The Azzurri took the lead against Spain in their opening Group C game thanks to a fine assist from the Juventus man, but only after Mario Balotelli had missed a sitter.
|ITALY TO CONQUER CROATIA?
|17/2||Italy are 17/2 to beat Croatia 2-1 with William Hill|
"Balotelli is top class player, and I have a lot of respect for what he does on the pitch," he told a press conference. "At times he is a genius, but also has his own philosophy on behaviour.
"That said, we have to press Pirlo, Italy's most important player, though I have yet to decide how. He can decide the outcome of matches alone.
"[But] Modric is at least on the same level as Pirlo, in my opinion."
Croatia beat Republic of Ireland in their tournament opener, and Bilic is confident that his men are up to the task of springing a surprise against their more illustrious opponents on Thursday.
"Italy will be a different challenge to Ireland, I'm sure about it. They are a specific team, especially in the midfield, and have their own way of playing.
"Our performance in the win against Ireland made me happy. We are now more experienced, and the heart of the team is there. This will be a precious commodity against rivals like Italy.
Modric had already been lauded by Croatia legend Zvonimir Boban as Croatia's absolute star.