Sportske Novosti writes that for the first time in Croatia’s 27 years of participation in tournament qualifications, the coach will not send a team on the pitch he thinks is best but will consciously sub and offer rest to certain players.
Livaković, Vrsaljko, Barišić, Modrić, Brozović, Lovren, and Perišić will not start today’s match. Most of them will sit in the stands with the option for someone to enter the game later.
So far, we have only seen this in friendly matches and big competitions, as a “Reserve Croatia” never went for qualifying points.
Playing qualifiers with a team that you know is not the best is consciously taking a risk, but it is no less of a risk than sending the same footballers on the pitch for the third time in such a short period, increasing the risk of injury.
Throughout history, Croatia had played only three games with the B team when points were shared in the final tournaments. They have recorded two victories. After winning two rounds at Euro 1996 in England, Croatia lost to Portugal 0:3, at Euro 2008 they defeated Poland 1:0, and at the last World Cup, Croatia beat Iceland 2:1. The team was partially revised in 2016 in the match against Spain in Bordeaux; however, Luka Modrić and Mario Mandžukić were injured. Modrić, however, would have played if it was a key game, but Ante Čačić logically saved him. In the end, Croatia won 2:1.
Zlatko Dalić is not a gambler. He proved how important Modrić is to him in Russia, and in that match against Iceland in Rostov, he sent ten new players on the pitch and captain Luka to lead them.
However, the coach is aware of how much energy the players are spending in the hardest season ever. At the same time, HNS is exposed to the clubs’ demands not to use them to the end. According to Real or Inter, there is no obligation unless such a promise is given to someone under pressure. Still, according to the players, there is because the ultimate goal is the optimal solution for everyone. Thus, Dalić announced that Modrić & Co. would not play tonight. In the middle of the pitch, Milan Badelj will get a chance, which will be his first minute of the current cycle.
“We must not underestimate them; they led against Slovakia 2:0. As for the lineup, we will rest some players. Luka Modrić will be on the bench to start; we will see what will happen with Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović. We consider including players who had fewer minutes, but not because we underestimated the opponent, but because we think fresh players should start.
We will start with Juranović and Melnjak, Vrsaljko and Barišić have run out. It will be two new players on the backs. We let Kramarić go home for treatment because he twisted his ankle in the match against Cyprus. Budimir will be up top. We still have to see in what condition Lovren, Vida, Uremović, and Ćaleta-Car are in to find the best solution there. Whoever plays will have to give their best because we are not full of confidence and security.
We expect a higher quality and better flowing game, and we want to bring the game to an end with as little stress and nervousness as possible,” concluded Dalić.
Croatia and Malta meet tonight at Rujevica Stadium in Rijeka from 8:45 pm.
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