Belfast Telegraph

We can't expect a favour says Joe

By Gavin Mairs

Joe Cole is expecting no favours from his former club-mate Slaven Bilic as England look to ensure qualification for Euro 2008 against Croatia at Wembley tomorrow.

Cole was just breaking into the West Ham side when Bilic was a star performer and the Croatian coach has been tipped to eventually return to Upton Park as manager.

Croatia have already qualified for the finals in Austria and Switzerland but Cole knows Bilic will want to finish the campaign with a flourish.

Cole said: "Slaven was a big player for West Ham when I was very young and he'll get his team going on Wednesday. He's a professional and there'll certainly be no favours from him.

"He'll put a side out there to win the game. Frank (Lampard) knew him more than me and played with him for a few years at West Ham.

" Slaven was well liked and well appreciated at West Ham. He was a really top player and he's proving himself as a manager as well."

Cole is aware the threat Croatia, who defeated England 2-0 earlier in the campaign, could pose at Wembley and they are defending an unbeaten record in their group.

He said: "I didn't play in the game in Croatia but Eduardo da Silva up front is a threat and they keep the ball well. They're a very good technical team and very good at home.

"They'll come to Wembley and maybe relax and try to knock the ball around. But it's all about us, really. We have to perform as we know we can.

"Apart from 10 minutes in Russia, we've done very well for the last six months or so since the summer draw with Brazil at Wembley.

"We've found a style of play that has suited us. There's a belief there. We've performed for the last 10 games and we want to keep that going."

Cole believes the slice of luck England received via Israel's win over Russia was overdue after some of the heartache they have suffered in past tournaments.

He said: "I know it can be a cruel game at times but you get what you deserve.

"England have been notoriously unlucky at times in the past in major tournaments so maybe we're getting a little bit back now.

"If we qualify, we will have deserved to qualify. It's all about how we play on Wednesday night. Let's not forget that this is a big game and let's not get over-excited because Israel beat Russia."

England assistant coach Terry Venables has warned against the perils of playing for a draw.

Steve McClaren's men need only a point against Croatia at Wembley tomorrow night to qualify for Euro 2008.

But his right-hand man, and former England boss Venables, says they will aim to win.

" We are fortunate to get a chance, we know that, and we have to take it with both hands," he said, after Israel's weekend win over Russia handed the advantage back to England.

"As Steve McClaren has said, we have to go out and win the game.

"Although we only need a draw to go through, I've never believed in playing for one.

" Yes you have to be cautious at times but if you play for a draw it can breed a negative approach.

"It's better to take the game to the opposition and keep them on the back foot."

Belfast Telegraph


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