Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Croatia U21s Undefeated in Euro 2023 Qualifiers after Beating Austria 3:1

November 16, 2021 - More good news for Croatian football with the Croatia U21s undefeated in the Euro 2023 qualifiers so far, this time beating Austria away 3:1.

The young Croatia national football team continued their Euro 2023 qualifiers against Austria on Monday - and with an away win, Croatia has recorded its sixth victory in the same number of matches in the European Championship qualifiers. Igor Bišćan's team defeated Austria 3:1 (0:2) in a Croatia-fan-dominated Ried. Lukas Kačavenda, Bartol Franjić, and Luka Sučić scored for Croatia, while Romano Schmid scored for Austria. 

Croatia was dangerous already in the 10th minute when Marin found Boško Šutalo with a corner kick on the near post, though the ball was sent over the goal. Austria retaliated two minutes later when Demir fired a free kick from more than 20 meters, but Kotarski was solid in the defense. 

Kačavenda put Croatia in the lead in the 14th minute with an excellent goal. The Lokomotiva striker nailed the upper right corner from 20 meters.

Austria came close to equalizing in the 17th and 21st minutes. 

Croatia crowned a better game in the first half with another goal. In the 41st minute, Sučić sent the ball far post from a free kick. Captain Franjić's shot bounced off the goal and crossed the goal line before Hedl managed to control it.

At the beginning of the second half, Croatia increased its advantage after Marin was knocked down on the edge of the penalty area. Sučić scored for 3:0. 

Austria threatened Croatia often in the last half hour. Austria finally got a goal in the 67th minute when Schmid scored a precise shot from 20 meters, similar to Kačavenda's goal in the first half.

In the second game in this group played on Tuesday, Norway defeated Azerbaijan 2:1 away. Croatia now has 18 points, Norway is second with 15, and Austria third with 12 and a game more.

Croatia thus stays at the top of the group with a three-point advantage over Norway. Their qualifying journey will continue at the end of March next year when they will compete against Austria and Finland at home.

Nine group winners and the best second-placed team will qualify for the European Championships, while the remaining eight runners-up will advance to additional qualifications.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Zlatko Dalić on Future Croatia Captain and Modrić's Successor

November 16, 2021 - Zlatko Dalić hinted at who should replace Luka Modrić as the future Croatia captain - and he happens to be one of the biggest European stars this year. 

A tearful Zlatko Dalić was seen at the final whistle after Croatia secured their spot at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Dalić admitted that this dramatic ending to the World Cup qualifications was moving and he was delighted to lead Croatia to defend the World Cup silver next year. 

In an interview with Nova TV, Dalić was full of emotions. 

"One of my biggest victories; it meant a lot to me. Especially because it was the final, played in front of a full stadium, and it took us to Qatar. I was just emotionally broken. This time I couldn't stand it with so much pressure and stress. We wanted Croatia to qualify; we prevailed, in those moments I couldn't control myself, everything was released."

He announced that Croatia could move to a system with three players in the back.

"We will try a formation with three defenders. We will need to prepare very well for the World Cup. There will not be many terms to play, we have to expect great things from Croatia, but we cannot get a result without these older players."

There has been a lot of talk about returning Ivan Rakitić to the national team.

"I am in contact with him. Ivan did not have the opportunity to be with us because of Covid-19; now was the chance to thank him, and we invited him to Split. He retired, so we will see. If the need arises, we will talk, but one should look at our youth. However, Ivan said that if the need arises, he is there."

Dalić then praised Mato Kovačić.

"I have to point out Mateo Kovačić. He is Modrić's successor; he should become the captain of the national team. He is the biggest winner in 2021; he is the European champion, he plays great for the national team, he goes to the top, he cannot be replaced when he is healthy."

Modrić does not want to rest.

"Modrić wanted to play against Malta, I even wanted to replace him at half-time, and he wanted to play more. Luckily these young players can learn from him. The younger ones will progress much faster with the older ones like Modrić, Lovren, and Brozović."

