Mandzukic is the soul of the Croatia team, says Dalic

Ahead of its match against Denmark, Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic has highlighted just how important Mario Mandzukic is to the team.

Mario Mandzukic   -  Getty Images

Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic has labelled Mario Mandzukic as the "soul of the team" ahead of its last-16 clash with Denmark. 

The Vatreni qualified for the knockout stages having won all three of its group games, and looked extremely impressive in cruising to a 3-0 victory over Argentina.

Dalic rung the changes for its Group D finale with Iceland, but Croatia still prevailed 2-1, and now head to Nizhny Novgorod for an enticing encounter with Denmark on Sunday.

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This is the first time since it reached the semi\inals in its maiden World Cup appearance as an independent nation in 1998 that Croatia have made it out of the group stage, and Mandzukic has played a key role.

Mandzukic has yet to score in the tournament, but Dalic has still been impressed with his performances and said of the Juventus forward: "Regardless of whether he scored or not, Mario represents the soul of the Croatian team. He pushes us. He is our first line of defence. I told him on our US tour that he was to be a forward not a winger."

"He might be missing a goal but hopefully it can come against Denmark and in the later stages in the tournament. He means a lot for the whole team and we appreciate that."

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