Zlatko Dalic Interviews with FIFA: "Croatia Has a Bright Future"

By 23 December 2020
Zlatko Dalic Interviews with FIFA: "Croatia Has a Bright Future"
Slobodan Kadic

December 23, 2020 - As 2020 comes to a close, Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalic interviews with FIFA about a hopefully bright year ahead. 

Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalic interviewed for the official website of the International Football Federation, FIFA, in which he commented on the turbulent world of football in 2020 and announced the challenging 2021 for the 'Vatreni,' which is just around the corner.

FIFA introduced Dalic by remembering Croatia's fairy tale at the 2018 World Cup, where they lost in the final to France.

A lot has changed since then. 

With Mario Mandzukic, Danijel Subasic, and Vedran Corluka retiring shortly after the World Cup silver, Dalic was forced to bring in promising young stars to the squad, hoping they could fill their shoes. 

With talented youngsters, Dalic's Croatia qualified for the Euros, but that is nothing compared to the grueling 2021 ahead, with World Cup qualifiers beginning in March and the European Championship next summer. 

Dalic was first asked about Croatia's World Cup qualifying group, including Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Malta.

"There are no easy groups because qualifying for the World Cup is a dream for every nation. We have a tough group, but we accept our position as a favourite in the group - we're the best-seeded team, and we are current World Cup silver medallists. We truly respect all opponents in the group," Dalic began. 

"Obviously, the schedule will be very tight in March and September with three games in one week. It leaves almost no time for training, and with the long travels, it's very challenging for the players to play three so important games, especially with their club schedule also being quite exhausting. It will be important to plan very well and try to manage our resources the best that we can, to protect the players while going for the best results. However, it's the same for everybody, so we won't use that as an excuse.

The other issue is the fact that we have the EURO in the middle of the qualifiers, which is unusual, and it will also present a problem for all EURO participants. For instance, you are starting the qualifiers with one team, but it's possible that after EURO, some players retire from the national team, so you have to make important changes in the middle of the cycle," he continued for FIFA.

Asked about if he feels even more pressure because Croatia reached the World Cup final in 2018, Dalic replied:

"I think people understand that 2018 was special and that you can't repeat that every two or four years. I think we had more pressure in 2018 when we knew it was probably a last chance for some of our senior players. Now, our pressure is to qualify - we want to be there, among the best.

Once we're there, we know that we have the quality, talent, and self-belief to beat anyone on a given night, but we also understand that Croatia is not in the first row of favourites - that's reserved for the biggest teams, such as France, Spain, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, England, Italy, Belgium or Portugal. Of course, as we showed in 1998 and 2018, that doesn't mean Croatia can't make a historic run, but I don't think we have pressure to do that."

Dalic spoke about how much the Croatia squad has changed since that final:

"Players such as Rakitic, Mandzukic, Subasic, and Corluka are no longer with us, and we have talented youngsters coming in and taking on bigger roles. We used the UEFA Nations League in 2018 and 2020 to give a chance to several new players, and we got through the EURO 2020 qualifying cycle quite well.

Luka Modric is still our leader, and with Brozovic and Kovacic alongside him, we still have one of the best midfields in the world. Senior players such as Perisic, Vida, and Lovren give us much-needed experience, and we also have young guns, such as Brekalo and Vlasic, who proved their potential, so we feel pretty good ahead when it comes to our future."

And what can Croatia achieve at the Euros next summer?

"We fulfilled our dreams in Russia - that was unforgettable for everybody involved, and for our fans as well. But it also gives us an extra motivation because we know how special it is to make the whole nation so joyful and proud. With the current pandemic going on, and so many lives lost, we understand that the whole nation will look at us to make them happy once again, and it's our obligation to do our very best to try to replicate that magic from Russia.

As I mentioned before - there are a few teams that are, objectively, ahead of us at the moment. But, we're pretty confident in our quality, and we surely won't admit to anyone they're better than us until they prove that on the pitch. And that's very difficult to do, because not only do we have the quality, but we also play with so much passion and togetherness for Croatia," Dalic said.

You can read the full interview on the FIFA website HERE.

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