The Croatia national football team will face the biggest test at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Friday – the quarter-final match against Brazil.
Brazil is the favorite to win the World Cup, which would be their sixth title in history and first in the last 20 years. They played brilliantly in their last-16 tie against South Korea, winning 4-1, while Croatia struggled against Japan, advancing only after penalties.
At the last press conference before the match, coach Zlatko Dalić and captain Luka Modrić expressed their thoughts.
“I think we did a very big thing by reaching the quarter-final, but regardless, I want more. We know that perhaps the biggest game of the tournament awaits us against one of the biggest favorites. They are always the favorites, but at this World Cup they are rightfully so. We have to be real, give our best, and play our best game and then we have a chance. If we just settle for being there, then it will be difficult, but we believe in our strength, and that is how we will position ourselves on the pitch tomorrow,” said Modrić.
Are all the players ready, and will there be any changes?
“There was not much time for preparation, and today we will train and prepare. Sosa trained, we won’t make many changes. Placing among the eight with an almost new national team is a great success. But we will play fair, try to fight for something better,” said Dalić.
Can Luka’s knowledge of Casemiro and Vinicius help Croatia?
“Vini is a great guy, we have a great relationship, he is in incredible shape, and since he came to Real, he has improved greatly. Tomorrow we have a difficult task to stop him. I will surely help my teammates with details on how to neutralize him more easily. Everyone is fighting for himself and their country.”
Which of Croatia’s past matches will the game against Brazil be most similar to?
“This will be the most demanding match for us. Maybe we would compare it to the final in Moscow against France if we were to compare. Out of 11 games at two World Cups, we did well in ten and only lost to France. Croatia is the only smaller country that, after success at one World Cup, repeated it at another, maybe the only one in history that immediately after the final made it to the top eight at the next World Cup,” says Dalić.
“I agree with the coach, the final against France is similar to tomorrow’s match, that’s the ranking,” Modrić continued.
What does Dalić think about Brazil’s dancing after scoring?
“That makes them happy; they have their nature and character, and they have the right to that. It is their nation, and it looks beautiful.”
Does Dalić think that this is a stronger Croatia team than from 2018?
“This is a new national team with 18 new players who did not play then, and it cannot be compared. That generation played together for ten years; those players played in the world’s biggest clubs. This team is different, we need time, but they are lucky to have the remaining six from Russia with whom they can grow. These guys still have many games to prove themselves, but they have potential and quality.”
What is the key to tomorrow?
“We played against Brazil several times and haven’t beaten them yet, but I hope this tradition will change. Brazil has phenomenal players in all positions, so we will have to be very aggressive, run at the right level, not let them play; that will be very important,” says Modrić.
Did Modrić watch Brazil’s loss to Cameroon?
“I didn’t have the chance to watch the match between Brazil and Cameroon, but Brazil did not play with the strongest team in that match. Of course, this is not a benchmark, but it certainly indicates that they can be defeated.”
Does Croatia expect another extra time finish on Friday?
“If it comes to that, that last match with Japan gave us great confidence. Each match is for itself, we will see what will happen, but we are ready for anything.”
How would Dalić compare Croatia’s game against Argentina in 2018 and against Brazil tomorrow?
“Maybe they are similar games, but then we had Argentina in the group stage, and this is the knockout round. Of course, we will apply a similar recipe to narrow down the space for Neymar, but I think he has better support from his teammates than Messi did four years ago.”
Do they consider Brazil a big favorite in tomorrow’s game?
“They always favor big teams, but we have shown many times that the favorites don’t always win. We appreciate every national team and their qualities, but we also appreciate ourselves,” Modrić replied.
Did Croatia learn from Serbia’s defeat to Brazil?
“We watched that match. Serbia played great for an hour, but they got nervous when some situations started. Until Brazil scored, the game was almost even. Brazil played after the goal, and Serbia could not follow that rhythm and fell. We must not do that; we must be disciplined and return to our formation. Serbia played well until they conceded a goal, said Dalić.
Will Modrić continue playing for Croatia?
“I can repeat that I don’t think about the future. We’ll see how long I’ll be around. I am concentrating on this World Cup; there will be time to consider the future. I don’t have a tactic for rejuvenation like there was for growth. If you have it, let me know,” Luka jokingly replied to the journalist.
What can we expect from Croatia tomorrow?
“We play the way we play; sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not so good. But we always do our best. We will see what Croatia will be like tomorrow. We are ready, we will give our best, and I believe we can do a great thing,” says Modrić.
Journalists also asked Luka to comment on the strength of Brazil and Argentina.
“These are giants of world football, two world teams with many great players. I enjoy watching them; playing against such teams is a pleasure. Playing against them is a holiday for football and something everyone wants, especially in big competitions like the World Cup.”
Brazil is dangerous from all sides.
“Brazil is the best team at this World Cup, faster, more energetic, and more diverse than others, and they can come from all sides. They use all the templates; you don’t know where the danger comes from. We have no chance if we give them too much space and time. We want to try to get the ball. We must position ourselves well, not fall out of the system and block, and constantly play as a team. It is important not to give them space because it is difficult when they receive the ball.”
Why did Dalić replace Modrić so early in the match against Japan?
“It wasn’t early; it was the 100th minute. We talked, me and Luka always agreed; I didn’t decide on my own. We ran a lot, I had to refresh the team, and I had to make substitutions. We passed, and it turned out well. Luka will always play as long as he can. That’s why Luka will be more rested tomorrow than if he had played 120 minutes,” Dalić believes.
Tomorrow Modrić is playing against many Real Madrid teammates.
“I am looking forward to playing against former and current teammates. Of course, we will be friends before and after the game, but everyone is fighting for their country and for themselves on the field.”
How will coach Dalić motivate the players?
“You don’t need a bigger motive than the World Cup quarter-final against Brazil. I’m sure these guys dreamed of such matches. We don’t have much to lose; we must fight back as best we can. We have already achieved great success but want more, although we would prefer to play them in the final.”
Does Modrić miss Rakitić in the midfield?
“Unfortunately, Ivan is not with us, but Mateo is here, who replaced him very well. So we are good again, maybe not as in Russia, but we have an excellent team.”
How is Croatia so successful in sports with less than four million inhabitants?
“Croatia is very talented; we have talents in all sports, not only in football. I don’t have a particular explanation. We love sports; talents are born, and good work is done in football schools, where a lot of work is done with children. We are a talented nation; it’s hard for me to say why that is,” concluded captain Modrić.
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