Ivo Grbić was in goal for Croatia's last two games. 

"We changed the goalkeeper, we estimated that he is in better shape, but Livaković is still number one in the national team, and it is up to him to work and prove himself again. We have no problems with goalkeepers. Grbić deserved to defend, and Livaković must be even better to remain number one.

I have been leading the national team for five years. No money or contract can ruin this for me. Of course, there were difficult moments, but I forgot all that. What I experienced is irreplaceable. The fans are our strength," concluded Dalić.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 15 November 2021

Zlatko Dalić, Most Successful Croatia National Team Coach

November 15, 2021 - Croatia has qualified for the 2022 World Cup, making Zlatko Dalić the most successful Croatia national team coach we have seen. 

Just over four years ago, Zlatko Dalić took over the Croatia national team at its worst. Led by Ante Čačić at the time, Croatia drew against Finland in Rijeka and needed an away victory against Ukraine to secure additional qualifications for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Čačić was sacked, an unknown Dalić was announced as the coach, and proceeded to defeat Ukraine and Greece in additional World Cup qualifications. We all know what happens next. 

Four years later, Zlatko Dalić became the first Croatia coach to take the national team to three major competitions. In the meantime, he led Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final. Zlatko Dalić is thus the most successful Croatia national team coach, reports Index.hr.

Since participating independently in UEFA and FIFA competitions, Croatia has missed only two major competitions - Euro 2000 and the 2010 World Cup. Miroslav 'Ćiro' Blažević and Slaven Bilić are the only two Croatia coaches comparable to Zlatko Dalić, considering they are the only coaches who have led the national team in more than 50 games. Interestingly, no other coach on the bench has endured more than 25 games, which only testifies to how explosive the Croatia bench is.

Ćiro Blažević was the only coach who could successfully lead the national team in the 90s, and with the bronze medal at the 1998 World Cup, he earned the 'coach of all coaches' nickname. 

On the other hand, Slaven Bilić made the biggest tactical and personnel revolution in the national team's history. And with 42 wins in 65 games, he is by far the most successful coach in terms of win-loss ratios. 

Nevertheless, after defeating Russia, Zlatko Dalić not only qualified for his third major competition in a row, but for the second time, he showed that he does not need additional qualifications for such an achievement. Furthermore, after a weak start, he showed that it was unnecessary to switch coaches to ensure the national team would come out on top in critical qualification moments, putting him ahead of Blažević and Bilić today. 

From the beginning of his term, Zlatko Dalić was nearly doomed to fail, primarily because he was unknown compared to former coaches. He also did not have the full support of HNS and was seen as a temporary solution.

And Dalić's road to success was no walk in the park. Recall, Croatia experienced many painful defeats under Dalić, from losing a record 6:0 to Spain and another blunder against Portugal. Croatia has also played poorly against much weaker opponents, like Slovenia, Hungary, or Azerbaijan. And Dalić has not escaped media criticism.

However, the essential criteria for the success of a coach are qualifying for major competitions and getting good results. Dalić first took Croatia to the World Cup, reached the final for the first time, and then qualified for two major competitions, finishing first in the qualifying group.

No one before him has shown such peaks and continuity, and that is why the verdict is clear: as far as the Croatia national team and its coaches are concerned, Zlatko Dalić sits alone at the top. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 15 November 2021

Croatia National Team Schedule in 2022: From Nations League to World Cup

November 15, 2021 - The Croatia national team schedule in 2022 is slowly coming together after the Vatreni qualified for the World Cup at Poljud on Sunday. But the World Cup isn't the only big competition Croatia will play next year. 

The Croatia national football team defeated Russia at Poljud on Sunday and qualified for the 2022 World Cup, which Qatar will host from November 21 to December 18 next year, reports Gol.hr.

It will be Croatia's sixth World Cup and the third consecutive major competition in which the Vatreni qualified under coach Zlatko Dalić.

In addition to the World Cup host, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, Belgium, France, Serbia, Spain, and Croatia have qualified for Qatar. A total of 32 national teams will take part, but there is still a long way to complete the entire list of participants.

