Croatia and Denmark will play in the round of 16 on Sunday, July 1, at 20:00.
While Croatia prepares for Sunday’s clash against Denmark in the World Cup round of 16, ahead of their last training session before heading back to Nizhny Novgorod, Ivan Rakitić was presented to the press where he was immediately asked about Denmark, reports Index.hr on June 29, 2018.
“Denmark is a serious team, and they are without a defeat in 18 games. They know how to set the game at all times, what to do. You have the feeling that they are not nervous at all. They are quick up top and have players that are difficult to mark. Eriksen is one of the best playmakers in the world. It’s no accident he plays so well at Tottenham and we need to be ready for him. They are a good team, they deserve to be among the top 16. We are in the fight to stay here,” Rakitić said.
“I do not know if this is the last major competition of this generation. We are going on a positive path, we have the atmosphere. It is up to us to continue playing as we have until now and to enjoy this moment. When we raise that cup, I think we can all retire, no problem,” Rakitić added.
“The pressure is always there, but since we got together in Zagreb, I’ve said the same thing – we have to enjoy it because the World Cup is the most beautiful competition in the world. We have tremendous support from Croatians from all over the world, and we need to have a good grasp of it. This is a fantastic opportunity to do serious things together. We want, if possible, that we all celebrate and are happy in the end.”
Will Croatia immediately go for the win against Denmark?
“We would love for it to be 3:0 in the first minute for us. We respect Denmark, we know they are experienced, and I know a lot of their players compete in big clubs. It will be difficult, but we will not be surprised. It is up to us to set it up and take the initiative well. We want to go further.”
Asked about the choice of players in the lineup, specifically about the Brozovic or Badelj dilemma, Rakitić replied: “I’m confident that the coach will make the right choice. It does not matter if we play one or the other, it’s important that we are real as a team.”
“We feel good, we are working well, and no one has given us anything. We want to go further, and if we continue this way, we have great prospects.”
Robert Prosinečki, Rakitić’s childhood idol, said that Modrić is the best Croatian football player in history.
“If Robert said this, then he is right. No one in Croatia knows more about football than he does. Not only is he the best in the history of Croatian football, but is great as a person, he is our captain, he is leading us and we are following him. I believe he feels the confidence we have in him,” Rakitić said.
Rakitić was then asked to compare Modrić and Iniesta: “It’s hard to compare Luka and Iniesta. Both of them came from another world to play football with us. I was honored to have two of the best players in the world at my club. It was a pleasure to watch Iniesta for four years every day, and I have been on the national team with Luka for 11 years. I’m happy and thank God for giving me the opportunity to experience so much with them. Andres will be my friend for a lifetime, he was the closest to me at Barcelona, and with Luka, I hope, it’s not over yet.”
When asked about the 1998 generation, Rakitić said: “We know the team was great in 1998, they were our idols, but we have to forget about them and write our story in this competition. Maybe we can reach or surpass them, that’s not something that we are burdened with. We want to show the world how good Croatia is and we hope they’ll talk about us for 20 years.”
If Croatia defeats Denmark, they will play the winner of the Spain and Russia match in the quarters.
“I just spoke to my wife and said that if we go through and play each other again, then we are destined to meet each other. For me, Spain is the favorite of the World Cup, even though they had a tough three games and in some situations, they were surprised. The security they play with is huge, I know their players and people from the Federation, and I wish them the best. If we pass, it would be a tough quarterfinal, but we have to deal with Denmark first,” Rakitić said.
And to conclude, a message to the fans?
“It’s fantastic to see how all of Croatia, and the whole world, lives for us and the national team. We are watching, and everything is pulling for us. If possible, we want to see as many supporters as possible in Nizhny Novgorod. We will not fail their wishes, we will give our best to the team and our people. Nobody wants this more than we do. Fans are not only the 12th, but the 13th and 15th players. Together we can go far,” Rakitić concluded.