Croatia opens the qualifiers on March 25 at home against Wales in Split, and three days later, they visit Bursa near Turkey.
“It’s nice to get together after three months and wait for the new national team games. We have achieved magnificent results in the five and a half years of my mandate. It is much more than the set goals, and we are unaware of what we have done. In addition to what we have done, I have the energy, strength, and motivation to continue with the national team, together with the players, staff, and fans. Our goal, every goal, must be to qualify for a major competition that is realistic, and everything else is a success. New competitions are ahead of us; I have a motive. In addition to the results we must achieve, we need to change generations. We have potential and quality. I am aware that we have raised the bar, and the expectations are high, but we have to reduce it to reality, be calm and go game by game. Expectations need to be justified, and we have the quality to do so,” said Zlatko Dalić to open the press conference.
He referred to the upcoming European Championship in 2024, which will be played in Germany, so many Croatia fans can be expected.
“A big competition awaits us, but we must qualify for the European Championship first. We have quality, but we must be careful and concentrate on avoiding making mistakes. It would be a big competition for us because it is in Germany, and there would be many of our fans, so it would be a big challenge. I was in Germany in 2006, in Berlin. There have never been more Croatia fans at one game,” Dalić said.
Croatia is in Group D with Wales, Armenia, Turkey, and Latvia, and the two best teams will secure direct placement in the final tournament, which will be held in the summer of 2024 in Germany.
The coach claimed Croatia has never been stronger and more complete than it was in Russia.
“And now we have quality; we must put together the best possible team. We have better results at the World Cup than the Euros. We have quality, youth, and players coming up, but they can’t do anything without the more experienced players. This is creating a new generation, and we must prepare for the future,” said Dalić.
He commented on the current form of the players.
“We had many problems after the World Cup, but now the players are slowly returning. Brozović and Kovačić did not play for a long time, and neither did Kramarić. Now we will have five days together to try to do the best we can. The situation with the players may not be the best, but it can change, as we already know how to do,” Dalić said.
Dalić once again repeated that expectations were raised very high, but one should be realistic. Finally, he commented on the condition of the players, including Bruno Petković, who was injured yesterday.
“Today, we will know the whole situation. Everyone should come. We have problems with the arrival of players, and some will not arrive due to force majeure. Petković had an MRI. He has an injury but will come, so we’ll see. Ivušić is ill; he will not make it to training. Today we will have a lot of worries and discussions, but tomorrow we will be able to say more specifically,” Dalić said.
He said that Luka Modrić’s performance at the European Championship depends only on him and that he did not expect that he would be the coach for so long.
He also commented on the return of Torcida to the stadium for the Croatia matches.
“I constantly point out that the Croatia national team is a place of gathering and togetherness, which is what we strive for and work on. I’m glad to hear about the return of Torcida. We want the Boys, Kohorta, and Armada to come too. This is Croatia. This is our country, and we must support it. Everyone is welcome. It will be a great support for us. While I’m here, we will gather all Croats and fans,” Dalić said.
After the Nations League in June, Croatia will continue their qualificationss with double programs in September (Latvia, Armenia), October (Turkey, Wales), and November (Latvia, Armenia).
“We are the favorites, but we must qualify for the European Championship and be serious. It can be tricky; initially, we have two of our competitors. Turkey is coming back, playing in their stadium, and has a motive. Croatia is a motivation for everyone because we are third in the world. If we are not serious, we will have problems,” Dalić said.
He asserted that the tactics would not change much, and against Wales, we should beware of counters and semi-counters. He said it was important not to lose in Turkey and to win against Wales.
Dalić spoke about the selection of attackers and offensive players he has available, and first of all, about Marko Livaja, who will play at “his” Poljud.
“Marko Livaja is playing well, scored 17 goals, and is the top scorer in the league. Poljud is his, and he is at home. He feels very good there. He gave a lot to the national team, he scored a goal in Qatar, and I expect a lot from him,” said Dalić and added:
“The position of striker and the right wing was withdrawn in Qatar. When I spoke about having strikers from HNL, you criticized me as if I did not appreciate and respect them. No, I appreciate and respect them. I meant to say they don’t play at a certain level every weekend. A striker from Morocco or Davies from Canada plays against strong opponents weekly, but the same cannot be said for our strikers. They need more stimulation. We have quality. We mixed players in rush hour and on the right wing. We played Kramarić, Petković, Livaja… Pašalić or Vlašić on the wing. I’m not inclined to do that, but I don’t have a permanent solution. I thought Brekalo would play in Fiorentina, but it didn’t happen. We need a speedster. Everyone would play on the left with us, and we didn’t have a strong one on the right, so we called Špikić, and he is our potential in the future. We called Musa, so now there’s Beljo, then Ljubičić, then Šimić. We have to find another striker before the Euros. I did not write off Budimir because he is not good, but I want to see some other players. I invited Beljo and Musa to see them. We have solutions for the right wing,” Dalić said.
Mislav Oršić is not playing for Southampton…
“I feel sorry for Orša, he is not part of the club, but I don’t want to lose him. I said that about Vlašić before. He is not fit now, but I want to give him a chance to try to come back. If he doesn’t constantly play in his club, he won’t be able to play for the national team either,” Dalić said.
Finally, he praised Josip Stanišić for his performances with Bayern and the national team.