The World Cup group draw will be held on April 1, 2022, in Doha. On that day, coach Dalić and the players will learn the three national teams they will compete against in the group stage of the World Cup.

At this moment, while the European and other qualifications are still ongoing, it is impossible to know much more about Croatia's fate in the draw or the seed they will be given. 

But before all of that, we have the UEFA Nations League.

Namely, on December 16, the draw for the 2022 Nations League will be held, and a day later UEFA, will announce the exact schedule of matches, which will be held in only two national team windows in 2022.

For example, four Nations League rounds will be played from June 2 to 14, and the remaining two in the second half of September (from 22 to 27).

This does not mean that Croatia will rest at the end of March. While Russia and the remaining second-placed national teams will play additional World Cup qualifications, Croatia will play maybe three friendly matches as part of the World Cup preparations. Therefore, it will be a great chance for Dalić to test the form of the current national team members and those players on his national team radar. 

Significant dates for Croatia:
December 16, 2021: Nations League draw
December 17, 2021: Nations League match schedule announcement

March 21 to 30, 2022: 2-3 friendly matches

April 1, 2022: World Cup draw

June 2 to 4, 2022: First round of the Nations League
June 5 to 8, 2022: Second round of the Nations League
June 9 to 11, 2022: Third round of the Nations League
June 12 to 14, 2022: Fourth round of the Nations League

September 22 to 24, 2022: Fifth round of the Nations League
September 25 to 27, 2022: Sixth round of the Nations League

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

1:0 at Poljud: Croatia Qualifies for 2022 World Cup in Qatar!!!

November 14, 2021 - It was the match of the year and the biggest since Croatia made it to the 2018 World Cup final. With a 1:0 win against Russia at Poljud, Croatia qualifies for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar!

The Croatia national team played their final 2022 World Cup qualifier against Russia at a rainy Poljud Stadium in Split on Sunday.

30,257 fans were at Poljud, with around 500 Russia fans. Croatia needed a victory to win first in the group and qualify directly for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. All Russia needed was a draw. 

Coach Zlatko Dalić decided to start Dejan Lovren and Nikola Vlašić against Russia, replacing Duje Ćaleta-Car and Lovro Majer in the lineup compared to Thursday's win against Malta. 

Lineups

CROATIA: Grbić, Lovren, Gvardiol, Juranović, Sosa, Brozović, Modrić, Pašalić, Vlašić, Perišić, Kramarić 

RUSSIA: Safonov, Karavajev, Divejev, Dzhikiya, Kudryashov, Fomin, Barinov, Golovin, Ionov, Bakaev, Smolov

Recap

A slippery pitch was in no one's favor this afternoon at Poljud but Croatia came out attacking from the start. Perisic had the first shot on goal in the 5th minute.  The first corner for Croatia came in the 6th minute after Modric's ball to Sosa was deflected. 

Modric and Perisic had a quick one-two a minute later which Perisic sent to the top of the box but the wet pitch made it difficult for Vlasic to get a shot off. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Juranovic sent a brilliant ball to Kramaric's head in the 9th minute but the ball went to the keeper. It was the best chance of the game so far. 

Perisic and Vlasic had another chance in the 14th minute, though it was called out for a goal kick. 

The rain was relentless in the first 20 minutes as Croatia tried to maintain possession and was mostly in Russia's half. Sosa shot from 30 meters out in the 21st minute which went wide of the goal. 

A brilliant Croatia attack in the 23rd minute saw Brozovic hit just wide of the post which sent the crowd into a frenzy. A Juranovic cross found Perisic's head a minute later which swept the crossbar. 

Croatia was awarded a corner in the 26th minute. Modric went short to Brozovic who nailed the goal frame, but the Russia keeper punched the ball away to keep it 0:0.

Croatia was given another corner in the 31st minute after a Modric free kick was sent out by the Russia defense. 

Another perfect ball in by Juranic found Perisic at the near post who tried knocking it into the back of the net. The ball went out for a goal kick instead. 

