Zlatko Dalic for FIFA: “We Want to Replicate Success in Russia at Euros”

Daniela Rogulj

January 30, 2020 – Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic features on the official website of the World Football Federation, FIFA.

On Wednesday, January 29, 2020, FIFA spoke with Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic about that magic 2018 summer in Russia, an impressive qualification period, and what’s next for Modric & Co.

“It’s always fulfilling to reach your goals. It wasn’t easy – it never is in qualifying – but we were at our best at the crucial points and I believe we deserved to top the group. Whenever we really needed to show our quality and pick up points, we did it, and that shows the quality, character and spirit of this group. I’m very satisfied because we managed to bring some new blood into the team, while keeping a high level of performance. What makes me even happier is the fact that we kept our togetherness, and had great support from our fans.

That unity was the key for us at the World Cup, and it will be vital for us going forward too. We saw a number of important, big-game players retire from the national team, such as Mario Mandzukic, and it was normal that the rest of the team from Russia felt something of a comedown after such an amazing World Cup. However, we tackled those issues by bringing in a few younger players, who are hungry, ambitious, and very talented – players such as Josip Brekalo and Nikola Vlasic, who were very important during qualifying. We also found an excellent new forward in Bruno Petkovic, so we managed to refresh our team with some new faces, while maintaining quality with experienced world-class players such as Modric, [Ivan] Rakitic and [Ivan] Perisic,” Dalic answered when asked about qualifying for the Euro.

“I often say that togetherness is the most important quality of this group and, yes, that was true again during the qualifiers. We had some unexpected setbacks, such as losing in Hungary and dropping points to Azerbaijan, but the reaction was always fantastic. For instance, after the defeat in Budapest, we won against Wales with a quality display, and then played a brilliant game in Slovakia, winning 4-0. The leadership of our captain (Modric) was also so important in dealing with tough times; along with other senior players, he gives confidence to the whole team,” Dalic added about how Croatia tackled any setbacks along the way. 

“I love what our young players bring to the team and it will be great for them to experience the EURO with the likes of Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, and others, because the future belongs to them. Nikola Vlasic scored three very important goals for us during qualifying, while Josip Brekalo is a talented winger and played in nine matches out of ten in 2019, which shows the trust we have in him. We have a number of players who are about to enter the best years of their careers – such as Kovacic, Petkovic, Livakovic or Jedvaj, all of whom 25 or younger and played a major role during qualifying. Their quality and attitude tells me that Croatia will still be in excellent hands even after some of our senior players like Luka retire from the national team at some point.”

Croatia, as a World Cup finalist, is a particular challenge for all rivals.

“For any opponent, playing Croatia is now seen as a huge game and they all play with a lot of energy, focus and desire to beat the World Cup finalists. We understand that and we prepare for it, but it still means we get everybody’s best shot and that’s not easy to deal with game after game. All the same, if you’re a competitor, you enjoy that challenge, and you want to show everybody that you deserved your silver medals. And we have a team full of competitors who love to represent Croatia, and who understand the importance and privilege of playing for the national team,” said Dalic.

At the Euros, Croatia awaits England, the Czech Republic and the Nations League playoff winner.

“If you look at our World Cup Final starting XI, and then at our team at the end of EURO qualifying, you can see that we’ve changed quite a lot. We don’t have as experienced a team as we did during the World Cup but, in some areas, we might be even better. If you look at our 4-0 win in Slovakia, that was as good a performance as we’ve had during my time as Croatia head coach – the World Cup included. That performance showed that Croatia will be formidable opponents for anybody, not only at the EURO, but for years to come,” Dalic said.

“It’s a tough group, but there are no easy groups at major tournaments. The game against England will be an especially great challenge. They have the big advantage of playing at home, but that will also bring additional pressure to them, which is not always easy to cope with. We managed to beat England at Wembley once, in 2007, and hopefully we can do it again. But we also understand it’s not the only game in the group – we need to be ready for a very solid Czech Republic, as well as a difficult third opponent, whoever that turns out to be. Our goal will be to qualify for the next round and then try to recapture the magic from Russia in the knockout stage.”

You can read the full interview in English on the FIFA website.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.


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