Croatia coach Kovac on Neymar: ‘I’ve had six months ... to come up with an answer’

Croatia coach Niko Kovac sounded a confident tone ahead of Thursday night's World Cup opener between his side and Brazil, saying, 'We know what awaits us'.

Croatian national football team coach Niko Kovac shown at a press conference at Arena Corinthians on Wednesday ahead of his side's Thursday World Cup opener with Brazil. Sebastiao Moreira / EPA / June 11, 2014
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The thought of Neymar tearing your team pieces might be enough to give some coach's nightmares, but Croatia's Niko Kovac isn't losing any sleep over the threat posed by the Brazilian phenom ahead of Thursday's World Cup opener.
Neymar is expected to spearhead Brazil's campaign to win the tournament for a sixth time, and his own coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, has said he is glad he doesn't have to stay up worrying about how to contain the 22-year-old.
Kovac said he recognised Neymar's ability but dismissed suggestions the threat had left him sleepless in Sao Paulo.
"I've had six months to study their national team ... for us to come up with an answer to Neymar. He's one of the top three players in the world but we know what awaits us," he told a news conference at the Arena Corinthians on Wednesday.
"I'm not losing any sleep over it."
Kovac, who took over from the sacked Igor Stimac for Croatia's elimination double-header against Iceland, knows that trying to stifle Brazil's All Star cast for 90 minutes would be a recipe for disaster.
He will be without powerful striker Mario Mandzukic for the opener due to suspension but is still planning to go on the offensive against the hosts, who will be under enormous pressure to get the win or risk turning their often fickle fans against them.
"We will try to keep the ball as long as possible but create chances whenever possible, we are not going to park the bus tomorrow," he said.
"We are going to attack ... because Brazil is so strong that if you want to succeed against them you have to score.
"Of course that is easier said than done."
Kovac was also quick to remind reporters that Brazil would take his side lightly at their peril.
Croatia stunned the world to reach the semi-finals in their first World Cup as an independent nation in 1998 and Kovac, who missed that tournament due to injury, said his players would not be overawed by the Brazilians.
"However much we may be thinking about Brazil, I think Brazil will be thinking about us," he added.
"Personally I think Mr Scolari may be losing sleep when thinking about playing Croatia."
Croatia midfielder Darijo Srna, who could be tasked with shackling Neymar on Thursday, said there were different ways of keeping the Brazilian in check.
"If I can't do anything else I'll lock him in his hotel room," he joked.
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