Russia had a dangerous free kick in the 44th minute which was saved by Grbic. Their first corner of the game came in the 45th minute. The ref added two minutes of stoppage time and the match went into halftime at 0:0. 

The second half started with a shot from Kramaric followed by a header to the keeper one minute later. 

Croatia had a corner in the 47th minute and great chances in front of the goal but the pitch was a catastrophe, making it impossible to play. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Another brilliant attack by Croatia went out for a corner in the 52nd minute. Chance after chance and we failed to find the back of the net.

Juranovic found Kramaric down the right-wing, cut inside, and shot over the goal. Vlasic was subbed off for Petkovic in the 57th minute. 

Petkovic headed at the keeper in the 60th minute. Yet another attacking play found Brozovic who shot just wide of the post. Croatia was hungry for that goal but the adverse weather conditions did not let up. 

A Modric free kick found the head of Kramaric which also went just wide of the goal.  

Gvardiol sent a great ball in from the right wing in the 72nd minute which Petkovic headed at the keeper. 

Brekalo and Livaja went in for Juranovic and Pasalic in the 75th minute, an offensive decision by Dalic with only 15 minutes to go. 

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Slobodan Kadic

But the goal finally happened with 10 minutes to go - and it was an own goal at that. Kudryashov put Croatia ahead 1:0 in the 81st minute!!!

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Slobodan Kadic

Stanisic came on for Kramaric in the 85th minute.  

The ref added 4 minutes of stoppage time to the end of the match. 

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Slobodan Kadic

With a 1:0 result, Croatia goes to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar!!!!

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Zlatko Dalić and Luka Modrić: "Croatia-Russia Qualifier at Poljud is Our Final"

November 13, 2021 - The Croatia national team is in Split ahead of the last 2022 World Cup qualifier against Russia at Poljud on Sunday. Zlatko Dalić and Luka Modrić addressed the press on Saturday and agreed that the Croatia-Russia qualifier at Poljud is the final. 

After defeating Malta 7:1 in Valletta, morale is high - and a sold-out Poljud stadium is the best motivation to secure a spot at the World Cup next year in Qatar. 

Zlatko Dalić and Luka Modrić addressed the press at Poljud on Saturday to discuss the critically important match on Sunday. Only the winner is guaranteed a spot in Qatar. 

"We will see how Russia will play tomorrow. We have to be strong from the start; we know what we want. We need to be aggressive. That will be the most important tomorrow," said Luka to open the conference. 

"I know all the Russia players, and they have many young talented players as well. The ambient in Split is phenomenal, and I believe it will be that way tomorrow, and that will give us the motive to play well and bring us the win," Luka added. 

"This is football; this is sport. We believe in ourselves; we have a good team. The pitch is the only measure. We will decide on the pitch the better team. 

We knew when we saw the qualifying group that Russia would be the toughest. Tomorrow is the final, for them and for us. That makes it a different kind of game. We are the favorite in front of our fans, and we will show that on the pitch.

This is the most crucial game for us since the 2018 World Cup. This is the most important game for this team.

We are 100% focused on this game. We will show that tomorrow. Split and Poljud mean a lot. I remember the last match against Hungary, and the ambient was already there when we went to warm up. So this will be the motivation for us. 

The atmosphere is really good in the team, and of course, when we win and play well, that lifts the atmosphere. The young players have shown that we can count on them. I am pleased with the future of Croatia football," concluded Luka Modrić. 

"All players with us are in great shape. Nikola Vlašić is in much better form than the last Croatia action together. 

Russia was tough in the World Cup. A lot of players we played against at the World Cup are no longer on the team. They have many young new players now. But this is a different game than at the 2018 World Cup - this is a final," said coach Zlatko Dalić. 

"We knew this game had to be in Split due to the atmosphere and the public. However, all of our games played around Croatia have had an incredible atmosphere. I always feel good in Split, welcomed, and I am happy. I am calm and focused on tomorrow's game. 

