SLAVEN BILIC has questioned England’s mentality ahead of their Euro 2020 opener against Croatia.
The Three Lions led Sunday’s opponents in the World Cup semi-final three years ago.
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Slaven Bilic reckons England could be mentally scarred from the 2018 World Cup exit to Croatia[/caption]
But despite taking an early lead, goals from Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic turned the game on its head.
And Bilic reckons the scarring from that result could come back to haunt Gareth Southgate’s men at Wembley this weekend.
The former Croatia manager, who took charge between 2006 and 2012, was asked where the game will be won and lost.
He told The Telegraph: “Mentality. Remember the World Cup semi-final?
“In the first-half England dominated, were 1-0 up and it should have been 2-0. But as soon as we scored an equaliser it was game over for you.
“There was nobody on the pitch who said, ‘Wait, wait, we have time’. It was gone.”
Bilic added: “In 2018 only two Croatia players who started the semi-final did not play under me and I left in 2012.
“So the core of the team has cried, laughed, celebrated, gone through all of the emotions together and of course that is going to help them.
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“Let’s say after half an hour it’s 1-0 to England, we can go ‘Come on guys, we have been here before.’ So it helps.
“Is it crucial? Not necessarily. It’s good to be young and have that freedom but it’s also good to have that know-how and experience.
“Of course, England are favourites and we also see it that way.
“We have not been playing great but I know that when the big games come – and it doesn’t get much bigger than this one – we have know-how, quality, brains and courage.”
Like SunSport columnist Jose Mourinho, Bilic was quick to highlight the strength of Croatia’s midfield.
Marcelo Brozovic, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic are set to try and dictate the game from the middle of the park.
But he also admitted England’s attacking threat can cause Zlatko Dalic’s side plenty of headaches, especially with influential defender and leader Dejan Lovren out injured.
Mario Mandzukic scored the winner in extra time to put his country into the final in Russia[/caption]
Bilic reckons Croatia’s underdog status could work in their favour again[/caption]
Mateo Kovacic and Luka Modric will be looking to pull the strings in midfield on Sunday[/caption]