There are two more games left, and Croatia has everything at its fingertips. However, the calculation is quite clear, and with the victories against Malta and Russia, Croatia will qualify for the 2022 World Cup, reports HNS.
“We know that two victories separate us from the World Cup in Qatar, and our thoughts are focused on Malta. It is an opponent that we respect to the maximum, but of course, we are the favorites in that game because we are of better quality in every segment of the game. However, we have to show that on the pitch and play a good and serious game. We have to be patient; only three points are important, how to get them is less important. So, first Malta and only then we can start thinking about Russia,” points out the coach Zlatko Dalić, who faced the health problems of several players before the decisive qualifying matches.
“Yesterday, three players skipped training with the rest of the team; Brekalo, Livaja, and Sučić worked individually. We will see their condition. We took 27 players to Malta because of injuries, coronavirus tests, and we didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Against Malta, we need offensive players in the first place, and in that direction, we will set up the game and determine the players who will be on the bench. So, there are no personal interests, only the interest of the Croatia national team, and qualifying for the World Cup is important. Luka Modrić? He trained, everything was fine, but of course, the virus left a little mark on him. However, I do not doubt that Luka will be OK, and if everything goes well, he will start the game against Malta.”
As much as the coach indicates that players must be armed with patience, the ideal scenario in the match against Malta would be an early goal.
“It would be nice to open the game with an early goal, but the most important thing is not to get nervous if that doesn’t happen. We had more than an hour of fighting in Rijeka against Malta, who held at 0:0 for a long time – Cyprus too, the whole half. So, we should not get nervous and panic if we don’t score a goal on time. I told the players that we have to be brave, and at the same time, I think we have to overcome all the temptations we may face. Of course, it would be nice if we secured three points as soon as possible to rest some players, but I don’t think that way. We have to enter the game as men. Malta strives to outplay more than Cyprus, that is their style of play, but it is up to us to prevent their patterns through the game.”
Dalić claims that the players do not need special psychological preparation before the match against Malta. Here’s why:
“If we look at our last five games, the energy is high. There are a lot of young players among us who are eager and motivated. So, you don’t need a bigger motive than the World Cup and going to Qatar. It’s one thing, and on the other hand, you know if you beat Malta that a full Poljud and an atmosphere that happens maybe once in a lifetime is waiting for you. That must be the biggest motive for our players. We have to think about it, but we must not fall into the pressure trap and execute ourselves for it. Goalkeepers? We’ll see. Livaković did not lose his position and our trust. At the moment, we are looking at who is in the best shape, and no one who will not play tomorrow has lost their position in the team. However, we are looking at the form and condition of the players; those who are the best and most ready at the moment will play,” concluded Dalić.
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