SANTO TIRSO: France coach Jacques Santini knows victory in their second Euro 2004 match against Croatia today would allow him the luxury of resting key players for their final group game.
Zinedine Zidane's injury-time double against England got the champions off to a dramatic winning start on Sunday and another three points against Croatia would put Santini's team through to the quarter-finals from Group B.
“With a success on Thursday, we will be through,” he said.
“It's what the figures say. As Croatia and Switzerland drew in their first match, only one of them can make seven points at best. With six, we are qualified.”
Santini believes if France are to retain their title he will have to rest players like Zidane and Robert Pires for at least one match and the energy-sapping win over England adds weight to that argument.
He is unlikely to make any changes to his starting team for the Croatia match, with midfielder Claude Makelele expected to shake off a minor shoulder injury.
Croatia looked ordinary against Switzerland, drawing 0-0 but Santini is expecting them to provide a formidable barrier to his French playmakers.
“I don't know if (Croatia coach Otto) Baric is going to opt for a strategy similar to the one he used against the Swiss,” said Santini.
“But if so, we will have to find solutions to break the lock just like we did against England.”
Croatia have made it clear they would be delighted with a point against the French, and Baric is already casting his mind ahead to the potentially decisive match against England.
With several of his players on yellow cards, Baric could also change his team to avoid suspensions. Striker Dado Prso may be the one to miss out as Baric will want him up front against England.
Experienced Juventus utility man Igor Tudor, suspended for the opening game, is available again and is likely to be recalled, possibly in a deep-lying anchorman role.
“For sure he is going to save one or two but many of our key players have been cautioned so it is not easy to decide,” assistant coach Drazen Ladic said of Baric’s plans. “We have to play against France as England did – quickly,” Ladic added. – Reuters