Coach profile: Slaven Bilic

Slaven Bilic has suffered many trials and tribulations as Croatia coach, having gone close to reaching the Euro 2008 semi-finals before a bumpy ride in the Euro 2012 qualifiers ended happily in the play-offs.


His roller-coaster experiences, however, can only have intensified his resolve to steer the squad he has trained since 2006 into the knockout stages of this summer's tournament.

As both player and coach he has endured highs and lows, triumphs and disappointments, in a career punctuated with incident.

He was a key member of his country's run to the 1998 World Cup semi-finals in France where he was embroiled in controversy after an infamous clash, in which he was accused of simulation, led to Laurent Blanc being sent off.

Croatia lost, but Blanc was banned from playing in the final.

Bilic, 43, from Split, found it difficult to shake off the stigma of that episode, especially in France, but has shown few signs of any lasting damage in a promising coaching career.

He was caretaker manager at his former club Hajduk Split and also coached Croatia's Under-21 side for two years before he took charge of Croatia's senior side.

A smooth run through the Euro 2008 qualifiers, including a double over England, not only cost their coach Steve McClaren his job, but also drew the attention of several Premier League clubs.

Bilic's market value rocketed after taking Croatia to the last eight at Euro 2008, but his luck changed after a heart-breaking defeat by Turkey.

Having seen his team take a 119th-minute lead in Vienna, Bilic watched in disbelief as the Turks equalised, with the last kick of extra time, and won the penalty shootout.

After that emotional setback, there were times when Bilic may have regretted his decision to reject all offers and stay with the national team as he twice came close to losing his job.

He first came under fire when Croatia failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, especially in the aftermath of a 5-1 rout by England, which followed an earlier 4-1 loss to them in the campaign.

Croatia's patchy form continued through the Euro 2012 qualifiers when a 2-0 defeat by Greece left them second in their group, behind the 2004 winners, and Bilic's job again hanging by a thread.

But he gained vindication, and some revenge for Croatia's Viennese exit, by defeating Turkey 3-0 on aggregate in the play-offs.

That confirmed Croatia's place at Euro 2012 and gave the coach, who has a law degree and also plays the guitar in a rock band, good reason to celebrate.

As a man who enjoys the unequivocal trust of his players, his authority and enthusiasm will be key factors when Croatia seek a place in the knockout stages.

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