Klasnić relishing Croatia return

<-- Ivan Klasnić [right]

Croatia continue preparations for UEFA EURO 2008™ with a friendly against Scotland at Hampden Park tonight, a game invested with special significance for striker Ivan Klasnić.

Long-term absence
The 28-year-old Werder Bremen player won the last of his 26 caps on 7 October 2006, scoring Croatia's fifth goal in a 7-0 win against Andorra to take his national-team tally to eight. However, his career was then interrupted by a series of kidney transplant operations which sidelined the forward for more than a year before his triumphant return to the Bremen side. Three goals in four Bundesliga starts since his November comeback have caught the eye of Croatia coach Slaven Bilić and, with star striker Eduardo da Silva injured, they might yet earn Klasnic a place at this summer's finals.

'Everything's fine'
Klasnić, though, has learned better than to look too far ahead. "It's 18 months since I was last with the squad and that time hasn't gone too quickly – when I was in hospital, it went really slowly, to be honest," he said. "There haven't been many changes to the team, however, and everything's fine. I have worked so hard to get back into the squad and I really want to get back into the team – that has been my main goal. I'm not nervous. If I get the chance to play then great, if not it's also OK, I definitely won't be angry. The coach has recalled me and that's what is most important."

'Great atmosphere'
Klasnić has recent experience of Glasgow having attended the first leg of Bremen's UEFA Cup Round of 16 tie against Rangers FC on 6 March. That was a 2-0 defeat for the Bundesliga side and the forward is hoping for a happier outcome this time around – particularly after Bilić's team lost 3-0 at home to the Netherlands last month. "I was at Ibrox when Bremen played Rangers and the atmosphere was great so I hope it'll be the same for this match. We really want a victory, after all it is our last friendly before we begin final preparations for the EURO. We especially need the win after our defeat by the Netherlands in Split."

Eduardo absence
This will be Croatia's first game without Eduardo, who faces at least a 12-month lay-off after suffering a double compound fracture to the left leg playing for Arsenal FC on 23 February. In his absence, Bilić is likely to start with Mladen Petrić and Ivica Olić up front with Klasnić in contention to get his chance as a late substitute. Midfielder Jerko Leko is rated doubtful with a toe injury while captain Niko Kovač may play a restricted role as he recovers from flu.