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Zlatko Dalić talks about draw with Albania and answers criticism

Zlatko Dalic croatia coach

Zlatko Dalić

Disappointed, sad, and shocked were the expressions on the faces of the Croatian players and coach Zlatko Dalić after they let a 2-1 lead slip in the dying moments yesterday against Albania at Euro 2024.

After a night’s sleep, Dalić talked to the media today and answered questions from the press.

Did the new players bring energy in the second half? Are you close to deciding if they will play against Italy? The Croatian public is always ready to give praise, but now the criticism is coming…

Yes, they brought us energy, and they pushed hard to turn the game in our favour. We were much better than in the first half. We have four days until the Italy match to see what is best.

I have learned to deal with criticism, less with praise, more with criticism, although there have been many successes in my seven years. I handle it normally, I have no problems with it.

When we lose and play poorly, I take responsibility, and it’s the same now. I accept criticism and deal with it as best I can. I am aware that when we win medals, my role is minimal. That’s how it is in Croatia – said Dalić, 24sata writes.

Brozović is mentioned the most, we know how much he has given to the national team, but we all see he is not at his best. Should action have been taken sooner, even after Spain? The Saudi league is often cited as a reason for his decline.

Marcelo is a giant of Croatian football, always giving his maximum. We didn’t say this after the Portugal match, then he was brilliant.

Now it’s a fact that we are not functioning as a team, and then neither is he at his best. We have never lost so many easy balls in midfield, and Broz tries to save everything. It’s not just about Broz.

My idea is to have possession through those three midfielders, to open up with three players. Brozović may be in bad form, but the game against Portugal was good, Spain was what it was.

Marcelo Brozovic playing for Croatia agains Spain Euro 2024

Marcelo Brozović

There are many mistakes in front of him, and it seems like he isn’t covering something. We can’t just focus on one individual. The Saudi league is what it is, he had a good season there, but it proves that the league is not trivial. Kanté returned to the French national team, and was the player of the match. It’s a consequence of the whole team’s performance.

We are on the verge of elimination after the group stage, which hasn’t happened since the World Cup in Brazil in 2014?

We were on the verge of elimination in Qatar, and at the last Euros, we had such situations. For us, the knockout phase begins now, let’s see it that way.

The match means everything to us, a win pushes us further, a loss knocks us out. We need to maintain a positive atmosphere, accept responsibility and mistakes so we don’t repeat them.

In Russia, we didn’t concede a goal in the group stage, in Qatar we conceded one, and now five. Every dangerous attack ends in our net, we are not functioning as we should.

After Portugal, everyone said that was it, we played well, and now it’s worse. We need to change that approach, this is a knockout phase, let’s get through it as best we can.

We conceded only four goals in the qualifiers, now already five. We are one of the few teams without a single yellow card. Only Ivušić got one from the bench.

That indicates we are not aggressive enough, not close to the players. We concede goals from crosses, we need to block those. We are not good in that part of the game. That’s the reason, we lack aggression, we couldn’t establish that part of the game.

All five goals were conceded easily, the last goal yesterday was from a counter in the 95th minute. We were leading 2-1. We didn’t see it through, we stood too far away, we lack aggression.

How do you respond to claims that you are too paternal towards some players?

I haven’t heard that, I have behaved the same all these years, those who deserve to play, play. I make decisions with the coaching staff, thinking about what is best. Some players have credit, but I consider what is best for the team and myself.

My fate depends on what I do. If I look at someone paternally, it won’t end well. Everyone here deserves to be here. When we made the squad list, 98% of you agreed with it.

This probably refers to older players who have been with me since Russia, and I will be grateful to them for as long as I live, but they will play as much as they deserve. I don’t claim to always get it right, to always see everything best, but these are my decisions.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić celebrating

Zlatko Dalić

What are the reasons for the constant lateness in blocking? Is it due to poorer physical preparation?

We are the second team in terms of kilometres run after the first round. But we are not close. In Portugal, we were all close, now we are too wide and too far, we don’t go into collective pressing, we get lost there.

That’s evident from the last goal against Albania. We ended up three-on-three, not close, too far away.

Yesterday you wanted to bring on Pjaca and Baturina earlier but changed your mind after communication with the captain?

We wanted to bring on Pjaca and Baturina, to cause problems on the left side with Pjaca. The score was 0-1, with Pjaca we wanted to gain penetration, but after the goal, we changed our idea.

We knew Perišić couldn’t play all 90 minutes at that pace. Our goal changed our story.

How fit is Perišić? It seems he isn’t fully ready?

I once talked about percentages, and you “destroyed” me. He is fit, trains to the maximum, but after nine months it’s not easy for him. He gives as much as he can.

We are quite slow going forward, Budimir isn’t fast, but he is more direct and in better form. Why did you choose Petković instead of Budimir?

We analysed Albania, they play 5-4-1, sitting deep. We knew we would have possession, and Bruno is more important in that situation.

He knows how to draw a foul, our plan was for the ball to reach Bruno, and then players to move into open spaces. That was our idea, that we would try that way.

They stayed in a deep zone, and we counted on passing and breakthroughs. We wanted to achieve that with Bruno, that’s why we chose him. Ante hasn’t lost his place, we play those we think are the best.

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