Croatia look to sew up Euro berth in Macedonia

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ZAGREB, Nov 15 (Reuters) Croatia need only a point against Macedonia in their penultimate group game on Saturday to qualify for Euro 2008 but the Group E leaders are well aware of the dangers of playing for the draw.

Croatia top the group with 26 points from 10 games, ahead of England on 23 from 11 games and Russia on 21 from 10 games. They play England in their last match at Wembley on November 21.

A draw in Skopje will see Croatia through, and coach Slaven Bilic -- who has yet to lose a match since taking over in 2006 -- said he was confident his players could do it.

''We have enough knowledge, quality, morale and strength to take this last step and qualify for Euro, which we've deserved,'' he said.

Bilic has few injury worries with only Borrusia Dortmund striker Mladen Petric recovering from concussion. He will probably be replaced by in-form Ivica Olic of Hamburg SV.

While the Croatians need only a point to qualify, Hertha Berlin defender Josip Simunic said the team should focus on taking all three points.

''If you start the game thinking that you need a draw, you may end up losing. It's a well-known thing,'' he said.

Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva is convinced Croatia and Russia will go through.

''I think this Saturday we will know that Croatia and Russia have qualified,'' the forward told the Jutarnji List daily.

''The English have squandered their chances and I think we'll be able to go Wembley almost as tourists.'' Macedonia, who have no chance of qualifying, will be without top scorer Goran Pandev. The 24-year old Lazio striker is nursing a thigh strain and his absense is a huge blow for coach Srecko Katanec.

''We know what he means for our team. But we'll try to give our best in the two (remaining) matches,'' Katanec said.

''Croatia are favourites but we'll try to stage a surprise.'' Probable teams: Macedonia - Petar Milosevski; Nikolce Noveski, Igor Mitreski, Goce Sedloski; Goran Popov, Velice Sumulikoski, Darko Tasevski, Vlatko Grozdanoski; Goran Maznov, Ilco Naumoski, Stevica Ristic Croatia - Stipe Pletikosa; Dario Simic, Josip Simunic, Robert Kovac; Vedran Corluka, Darijo Srna, Niko Kovac, Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar; Ivica Olic, Eduardo da Silva.

Reuters RAR DB2120

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