Croatia Zlatko Dalić spoke to the press on Monday, a day before his side takes on Argentina in the semifinal of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Dalić spoke about Argentina, the realisation of dreams that he thought belonged only to big names and more ahead of what is one of the biggest matches in the history of Croatian football.
“We made it to the top four teams in the world, which is a great success for Croatia, it’s a big thing that we’ve done it two World Cups in a row. Now we want more, we’re playing against a great Argentina, an excellent team led by Leo Messi. They have more pressure, we know how they play what they want to win the match for. I trust the players, we won’t adapt much, Croatia will impose its own way of playing,” said the Croatian coach.
How much energy is left?
“We spent a lot, we played two games that went into extra-time, but we are in the semi-finals of the World Cup and we are not talking about whether we have strength. We have strength, will and energy, that is not in doubt. We will do our best as in every game. We have good situation, we don’t have big problems with injuries, the boys are healthy and fit, I hope also rested. I won’t ask them if they are tired, they don’t want to be tired.”
At the 2018 World Cup in Russia Croatia beat Argentina 3-0.
“This is a new and completely different match than in 2018, when it was in the group stages, it was not a decisive match. We played very well, we scored goals from every chance. We were compact, fighting and strong, we will be like that now, but that match from Russia has nothing to do with this. We have a big game ahead of us, especially for Argentina, but also for us. There will be no savings and calculations, I expect a nice and hopefully fair game from both sides.”
Argentina’s quarterfinal against the Netherlands was heated.
“I won’t go back to that, I understand those people, there were great emotions, Argentina had huge expectations. I didn’t blame anyone for that. We watched the match with the Netherlands, it was very combative, a lot of duels and non-football situations. We want to avoid that at all costs and I hope the ref will have the matter in his hands.”
“For me, the biggest match was the semi-final with England, then Brazil, but if we win, it would be the biggest and most important victory for Croatia. After four years, repeating the success with a mostly new national team would be fantastic.”
What did he see from Argentina in the quarter-finals?
“Messi is in great form and can solve the game by himself, but he has the support of his teammates in combativeness and compactness, they are well balanced. They relaxed a little and the Netherlands equalised, maybe that warned them. I expect them to be even more combative, they will have a great support from the stands, it’s a handicap for us. The pressure is on them. We’re playing with one of the greatest teams in the world in history and we’re going to enjoy football.”
How important is it that the players from the bench played a significant role?
“When we were preparing for the World Cup and named the squad, we said that we had width. Everyone did a fair job, with all the changes a hit. All the decisions were made together by the staff and I. We got a bigger dimension with that.”
Before the last game with Argentina in 2018, he told the players to enjoy themselves.
“I always tell the players to enjoy their football, there is no success if you don’t enjoy your work. The players of the Croatian national team are happy and this time I will tell them to enjoy football. We came to the top four where we might not have expected this year. The whole world is watching what will one small Croatia do.
At that time, I could not have imagined that I would reach this situation, that I would lead Croatia in the final and now in the semi-final, I thought it was reserved for some other guys, not for me. Thank God, he made it possible for me. I am grateful for that. Whatever happens, I am proud of my work, of my Croatia. I am so proud. I’m a happy man. I had a dream to lead Croatia, to lead my people, but my dream did not reach such high limits as these.”
How does he feel that Morocco is also in the semi-finals?
“Everyone has the right to their dream. Four years ago, Croatia made that dream possible for all the little ones, gave them the right to dream it. At that time, no one expected that we would be in the final, inspired by our example, struggle and quality, all the other teams lived that dream dream, and so does Morocco. They have had great support, got passed Belgium, Spain and Portugal, they have the right to hope that they will be the best. But let Croatia have the right to be the best as well.”