CROATIAN boss Slaven Bilic has admitted that the loss of key striker Ivica Olic just days before the start of Euro 2012 is a "disaster" for the Balkan nation.
With 15 goals in 78 games, Bayern Munich star Olic is one of the main men in the Croatian side but he suffered a thigh injury during Saturday's friendly against Norway in Oslo and now misses the tournament, Olic being replaced by Ukraine-based forward Nikola Kalinic.
"You can't imagine," Bilic told the Evening Herald after last night's 0-0 draw between Ireland and Hungary in Budapest.
"It's not a blow, it's not a problem - it's a disaster for us, he is a big player, we have many big players but Olic you can't replace.
"In Europe there are no other players like him, so it's not just a massive blow, it is more than that," added Bilic, who said that the absence of Olic from a squad which now has only four forwards will not see him adapt his game plan.
"It won't change our approach, it's the same approach, it's a shock because it didn't look like a serious injury but we only found out yesterday and have called up Kalinic. He's a good player too, the goal and the targets remain the same," he explained.
The Croatian boss dismissed talk that Sunday's meeting between his side and Ireland in Poznan was a must-win game as he feels the group is open and is there to be won, if someone can outwit the favourites, Spain.
"It would be a big boost for the team to win. It's a massive game, but nothing will be decided either way in the first game," he said.
"Spain are the clear favourites. But there are three games. It's the Euros, Spain and Italy are the favourites but Ireland have done it before, we have done it before, we don't have to be afraid, we have a team that can definitely beat Italy and give the Spanish a good game and maybe win.
"The European Championships can be the most cruel competition in the world, there are no easy games."
The affable Bilic also tried to play down suggestions that he was engaging in a bit of thrash-talking when it came to the Irish side.
"Something was written in Croatia, someone had not twisted my words but made it up that I had said that Ireland didn't have a good team, blah, blah. But that's total nonsense," he said.
"I have a big respect for Ireland. I played against your team and we played against you last summer, it's an unbelievably competitive team, very solid, they play simple football and don't take a lot of risks, but they are still dangerous enough.
"They have four really good forwards, two strikers and two wide men who are very quick. When it's one on one they can be very dangerous, and Ireland created some good chances against Hungary."
He added: "Trapattoni is playing with virtually the same team for a couple of years, he uses basically the same 11 or 13 players. Therefore I believe there will be no big surprises in the Irish squad or their style of play. A surprise would be if McClean played."
Croatia are now at their training camp in Warka, south of Warsaw, ahead of Sunday's game in Poznan.