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Brazil match not the priority for Croatia

Written by: Staff

BAD BRUECKENAU, Germany, June 5 (Reuters) Croatia are already looking beyond their opener against World Cup holders Brazil and concentrating on their final two group matches -- games they believe they can and must win.

''We are focusing on the games against Japan and Australia,'' coach Zlatko Kranjcar told a news conference today.

''Brazil are five-times champions. We have nothing to lose against them but the key game will be against Japan.'' Croatia open their Group F campaign against Brazil on June 13, then face Japan five days later and Australia on June 22.

''In our qualifiers we beat Sweden, the favourites, and Bulgaria. They are better than Australia and Japan so we are looking forward to victories,'' the Croatian coach said.

Kranjcar insisted that his side were not resigned to losing to Brazil.

''We will play Brazil in the same way and with the same organisation as against the others. We will try to give our best. We have had a friendly against Brazil and saw good things and bad things from them,'' he said referring to a 1-1 draw in a friendly last August.

Kranjcar said his Brazilian counterpart, Carlos Alberto Parreira, had argued that Brazil could perform at only 60 percent of their best and still beat Croatia.

''We will hope that they are at that level and that we can come up with a surprise.'' The team will fly to Geneva tomorrow for a friendly against Spain the next day, their final warmup match after Saturday's 1-0 loss to Poland and yesterdays 5-0 victory for the reserves over a team of fellow Croatian professionals.

Wednesday's match should mark the return of captain Niko Kovac, who was out for a wekk with strained thigh.

Kranjcar said he had no serious injury concerns.

A number of Croatian players have suffered from viruses but third-choice goalkeeper Joseph Didulica is now the only one suffering from a mildly upset stomach.


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