Croatia coach and FIFA coach of the year finalist Zlatko Dalić says that the next seven months in the lead up to the first EURO 2020 qualifier will be used as a time to find new energy and develop some new players.
Dalić says results over the next seven months, when Croatia will play a number of friendlies and Nations League matches, will not be the most important thing.
“The break (until the EURO 2020 qualifiers) is very good for us. We are spent after the World Cup. We need some time to collect our strength. We need time now to prepare, to test new players and find new energy,” Dalić told Nova TV.
Dalić’s first chance to blood some new players into his squad comes tomorrow night in a friendly against Portugal.
It will be just over 50 days since Croatia played France in the World Cup final in Russia, but the side that takes the field tomorrow night in Algarve will have a different look to it.
With Mario Mandžukić, Vedran Ćorluka and goalkeeper Danijel Subašić now retired, and injuries and other circumstances ruling out Dejan Lovren, Ivan Strinić, Ante Rebić, Andrej Kramarić, and Ivan Rakitić, Dalić has his first chance to give some players are chance he will hoping to rely on during the EURO 2020 qualifying campaign.
Lovre Kalinić, the new no.1 goalkeeper, is expected to start, as too will Mateo Kovačić, who is finally getting regular match-play now at Chelsea. Marko Pjaca, another bench player, will get more time, as too will Anderlecht’s Ivan Santini as Dalić looks to find a replacement for Mandžukić.
Dalić will also want to have a look at fellow strikers Marko Livaja and Duje Čop over the next two matches.
“I called in Livaja, Santini and Čop. They have been playing well for their clubs and now they have a chance to show what they can do for the national team. We have time to find new energy and real quality. There is no Mandžo (Mandžukić) and we need to find a worthy replacement. We have a chance now to find some new players,” Dalic added.
Luka Modrić, who is having the year of his career, will lead the side with a couple of other experienced players around him in Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović. Domagoj Vida, time Vrsaljko and Josip Pivarić will lead the back four.
The match will kick-off at 8:45 pm CET.
Croatia will then head to Spain where they will take on former World and European champions on Tuesday.