Ex-Croatia star Igor Stimac identifies best way to keep England ace Harry Kane at bay

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Igor Stimac played against some of the best strikers of his era during his days with Hadjuk Split, Derby, West Ham and Croatia.

In England alone, he regularly rubbed shoulders with legends of the Premier League game such as Alan Shearer, Dwight Yorke, Andrew Cole and Robbie Fowler.

So the 53-year-old, who won 53 caps for his national team and managed them for 15 months following Slaven Bilic’s departure after Euro 2012, knows as well as anyone the best way to deal with a lethal frontman.

And he’s hoping the message has got through to his compatriots as they prepare for their Group D opener against the Three Lions at Wembley.

Harry Kane will lead England into battle in their Euro 2020 Group D opener with Croatia
(Image: REUTERS)

Stimac said: “Harry is amazing player and, with such players, the best option is to cut distribution towards him, to keep him cold.

“The last few years he has kept among the top five players in the world.

“I am surprised he stayed with Spurs so long.

“The game is a close call. I’m not sure what to expect from both teams but at least I am sure England are favourites to win it this time.

“It is always difficult to play against Croatia, though, you never know what can hit you.”

England went ahead the last time the two nations met at a major tournament, when Kieran Trippier’s free-kick gave Gareth Southgate’s men an early advantage in the World Cup semi-finals in Russia three years ago.

Former Croatia manager and defender Igor Stimac knows that, in Kane, his countrymen are up against one of the finest strikers in Europe
(Image: Clive Brunskill)

But Croatia grew into the game and, after Ivan Perisic levelled matters in the second half, Mario Mandzukic fired the goal that booked the boys from the Balkans into the showpiece finale.

Ultimately, their World Cup ended in heartbreak thanks to a 4-2 defeat by France.

But Stimac, who is now manager of India’s national team, sees no reason why, with the right wind behind them, his country can’t go one better and win these Euros.

He added: “Why not? Compared to England, we don’t have any pressure whatsoever.

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“So the boys should get there and enjoy the games.

“Many players from 2018 are not there anymore and our team has passed through a rebuilding phase in the last two years.

“It’s time to see where we stand now.”

While boss Zlatko Dalic has had to rebuild this team and squad, one constant has been captain Luka Modric.

Croatia captain Luka Modric is 'unbelievable', according to Igor Stimac
(Image: Doornick/Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images)

And Stimac gushes at the Real Madrid and former Tottenham midfielder’s ability to run games of football at the ripe old age of 35.

Stimac said: “He is unbelievable, still holding the team on his shoulders with such passion and energy, just magnificent.

“If I was asked who’d I’d pay any price to watch I’d say Luka, obviously.

“But the rest of the boys are also great and it’s a pleasure watching them play.”

Modric’s creativity is something England know they will need to subdue and, just as Croatia will try to cut off the supply line to Kane, so the Three Lions must prevent the ball getting to Mandzukic’s replacement, Bruno Petkovic.

He will provide the test today for a defence that has been questioned coming into the tournament.

But Stimac said: “England’s defence will be as good as front players do their defensive work.

“Everything in football is about team efforts.”

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