Croatia Humiliated by Spain, Dalić Explains What Happened

Daniela Rogulj

Croatia was humiliated by Spain in their first real test after becoming World Cup finalists. 

Zlatko Dalić will not make any drastic moves or raise tensions after suffering the most difficult defeat in Elche on Tuesday since he had taken over the Croatia bench a year ago. Dalić instead is confident his World Cup finalists will get back in form ahead of the England match. In the first round of the Nations League, Croatia lost 6:0 to Spain, which is the worst defeat in the history of the national team, reports on September 12, 2018. 

“After the game, there was not much talking, the players are all aware of it. The worst is right after the game, the heads are still hot, and we will talk after a couple of days when I look at the match. There is no need for any tensions, for negative things. I’m not going to put up with that nor will I say anything to anyone because it is not my style,” said 51-year-old Zlatko Dalić to Croatian journalists in Elche.

“We’ve all lost, I’m responsible because I’m the coach. The game broke up after 20 minutes and it was over,” he added.

On Tuesday, Spain defeated Croatia 6:0, giving Dalić his fourth defeat since taking over in October 2017. So far, he has lost to Peru and Brazil in friendly matches, to France in the World Cup final, and to Spain in the Nations League. Dalić has secured ten wins and two draws.

In a month, Croatia will face England in the second round of the Nations League. 

“England also had an empty step like us, the situation is there as it is with us. It’s the start of the season so we can see that they are not right and that is it. Spain, however, was eliminated from the World Cup so this was expected. They have a new coach, a new team, a bite… They experienced a debacle and now want to prove themselves. That’s the difference between them and us,” Dalić said.

Spain went on holiday after being eliminated in the World Cup’s round of 16, allowing the players to join their clubs at the beginning of the preparations. England, who played in the semi-final and finished fourth in the World Cup, lost to Spain in London on Saturday. 

“We cannot place ourselves as world leaders, thinking it will be easy, on the contrary, we need to play even harder now. We just have to realize that if we do not do it, if we do not give our best, we cannot play,” remarked Dalić.

Psychological discharge after a euphoric World Cup and the lack of the physical strength of players who later joined the preparations of their clubs, as well as the absence of some players who won the World Cup silver, could be reasons for the unexpectedly high defeat against Spain. 

“We played very well in the first 20 minutes, as agreed. After the second goal, there was no longer a game, everyone started to play for themselves. We were running, but it was not as a group, it was one by one. The players died from running, and why not? Coming into the season late is a problem,” Dalić said.

“The first goal came through our full defense after a cross, we were not good at jumping. The second goal, however, was our mistake when they scored from a distance. And then there was no confidence or security, no motives, so it was over. We fell after two shots and two goals,” he added.

In the first twenty minutes of the first half, Croatia was putting pressure on Spain, but when they scored first, Spain released. They scanned the pitch, winning balls from Croatia, making runs on the wings, and created opportunity after opportunity in the midfield. 

“Against such a motivated team playing in front of its audience, it was not possible to play individually, but only in the system we agreed and how we started the game. We have to learn good lessons from this because when we do it as we agree, it looks good, but as soon as we start doing something out of that deal, we get a slap right away. This was a good lesson, we just have to forget it and move forward,” Dalić said before adding “yes, there is still a lot of work to do with this team.”

Spanish coach Luis Enrique did not surprise with new tactics – everything was as expected in the preparation of the match.

“We were not surprised by Spain. When we played well, they could not do anything. We created two or three chances, and they did not come close to our goal. I was more surprised by our players,” Dalić said.

New players such as Santini, Livaja, Rog and others who joined after the World Cup will receive a new opportunity, because, in the friendly match against Portugal and the Nations League game against Spain, Dalić did not get a real picture of what they can offer. At the same time, Dalić will continue to seek a right-back solution where Marko Rog played Tuesday and Tin Jedvaj played against Portugal. 

“Vrsaljko felt pain in his knee, the same knee he had problems with at the World Cup,” Dalić said. Šime Vrsaljko left the pitch in the 20th minute. Last season, Vrsaljko suffered from injuries at Atlético Madrid, and in the season before, he went through a long recovery because of his knee.

Two months after the World Cup, no one expected the worst defeat in the history of the Croatia national team.

“Well, after all of our euphoria, celebrations, we will be back again. We went into one hole, but now we have to show the strength to come back and get up. But as players play more games, everything will be better. We will rise again and be our true selves,” concluded Dalić. 


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