Zlatko Dalić opened the conference by saying he was surprised by Belgium in their first two World Cup matches. Belgium beat Canada 1-0 and lost to Morocco 0-2. Croatia will play their last Group F match against Belgium. A draw is good enough for Croatia to advance into the last 16.
“In the first game against Canada, Belgium had a bad start, but they managed to win. Big national teams win games even when they don’t play well. Against Morocco, they had several opportunities, and when they went for it all or nothing, they conceded the second goal. However, they are not happy with their performance, and I expect a much better Belgium against us,” he said.
Dalić was asked if he was under stress ahead of Canada.
“Every game is stressful for me. It’s like that; that’s us. I have no problem with that. We played well against Canada, but it’s a small step; if we don’t confirm it with Belgium, we haven’t done anything,” he added.
“We can’t get carried away with the match, we had a little fun, but now the preparation for Belgium begins. We have quality, I believe we can, and we will look for it. The data that we ran 120 kilometers is great; we outran and outplayed Canada. A very good match. We haven’t been this good in all segments of the game for a long time.”
He also spoke about Andrej Kramarić and his position in the team.
“Media are creating that drama around him. Instead of asking about his scoring, you ask what his position is. Got some better questions? The two of us resolved everything two years ago. He will play what he is told; he understands that and made up his mind. So be silent, work, and it’ll come back to him.”
The midfield played together for several years, culminating in the silver medal in Russia.
“It is difficult to replace Rakitić, but we need Kovačić as he was yesterday. With his vertical conquest of the pitch. When the team struggled yesterday, he kept the game’s rhythm. In preparations, we said that the most important thing is to break through the first block; if we break through that, everything opens up. The team was fantastic, but Andrej and Mateo might have been a shade better.”
The coach spoke about whether he knew the squad for Belgium.
“We will see the situation with the players today at training. I think everyone who entered justified their role. We planned to start with Marko Livaja, so later, Bruno entered the game. We were thinking about whether it would be Budimir or Petković. We ran enough, and the solution was to put a player to guard the ball. He replaced Marko, and I think that was good. I am happy we have guys on the bench who can come in and continue in the same rhythm.”
A Belgian journalist asked Dalić to explain why it was difficult for Croatia to play against Belgium in the last ten years.
“For the last ten years, Belgium has been at a high level. For five years, they were first in the FIFA ranking. They played great, won bronze at the World Cup, and were always in the finals. That’s why it was difficult to beat them because they are a great team.”
Canadian coach John Herdman did not congratulate Zlatko Dalić after the game.
“I experienced that twice in my career. When we beat Argentina and now. I don’t remember leaving the pitch in my career without congratulating whoever beat me. I think it’s basic culture, but I won’t get into that. As far as I have seen and filmed, the gentleman is a good coach, promising, and has ambition, but he is young and will learn the latter.”
Belgium is a crucial match. The most important thing is that Croatia rests well in the next two days.
“To repeat the approach, the same desire, and energy. We still have good reserves. Ivan Perišić was very dangerous, and he set up two goals. A slightly different role than against Morocco. He played more forward, like Kramarić. It is very important against Belgium that our midfield is at a high level. It is important not to make these small mistakes because the opponent will punish them. We mustn’t have black holes like in the first 10 minutes against Canada.”
When asked who he would like in the round of 16, Spain, Germany, or Japan, Dalić concluded:
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