Bilic: I have respect for Ireland
Bilic was at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest to see Republic of Ireland's 0-0 friendly draw with Hungary, a game which left opposite number Giovanni Trapattoni far from happy.
Croatia and the Republic meet in Poznan on Sunday night in the opening round of fixtures in Group C, and the former West Ham and Everton defender knows exactly what to expect. He told Irish reporters: "In Croatia, someone has not twisted my words, but made it up like I said that you don't have a good team and blah, blah.
"It's totally nonsense. I have big respect for your team - I played against your team last summer. It's an unbelievably competitive team. They are very solid, they play very simple football, they don't take a lot of risks. But they are still dangerous enough with some really good forwards - two strikers and two wide men who are very quick. One on one, they can decide a game."
The draw with Hungary extended Ireland's unbeaten run to 14 games stretching back to March last year, and that kind of resilience, embodied by former Everton club-mate Richard Dunne, could prove key in Poland and Ukraine. Bilic said: "It's very hard to get a clear chance against them. Richard Dunne is a leader, he's the organiser. He's a great player.
"I admire him. He was young [at Everton], but you could see he was going to the big stage and the big time, and I'm so glad for him. He's a great guy."
Whatever Bilic saw, Trapattoni was not a happy man as he reflected on a game in which Ireland went very close to surrendering their unbeaten run. If it weren't for goalkeeper Shay Given, who made three fine saves before the break, and half-time replacement Keiren Westwood, who pulled off another after it, they would have headed for Poland on the back of a defeat.
Even substitute Stephen Hunt got in on the act at the death, hacking Imre Szabics' late drive off the line. It proved to be an uncomfortable experience for Trapattoni, who later revealed his intention to tinker with the 4-4-2 system which has served him so well during the four years of his reign to date.
The 73-year-old, whose players had to wait in the tunnel for 20 minutes before kick-off while a thunderstorm abated, said: "When we meet a team with one striker, I know that between two lines, we are in difficulty. To have a balance, we have to give up one striker or put one more in midfield.
"In the past, I know this position, I know this line-up. I will speak with the team and I will show them our difficulty because we need to take a decision to sacrifice a striker, or we need to change the situation."