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Croatia coach Dalić talks about facing Brazil in World Cup quarterfinal

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic Euro 2020

Zlatko Dalić (Photo credit: Кирилл Венедиктов/Soccer.ru/Creative Commons)

The morning after Croatia beat Japan on penalties to advance through to the quarterfinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, coach Zlatko Dalić addressed the media. 

“It’s a beautiful morning, to be among the top eight in the world, really great. Deserved. We celebrated a little after returning to the hotel, each in his own way. I didn’t get to watch the match, I fell asleep, I was tired and exhausted. However, after this match I don’t need a special analysis, Croatia played well, the way it should have played. In the first half, we imposed our style of play for the first half hour, and then got into unnecessary nervousness with several mistakes and put the opponent in a better state. Afterwards we made amends,” Dalić said for the HNS website. 

Against Brazil the pressure will be on them

“Realistically, Brazil is the most powerful and best team in this World Cup. When you look at their selection of players, quality, breadth and value, it’s terrifying. We have a big test ahead of us and a difficult task against a team that likes to compete. They will need to prepare very well for that match, but we have nothing to fear. We have to go into the match with a lot of faith and confidence, look for our opportunities and enjoy football. Extract Brazil, that’s it. Maybe it’s too early, it would be better if it were the final. Brazil is the favourite, but we will not give up. We will try to prepare well and rest, give our best and fight back. They are not a team that tolerates someone else having possession.”

Questions about the attack ahead of the quarterfinal 

“We will see what and how, everyone got a chance and had their minutes. I said that we will deploy like that, considering that we don’t have someone who is number 1. There are no more attackers from Atletico and Juventus, now we have attackers from Dinamo, Hajduk and Osasuna. Don’t live in the clouds, we have what we have.

The guys are of good quality, they can and we will again look for the best solution there. It is not fair to these guys to dissect the game, whether it was nice or not. The boys have made the top eight in the world.

This is not figure skating, this is a fight for a result. Croatia made it and deserves praise. Whether someone scored a goal or not, they tried and that’s it. I congratulate the guys once again, great respect to everyone. We’ll see what we do. Whatever we did in Qatar was a good and successful move. When you are among the top eight in the world, it means that you did everything right. It will be the same against Brazil.”

Brazil’s performances so far in Qatar

“I followed every Brazil match, including the one yesterday, for a part. Switzerland had the best tactics and opposed Brazil the best, and Serbia in the first half until the first goal. The Swiss were the most compact and offered the best resistance. Okay, Cameroon won, but Brazil played a different team. We have to copy the model of Switzerland.”

Croatia’s chances against Brazil

“Brazil is the favourite, let’s not lie. They have confidence and a great atmosphere, top players, Neymar is back. Great national team, but we can oppose them, we have to choose tactics wisely. It’s not smart to go into a rally with them and give them space, we’ll do scouting, talk to the players. It is not a 50:50 match, but we are not outsiders either. We will try to be good.”

Since 2002, Brazil has been eliminated by European teams at the World Cup

“Brazil is a really powerful national team that is by far the strongest in the Qatar in terms of player selection and everything, but we will not give up. We can only enjoy the match.”

The atmosphere after reaching the quarterfinals

“One of our reasons for being among the top eight and being here where we are is the family atmosphere, togetherness and trust, which is huge. Croatia is certainly one of the most orderly national teams in terms of everything, statements, treatment, fair play, games, behaviour… We don’t have any outbursts, fights, problems, incidents… We have internal punishments, but none have been carried out yet, everyone respects everything. I would like to thank the players who did not play a minute. When they grunt and do some things that are not nice, they usually drag two or three players with them, and we don’t have that here. I have a staff that is hit a million percent, it’s people who have played with the guys for a long time, who know all their secrets.

We live in Doha as a big family, we have been there for twenty days, we were in Russia for 52 days and that makes me happy. There is also the selection of players, all who thought they were above Croatia, are no longer with us. The rest of the team is healthy, they know they have to respect that and that rewards them. I am proud and happy. I said that they have gone down in history, as they have in Russia. Let’s be realistic, if everything goes according to plan: England, Holland, France, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, Croatia. Full stop! Germany has gone home, Belgium is home, Denmark is home, Italy is home, Uruguay is home…”

Ivan Perišić has scored more than half of the goals during Zlatko Dalić’s tenure

“The most important goals for the national team were scored by Perišić and Kramarić. From something that is difficult and impossible, he scores a goal. In the semi-final against England, in the final against France, the same yesterday. He is a very important player for us, an essential link, I am glad that he became Croatia’s top scorer in major competitions. Huge respect, he does a great job and when it’s difficult for us, he scores. Great respect, he and Kramarić scored the most important goals during my tenure. However, they are part of the team, they are not on their own.”

Penalties – luck or training

“Luck is important in everything, but you can’t just be lucky and be second or among the top eight in the world. It’s not just like that, the mental strength, determination and courage of the players is important. Yesterday, Vlašić came and said: “I want to shoot first”, he took responsibility, showed confidence. Maybe they weren’t planned to shoot penalties, Luka, Brozović, Perišić were there, but they weren’t on and that strengthened their confidence even more. The day before we took penalties in training where Livaković brilliantly saved four of five shots, so that instilled faith in me. So it’s not luck, but mental strength, self-confidence, toughness. There’s also a bit of luck, but it’s more the latter.”

What to say about Joško Gvardiol

“I will not talk about Joško Gvardiol, I will talk about the Croatian national team and the team. Joško is 20 years old, I will repeat once again that he is the best centre-back in the world or among the best. I wish him to continue like this and act like this, think smartly and intelligently. Don’t be angry, but I will not talk about individuals, but about the Croatian national team”.

The future of the national team

“We have a new generation of players who have yet to do something, it’s good that they grow up and play alongside older players, Modrić, Perišić, Brozović, Kovačić, Lovren… because they can learn a lot from them. 

We’ve always had talent, but we’re a relatively small country, so we don’t have the amount of players and our results suffer. We were third and then second in the world in the last 20 years, so a generation always appears and I don’t fear for the future. The generation from Russia played together for ten years, had its ups and downs, but everything came back at the World Cup in Russia four years ago. God willing that we keep the competitiveness we have now. Brazil has 250 million inhabitants, Croatia only four, as if we are a suburb of a Brazilian city.“

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