UEFA EURO 2008™ hopefuls Croatia have received encouraging news concerning the fitness of Mladen Petrić, with medical staff clearing the BV Borussia Dortmund striker to train.
A back injury forced Petrić to miss the last few matches of the Bundesliga campaign, but coach Slaven Bilić expects the 27-year-old to make a full recovery soon. "I spoke three times with Dr. Paladino and he told me the medical picture regarding Mladen's back is that he's at 90 per cent compared with the other players," said the former international centre-back. "He gave the green light for Mladen to practice without fear and that's what's most important."
Petrić was an impressive performer for Croatia during qualifying, scoring four times during one game against Andorra and also firing the winner in the memorable 3-2 victory against England at Wembley in October 2007. Those feats have even earned him comparisons with predecessor Dado Pršo.
Speaking at the squad's first get-together as they begin final preparations for Austria and Switzerland, coach Bilić also underlined how crucial it will be for Croatia to win their opening Group B fixture against the Austrians on 8 June. "That first match at EURO is the most important," he commented. "In the past, we've reached the next round every time we've won our first match. It's especially important for our mentality."
Only seven players were present at the gathering in Zagreb, and they then left for the city of Rovinj on the Istrian peninsula, where they will spend the next week before Saturday's friendly against Moldova. The rest of the squad will join from their respective clubs at the beginning of the week.