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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 08:11 GMT
Bilic blasts poor Wembley pitch
American football sides Miami (green) and New York clash at Wembley
The turf cut up badly during October's NFL match
Croatia manager Slaven Bilic has criticised the state of the Wembley pitch ahead of Wednesday's Euro 2008 qualifier against England.

The Wembley turf has been under scrutiny ever since the first game in the new stadium - May's FA Cup final.

Bilic told BBC Radio 5 Live: "The pitch is no good and not in the condition that Wembley used to be known for.

"It is not good for us, but it is definitely not good for England because they like to pass the ball as well."

The game is crucial to England's hopes of qualifiying for Euro 2008 next summer - England need to avoid defeat to confirm their qualification.

Croatia have already qualified for Euro 2008 despite losing to Macedonia at the weekend and they will top Group E and be seeded for the tournament if they draw or win.

If the Croats lose by a single goal, or by two goals in a game in which they score (ie 1-3 or 2-4 etc), they still top the group.

However, a 2-0 win for England sees them top the group on goal difference; but if the deficit is a three-goal margin, England win the group by virtue of having a better head-to-head record.

"The stadium - and this game - deserves a better pitch," Bilic said.

"The top looks soft, but underneath it is hard, so it is very slippery - it is like ice."

It is not the first time the pitch at the new Wembley stadium has come in for cricitism - England goalkeeper Paul Robinson complained after England's 1-1 draw with Brazil in June.

Recent heavy rain and an American football game have put the turf under further strain.

And the stadium has also hosted six music concerts, rugby league's Challenge Cup final as well as England's Euro 2008 qualifiers and two friendlies in recent months.

606: DEBATE

Croatia trained at Wembley on Tuesday evening but only one half of the pitch was used with heat lamps in place to help battle against the wet conditions.

But the signs of wear and tear from the NFL game between Miami Dolphins and New York Giants three weeks ago were clearly evident.

However, a Wembley spokesman said: "Our groundstaff have been working round the clock on the pitch since the NFL match to ensure the playing surface is in the best possible condition."

Bilic believes Wednesday's game will show the rest of Europe just how far his side can go at the championships in Switzerland and Austria next summer.

"I have told the players we have already started our preparation for Euro 2008 and we could not imagine a better test than England," said Bilic, who had spells at Everton and West Ham.

"This game will give us a real idea of just how much quality we have at the moment."



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