ZAGREB, 4 June 2021 – The Croatian national football team gathered again on Friday after two days off, to prepare for their final friendly match ahead of Euro 2020 on Sunday against Belgium in Brussels.
With just 9 days before Croatia takes on England in the opening match of Euro 2020, coach Zlatko Dalić has given an interview to HNS.
“Apart from the result against Armenia, everything else was good. We had minor injury problems, especially concerning Lovren. It is a problem that lasts, but is solved, and everything else is realised as we imagined. I repeat, there was a bit of a bitter taste after the draw with Armenia, because we had to win that game 4: 0, 5: 0… That’s what I’m dissatisfied with, everything else is OK,” Dalić said.
You have tried some things against Armenia, can you single out the pluses and minuses in the team’s game?
“A big plus is the fact that we have created six or seven hundred percent opportunities, as many as we have not created in all three previous qualifying matches together, ie against Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta. The downside is that we did not use those opportunities, that we were a bit nonchalant, irresponsible and inconsistent on that issue. Some chances were easier to miss than to score. If we managed to realise these opportunities, the result would be more favourable and automatically the atmosphere would be better. It’s always easier when you win. However, when I saw the fact that we ran 118 kilometres against Armenia, that we had a high intensity of running and a lot of sprints, then I really have to be satisfied with that.”
There is not much time until the start of the Euro. What will be the biggest focus in the coming period?
“We are focused on the match with England, we will deal with tactics, the way we will play, we will practice defensive set pieces. The match with Belgium will be a good test, if there are things that are not good, we will try to pay attention to them and try to correct them. In the same way, we will try to refresh the team as much as possible and standardise it.”
What is the situation with Brekalo, Lovren and Gvardiola?
“Lovren is still working on a special programm3, but his situation is getting better. Gvardiola and Brekalo have injuries, we will take care of them and if they are not one hundred percent ready for tomorrow’s training, they will not play against Belgium. There is no point in forcing, forcing one hundred percent work if they are not fit. We will wait for them, but according to all the findings, the two of them should be OK.”
What follows is a match against Belgium, currently one of the best national teams in the world. What kind of Croatia can we expect and will it be a dress rehearsal for England?
“The match with Belgium is a big test and challenge for us. We are playing against the best national team in the world according to Fifa’s rankings on its field. It will be a very good preparation for England, we have to show our quality and strength, especially in the defensive phase, to resist a strong opponent who has exceptional individuals. That game will show us a lot of things, whether we are on the right path or not.”
How important is the result in the match against Belgium? A victory against such a renowned opponent would raise confidence before the Euro?
“The result is always important, as I told the boys before the meeting with Armenia that we have to win in order for the atmosphere to be better. The result brings self-confidence and that is why we will look for the result along with the game.”
How do you comment on the situation in Scotland and the appearance of coronavirus in their ranks?
“The Scots had seven players out of the machine and nonetheless drew with the Netherlands, they even led until the last minute. This is a problem that has been following us all in football for some time, daily testing is a psychological pressure. We think about it all the time, we are careful, but we can neither stop nor prevent it. We have to live with it.”
Do you already know the lineup for England?
“I know the composition and the way we will play against the English, but we will keep it to ourselves, as we always do. We will try some more things in the upcoming trainings, we have to standardise, determine the starting lineup, give tasks to the players. England is a special match in which we will have to position ourselves differently than against the Czech Republic and Scotland. That’s how we’ll put the team together. Doubts in the composition? It will depend on the opponent and our demands. In any case, there is no place for dissatisfaction and disagreement in the national team.”
All national teams have registered their players for the Euro. Who do you consider distinct favourites?
“There are several national teams that have the right to hope for the title, the current world champions are the French, the English who have a fantastic young team and the hosts, the current European champions the Portuguese, and certainly the Belgians. Right next to them are Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, but also Croatia. An uncertain, high-quality and difficult championship awaits us.”
And finally. What is your message to Croatian fans on the eve of the Euro?
“I told the boys at the meetings, so I will repeat, the Croatian people are again expecting a good result. We want to make the Croatian people happy again, we must accept that responsibility. In the past, the results may not be the best, but all the goals have been set. We really miss the fans, we know the synergy between them and us, I hope we will be good again. That is our obligation to the Croatian people.”