October 8, 2019 – Croatia and Hungary will meet at Poljud on Thursday at 8:45 pm in a crucial qualifier for the European Championship next summer. Ivan Rakitic spoke to the media on Tuesday from the Le Meridien Lav Hotel in Split.
Headlines in Croatian media this week will focus heavily on a critical meeting of our 2018 World Cup finalists – Croatia will meet Hungary on Thursday in Split. And while Croatia’s fate in the 2020 Euro competition lay heavily on the result itself, the match also carries more significance – it is the first time the Croatia national team has played in Split since 2015.
Ivan Rakitic re-joined the team after he was absent from the lineup for Croatia’s qualifiers in September, naming his alarming situation at Barcelona at the time as the reason. On Tuesday, he faced the Croatian media at the Le Meridien Lav Hotel in Split, the home of the Croatia national team for the week.
“I am very happy to play in Split. My best friends are here. I am happy to be with the team and staff again. The stadium sold out in a day; we await a full stadium of our fans.”
Why did Rakitic opt out of the national team in September?
For me, the national team is always first, but the situation in my club wasn’t right. I needed to come to the national team with a clear head to give my all, and at that time, I wasn’t at my best. I thank everyone for understanding. Luka gave me his support. It was a tough decision for me.”
How was it to watch Croatia play so well against Slovakia?
“I was so happy to see how well we played. We were fantastic. The coach said it was the best game under his leadership. I think we can be even better.”
Rakitic touched on the two big games ahead against Hungary and Wales.
“We know the games ahead will be difficult. We lost to Hungary away. But I can’t wait for the atmosphere, the fans, the full stadium. If we get 6 points, that is the best-case scenario. But we have to go step by step. First is Hungary.”
What does Rakitic think about bringing the national team back to Split?
“We will give our all. We know that Dalmatia wants the national team here. And we as a national team want to play everywhere.
We know that the people wanted the national team in Split. We could see that with how quickly the stadium sold out. Something extraordinary awaits us on Thursday. We are the World Cup finalists. We are going together for the win.”
What does Rakitic have to say about the media speculation that he didn’t want to play for the national team?
“Everyone has their opinion and their right, but no one has a bigger love of playing for Croatia than me. Switzerland gave me everything, but my heart beats for Croatia. I’ve been with the team 12, 13 years. I felt that way yesterday, today, and will feel that way forever. Croatia is number one.”
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