Zlatko Dalic: ‘For Croatia, this is history being written’

The coach underlines the significance of a World Cup final berth for a small country like Croatia.

Historic moment: Zlatko Dalic celebrates Croatia’s win.   -  AFP

The possibility of Croatia playing the 2018 World Cup final would have looked improbable at the start of the tournament. The team, however, started its Russian campaign in the right earnest, winning its second group game against heavyweight Argentina. An all-win group stage record made it the early favourite against Denmark in the round-of-16, but it came up with a laboured performance.

The team has now accounted for England in the semifinals and will take on France — which had defeated it in the 1998 semifinal — in the final.

‘Historical significance’

“In 1998, I was in France for the first three games as a supporter, but I had to go back as I was an active player and there was pre-season,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, who was playing with NK Varazdin back then, said. “I remember we celebrated (Davor) Sukur’s goal but as soon as we sat back it was equal. That game has a historical significance and maybe Dear Lord is giving us a chance to settle scores. Both teams in the final have quality and we are not seeking revenge but to fight for ourselves.”

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Explaining the significance of a final appearance for a small country like Croatia, the coach added: “For Croatia, as a country, this is history being written. We are going to play England in the League of Nation in September and we don’t have a ground for that. So, you can imagine how big this is. Our fans were louder and they were carrying us when we were down. I will like to thank them and the entire region.”

‘Remarkable’

Doffing his hat to his players, who have survived three energy-sapping 120-minute long knockout games, Dalic also had a word of thanks for his medical team. “What our players did today, the strength, stamina is remarkable. I wanted to make changes but nobody wanted to come off,” he said. “My hats off to the doctors, trainers, physical trainers and everyone else. Two of our players played with half a leg and it didn't show. Nobody wanted to say that they are not ready and that shows character.”

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The manager, now, wants to enjoy this epic win before deciding on his stratagem for France. “France has no weakness, otherwise they won’t be in the final. We will discuss France tomorrow as we are taking things step by step,” he said. “We have entered the final so we will celebrate and rest and then start our work. We will be ready for them and it will be an enjoyable match.”

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