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Croatia's Lovren pulls out of Iceland World Cup qualifier

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News 04 Nov 2016, 22:00 IST
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ZAGREB (Reuters) - Dejan Lovren has abruptly ruled himself out of Croatia's World Cup qualifier against Iceland and a friendly with Northern Ireland this month, the Liverpool defender said on Friday.

Lovren offered no explanation for his decision after twice being recalled to the national team following an acrimonious exit in March, when he fell out with coach Ante Cacic.

"I will keep to myself the reasons why I asked Cacic to relieve me of my international duties for these two games," Lovren told Croatian media.

"I am still here and will make myself available for the upcoming games, hoping to earn another chance with good performances at club level," he said.

Lovren has been in fine form for Liverpool after missing Euro 2016 because of his feud with Cacic, who axed the 27-year old centre back over a bitter confrontation following a 1-1 friendly draw with Hungary.

Unhappy about being an unused substitute in that game, Lovren slammed Cacic in public and the coach replied the defender could only come back if he accepted that no player was above the team.

Lovren returned for Croatia's opening 1-1 home draw with Turkey in the 2018 World Cup qualifying but was again an unused substitute, before being completely left out of the 6-0 rout of Kosovo and 1-0 win over Finland.

The Croatians, who host Iceland on Nov. 12, top Group I with seven points from three games, ahead of second-placed Iceland on goal difference.

Croatia will also be without injured forward Marko Pjaca but influential playmaker Luka Modric is set to return after missing the last two games with a knee injury.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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