x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Striker Klasnic's call of duty for Croatia

The recalled Croatia striker Ivan Klasnic was forced to cancel his holidays after being taken off-guard by his sudden return to the international fold.

The recalled Croatia striker Ivan Klasnic was forced to cancel his holidays after being taken off-guard by his sudden return to the international fold.

Klasnic has not played for Croatia since September 2009 and was so sure he would not be required for tomorrow's Group F 2012 European Championship qualifier against Georgia that he pencilled the date in for a summer break.

But Slaven Bilic, the coach, decided the 31-year-old Bolton Wanderers forward did feature in his plans.

"It was a massive surprise," Klasnic said. "I really didn't expect to the get the call from Slaven Bilic to ask me to come and play. I had previously spoken to him over the phone and he had told me that I probably wouldn't be involved in the squad, so I had booked my holidays.

"But earlier this week I got the phone call ... Of course, it's an honour to be asked to play for my country as it always is and, if I get the chance, hopefully I can show everyone what I can do."

Victory would take Croatia two points clear of Greece at the top of the table, though that would probably be a temporary measure as the group leaders take on rock-bottom Malta tomorrow.

Bilic's side also have revenge on their mind after being upset by Temuri Ketsbaia's team in Tblisi earlier in the campaign courtesy of Levan Kobiashvili's late goal.

In Group E, Erik Hamren, the Sweden coach, says he would rather have Zlatan Ibrahimovic available for the trip to Moldova but said his team can cope in the absence of their injured captain.

Ibrahimovic, the AC Milan striker, has a foot injury, one which has affected him for several weeks and did clear up in time for Tuesday's home clash with Finland.

Sweden's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign appears to be a race for second place in Group E after rivals Holland began with six straight wins.

Statistics bear out Ibrahimovic's importance to the national team - Sweden's points and goals-per-game averages are significantly higher when he plays.

But beating Moldova should be within their capabilities, Ibrahimovic or no Ibrahimovic, according to Hamren.

"We have played and won matches without Zlatan before," he said. "I am optimistic that we can manage without him.

"I think we can give a really, really good performance against Moldova, although of course I would have wanted him to be fit.

"Zlatan Ibrahimovic improves any team, in my view."

In his absence, Ola Toivonen and Johan Elmander, the latter fresh from agreeing a move from Bolton to Galatasaray, are set to be paired in attack.

Sweden, with three wins from four matches so far, can cut the Dutch lead to six points with an away success, and would have a game in hand. In the group's other match tonight, second-bottom Finland will look to add to their three points when they travel to rock-bottom San Marino, who have conceded 29 goals in five games, scoring none.