Just over four years ago, Zlatko Dalić took over the Croatia national team at its worst. Led by Ante Čačić at the time, Croatia drew against Finland in Rijeka and needed an away victory against Ukraine to secure additional qualifications for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Čačić was sacked, an unknown Dalić was announced as the coach, and proceeded to defeat Ukraine and Greece in additional World Cup qualifications. We all know what happens next.
Four years later, Zlatko Dalić became the first Croatia coach to take the national team to three major competitions. In the meantime, he led Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final. Zlatko Dalić is thus the most successful Croatia national team coach, reports Index.hr.
Since participating independently in UEFA and FIFA competitions, Croatia has missed only two major competitions – Euro 2000 and the 2010 World Cup. Miroslav ‘Ćiro’ Blažević and Slaven Bilić are the only two Croatia coaches comparable to Zlatko Dalić, considering they are the only coaches who have led the national team in more than 50 games. Interestingly, no other coach on the bench has endured more than 25 games, which only testifies to how explosive the Croatia bench is.
Ćiro Blažević was the only coach who could successfully lead the national team in the 90s, and with the bronze medal at the 1998 World Cup, he earned the ‘coach of all coaches’ nickname.
On the other hand, Slaven Bilić made the biggest tactical and personnel revolution in the national team’s history. And with 42 wins in 65 games, he is by far the most successful coach in terms of win-loss ratios.
Nevertheless, after defeating Russia, Zlatko Dalić not only qualified for his third major competition in a row, but for the second time, he showed that he does not need additional qualifications for such an achievement. Furthermore, after a weak start, he showed that it was unnecessary to switch coaches to ensure the national team would come out on top in critical qualification moments, putting him ahead of Blažević and Bilić today.
From the beginning of his term, Zlatko Dalić was nearly doomed to fail, primarily because he was unknown compared to former coaches. He also did not have the full support of HNS and was seen as a temporary solution.
And Dalić’s road to success was no walk in the park. Recall, Croatia experienced many painful defeats under Dalić, from losing a record 6:0 to Spain and another blunder against Portugal. Croatia has also played poorly against much weaker opponents, like Slovenia, Hungary, or Azerbaijan. And Dalić has not escaped media criticism.
However, the essential criteria for the success of a coach are qualifying for major competitions and getting good results. Dalić first took Croatia to the World Cup, reached the final for the first time, and then qualified for two major competitions, finishing first in the qualifying group.
No one before him has shown such peaks and continuity, and that is why the verdict is clear: as far as the Croatia national team and its coaches are concerned, Zlatko Dalić sits alone at the top.
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