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Croatia's national soccer team head coach Slaven Bilic listens during the team's final news conference in Bad Tatzmanndorf June 21, 2008, after losing the Euro 2008 quarter final match against Turkey on Friday. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader (AUSTRIA)

Former Croatia and West Ham Manager, Slaven Bilic believes his country’s opening clash against the Super Eagles will be key for Croatia, if they are to stand any chance of making it into the round of 16, while also wishing they had faced debutants Iceland in their opening game rather than the West African champions, AOIFootball.com can report.

Crotia, who are nicknamed “The Fiery Ones” were drawn in Group D alongside Nigeria, debutants Iceland and two-time world champions Argentina, will be starting their campaign against Nigeria in Kaliningrad on June 16 before taking on a Lionel Messi-led Argentina and rounding off the group fixtures with the Icelanders, and Bilic, believes his country got the ‘worst possible match schedule’.

“It seems to me that it is not sufficiently recognised the weight of our group and especially the negativity of the schedule. We have a difficult group and the worst possible match schedule,” Bilić told Sportske Novosti.

“Nigeria at the start when it is, by tradition, are the strongest and most difficult. Argentina have a decisive squad, and it would be better if it was in the third when we might have already settled the placement.

“The Icelanders are the third rival, but they have a mentality that even if they have already crashed out, and perhaps just because of that, playing as if their life depends on that encounter,” Bilic concluded.

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