The Croatian national team gathers in Zagreb today before the start of the qualification cycle for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar with matches against Slovenia (Ljubljana, March 24), Cyprus (Rijeka, March 27) and Malta (Rijeka, March 30).
Vatreni coach Zlatko Dalić is looking forward to the gathering after a four-month break but he will be without the services of Ante Rebić and Bruno Petković.
“After Ante Rebić dropped out due to injury, Bruno Petković, who injured his shoulder during yesterday’s game against Gorica, has now been ruled out. Unfortunately, we are left without two important attacking players. Bruno has been in very good shape lately and his injury has significantly disrupted the preparation for the match against Slovenia. We will miss him, but I hope for a quick recovery so that he can at least help Dinamo in the Europa League,” Dalić said, before adding.
“With Bruno, our game is different, but, it is what it is, we will not regret. Fortunately, everything is fine with the arrival of Perišić and Brozović from Inter, we expect them at today’s training. All in all, we have three important matches ahead of us, of which the one with Slovenia is the most demanding, especially since we will gather only this evening and we will play on Wednesday. However, it is the same for both teams.”
Dalić says that the goal is to qualify for Qatar and it is important to start well on Wednesday.
“I expect us to be very motivated, responsible and serious, because that is the only way we can create a result,” Dalić said.
Mislav Oršić, who grabbed the headlines after scoring a hat-trick against Tottenham in the Europa League on Thursday, will get some game time over the next week.
“I have already spoken several times about Dinamo and Mislav, about their great form and game. Oršić deserved to be in the national team and of course he will get some minutes, but everything I thought about, everything I planned falls into the water when someone gets injured. So, I’ll wait a bit, talk to the players. We haven’t been together for a long time, I don’t know the condition of all the players, we were thinking about one variant, but now things are changing. We will have to make some changes, and Mislav is definitely in contention for the match against Slovenia. He had a difficult game against Tottenham, he played 120 minutes, he played against Gorica again (on Sunday), so I have to think about that. In any case, Mislav is a very important player, who with his form and quality can help and I expect that from him. ”
Dalić’s assistant, Ivica Olić, is a strong candidate for the new coaching job at CSKA Moscow and the Croatia coach says he will be sorry if he loses his right-hand man.
“Olic and I talked about this issue on Saturday. I will be sorry if Ivica Olić leaves the national team. However, if Ivica decides to take such a step, he will have my full support and my help in every way. It is a big challenge for him, it is a big club, but it is also a big thing for the Croatian national team and football in general. I wasn’t thinking about whether someone would replace him, we’ll see what happens and decide.”
Dalić says that none of the three opening qualifiers will be easy.
“Today there are no easy opponents, we have to go into every game seriously, motivated and disciplined as possible. Of course, the Slovenes are the toughest opponent in this first cycle of matches, I extremely appreciate and respect their coach, Matjaž Kek, who did great things with Rijeka, but also with the Slovenian national team. We are the favourites and we have to impose ourselves in Ljubljana.”