Dalić points out that the first game is the most important, reports HNS.
“We have two games ahead of us; two victories separate us from our goal. Given the state we have been in the last five games, I am optimistic. The first game that comes is always the most important. Malta is very important because, with a victory, we open the fight for first place in Split against Russia. Of course, Malta is an opponent who cannot match us, but we must be serious, patient, and responsible. Malta has been training for seven days, they want to oppose us, but if we are good, we will win. At no point do I want, nor will I talk about Russia until Split. There is no talk about Russia,” says Dalić, who referred to the team’s current condition.
“Kovačić dropped out before, and we will miss him very much. Brekalo will come to the gathering, we will do an examination, and if something suspicious comes about and he is not ready, he will return to his club. Thanks to Ivan Jurić and Turin for allowing us to do that; if he is not one hundred percent ready, he will continue to recover at his club. Sučić suffered an unpleasant blow, so he will also have a check-up, and captain Modrić is much better, and we will see what will happen with him in the next two or three days. Luka had a fever; he had a virus, and couldn’t compete in Real’s last game. Of course, this is not an ideal situation, we will try to train him for Malta, but if he is not one hundred percent, we will not force him because we need the readiest players for Malta. However, I hope that Luka will be OK.”
The day before the national team gathering, the coach subsequently sent invitations to Bruno Petković and Lovro Majer.
“We have two games ahead of us, during which we can only win. So we have nothing to defend and calculate; we need to be at a high level in the attack. Majer left a very good impression in September, then, unfortunately, he got injured, but now he is healthy and brings us more quality in that segment of the game. And Petković’s quality was not disputable; it just didn’t have continuity. He has raised his form in the last games, and he can help us with his qualities. We will have an exceptional 25 players; we must not allow any surprises so as not to get stuck at the last minute. Petković and Majer are in very good shape, and there were no doubts. Petković’s position? In the position he plays at Dinamo. We have the best players in the world – Brozović and Modrić; he must finish for the national team, and a goal is important to us against Malta and Russia. So, Bruno will be used as a striker.”
As a coach, Dalić has already led decisive matches on several occasions, so the current situation is not unusual.
“The pressure is always there, but I don’t feel it. These are important matches for us because we want to avoid tough additional qualifications, but there is always pressure and desire without which you cannot work properly. We have to be ready for everything, expectations are high, but we are going step by step.”
Given the frequent injuries, the coach has rotated a lot of players in the defense. But now, everyone is ready.
“And my wish is to have a standard team. In Russia, there were always eleven players who started matches, but now, I was forced to rotate due to the circumstances. We changed, we tried, it took seven days to distribute the forces. The players play from Wednesday – Sunday, viruses happen, immunity drops, fatigue occurs, and I have to take care of all that. Croatia has not been so powerful in stopper positions for a long time; we have great players in big clubs. The best ones will play, while Gvardiol has the advantage over everyone. He is left-footed and plays well at his club. And we finally have a left-footer in the position of the left stopper. We will see who will play on the right side.”
Before the match against Russia, Dalić does not want to leave anything to chance.
“In Malta, for the first time in my term, we will stay there to sleep after the game. The match in Split is played at 3 pm, so we need to try to make sure that we get a good rest before Russia. We have to beat Malta, and after that, we will see what condition we are in. I really don’t mean to worry about whether we will keep a player for Russia. Of course, we will rest some players in case of a favorable result, but let’s not talk about Russia. I know that the focus is on that game, but for me, Russia is not a topic until we beat Malta,” concluded the coach.
To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.