for Spain or Italy against Ireland," he added.
"But the better team won the game. We asked questions of Ireland throughout the match and the only times they caused us some problems were from set pieces.
"The early goal in the first half helped us a lot and the same in the second half, it was a great time to score.
"We were the better team with better players, we believed in our quality as a team and as individual players and we showed those qualities on the pitch," added Kranjcar, who tasted victory against Ireland for the first time last night, having played in a defeat (2004) and a 0-0 draw (2011) in previous battles.
"Maybe we could have scored more goals but we're happy with the win and we are top of the table today."