Corluka a major doubt for Sunday
GROUP C NEWS:FORMER TOTTENHAM defender Vedran Corluka will see a specialist in Warsaw this morning in the hope he can overcome a hamstring injury that puts his participation in Sunday’s European Championship opener between Croatia and Ireland in doubt. Coach Slaven Bilic has also been forced to replace Hamburg midfielder Ivo Ilicevic after he ruptured a calf muscle.
The 26-year-old Corluka, now with Bayer Leverkusen, limped out of training yesterday and is now expected to miss the Ireland match, though Bilic is outwardly optimistic on his chances of remaining in the tournament and, perhaps, facing Italy four days later.
“It should be okay, he just felt something in his muscle,” said Bilic yesterday. “Based on the prognosis it shouldn’t be anything serious.”
Bilic’s decision to call up Sime Vrsaljko to replace Ilicevic, however, suggests he harbours more serious concerns about the defender who played 11 qualifiers and scored once. Ilicevic, a versatile midfielder, played just 21 minutes in the qualifiers, while his replacement is a defender, more suited to the full-back role usually played by Corluka.
“I am sorry about Ilicevic,” said Bilic. “We have lost another important player who is different to most of our team.”
Croatia have already had to plan without veteran striker Ivica Olic, who was ruled out of the tournament on Monday with a hamstring injury and replaced by Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk’s Nikola Kalinic.
Meanwhile, Italy midfielder Thiago Motta believes Mario Balotelli will be an influential figure for the Azzurri at the championships. The PSG player reckons the volatile Manchester City striker could have a big role to play.
“We need Balotelli to work for the team, and to show responsibility,” Motta said as Cesare Prandelli’s squad continued preparations to face Spain on Sunday.
“Only like that can he make the difference, and I’m sure he will. He must help us, especially on the pitch because, off it, he can be the same as always.”