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Preview: Germany upbeat, Croatia confident of Euro 2008 clash
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15:10, June 11, 2008

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· EURO 2008
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Germany and Croatia, both won their first group games at Euro 2008, are all upbeat over their Group B encounter on Thursday at Woerthersee Stadium in Klagenfurt of Austria.

Thanks to Poland-born striker Lukas Podolski's two goals, Germany beat Poland 2-0 on Monday, while Croatian midfielder Luka Modric's early penalty kick smashed co-hosts Austria's plan of winning their opening match.

For Germany, this is the first victory at European Championship since 1996 when Germany took the tournament title.

At present, all of their 23 players are in the forms, even midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger sealed the rumor of poor performance by creating many opportunities for his team at the battle against Poland.

German team manager Oliver Bierhoff was thus upbeat over Germany's prospects.

"We are so eager to taking the title that we are more hungry than 1996," Bierhoff said.

At the European football championship in 1996, Bierhoff, then the striker of German team, scored the first golden goal in the world's football history to help Germany seal the top title.

"Our team have already found our own style. Maybe it is difficult for me to compare Germany with other squads, but just like 12 years ago, we are a top-level team," he added.

He was of course optimistic over Germany's next group match with Croatia.

"We know Croatia is a strong rival, the match will be tough, but we will do our best to crush them to win," he said.

Croatia is by no means a minnow for Germany.

The team coached by former Bundesliga player Slaven Bilic eliminated England during the qualifying round, and many experts see them as the dark horse in the 2008 tournament.

"Croatia are great tacticians while they also have great individuals who can beat you one-on-one. They know how to control the pace of a game," said German coach Loew.

As both striker Gomez and midfielder Schweinsteiger performed good in the first match, it is widely believed that Loew will makea minor change to send both to the pitch, while putting speedy Podolski backward as a winger to create more scoring chances for teammates.

Croatian striker Mladen Petric was confident in his team.

"We're confident in ourselves, we know we're strong enough, and we have the quality to beat any team," he said.

Germany took the third place in 2006 World Cup as the host, while Croatia ended up with the same place in 1998 World Cup, during which Croatia beat Germany 3-0.

"We would love to be as successful as they were in 1998," said Petric.

However, Germany has won five out of seven games against Croatia so far.

"The Germans are always favorites - and not only in the group. It could be possible that our last game against Poland will decide who's going to the quarter-finals, but I hope we can secure our passage before that," Petric added.

Source: Xinhua



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