We won't change many details in the lineup from Malta. We have a lot of good attackers. Vlašić is back; Majer had an incredible game against Malta. Pašalić is in brilliant form. But we don't want to change a lot in the lineup," added Dalić. 

"We are fighters, winners, and will do that tomorrow. But, we have to be smart," concluded Dalić. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 12 November 2021

Croatia U21s Top Estonia 2:0 in Pula, Record 5th Win in 2023 Euro Qualifiers

November 12, 2021 - The Croatia U21 team continued their winning streak in the 2023 Euro qualifiers, topping Estonia 2:0 in Pula on Thursday night. 

The Croatia U21 national football team recorded its fifth consecutive victory in Group A of the 2023 Euro qualifiers, defeating Estonia 2:0 in Pula. Roko Šimić (39) and Jurica Pršir (62) scored Croatia's goals. 

Croatia was already a step closer to the victory in the 5th minute. Baturina shot from the right but hit the post. Pršir shot on goal in the 39th minute, but Šimić solidly put the rebound into the net. It was his sixth goal in these qualifiers.

In the second half, Croatia continued to dominate. In the 55th minute, Kačavenda shot from the outside and hit the crossbar. Croatia resolved all doubts about who would win in the 62nd minute when Pršir scored a great goal from more than 20 meters. 

Croatia calmly kept the lead until the end of the match and continued their perfect series in the 2023 Euro qualifications.

Croatia leads the group with a maximum of 15 points and a goal difference of 14-3, and Norway is second with 9 points and a game less, while Austria has the same number of points. Estonia is last with six defeats and a 0-19 goal difference.

The winners of the nine groups and the best second-placed national team will directly qualify for the 2023 European Championships, which will be held from June 9 to July 2 in Romania and Georgia. 

The remaining eight runners-up will play in additional qualifiers for four more teams at the European Championships. 

RESULTS:

Croatia - Estonia 2-0 (Šimić 39, Pršir 62)

On Friday, November 12, Azerbaijan will host Austria, and Norway will host Finland. 

Standings

1. CROATIA 5 5 0 0 14-3 15

2. Norway 4 3 0 1 13-4 9

3. Austria 5 3 0 2 14-6 9

4. Finland 4 2 1 1 7-4 7

5. Azerbaijan 4 0 1 3 2-14 1

6. Estonia 6 0 0 6 0-19 0

Austria will host Croatia in the next 2023 Euro qualifier on November 16. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Thursday, 11 November 2021

One Step Closer: Croatia Crush Malta 7:1 in Penultimate 2022 World Cup Qualifier!

November 11, 2021 - Croatia crush Malta 7:1 in the penultimate Group H 2022 World Cup qualifier. The match against Russia on Sunday at Poljud will decide which team goes to Qatar next year. 

The Croatia national team played the penultimate qualifying match to qualify for the 2022 World Cup against Malta on Thursday in Valletta.

The Croatia lineup had a few surprises. Ivo Grbić started in goal instead of Dominik Livaković, with Juranović, Ćaleta-Car, Guardiol, and Sosa in the defense. Lovro Majer joined Modrić, Brozović, Pašalić, and Perišić in the midfield, and Andrej Kramarić started at the top of the attack.

MALTA (3-4-3): Bonello - Shaw, Agius (C), Pepe - Attard, Cristensen, Teuma, Camenzuli - J. Mbong, Montebello, Degabriele

CROATIA (4-2-3-1): Grbić - Juranović, Ćaleta Car, Gvardiol, Sosa - Brozović, Modrić (C) - Majer, Pašalić, Perišić - Kramarić

After Russia topped Cyprus in their second-to-last Group H match (6:0), Croatia had no room to make a mistake against Malta. And they didn't. 

Recap

Kramarić had the first chance of the game already in the 2nd minute but shot over the crossbar. But Croatia's first goal came just 4 minutes later. Modrić and Kramarić took advantage of the keeper's high position to find Perišić alone at the top of the box for 0:1 Croatia! It was Perišić's third goal in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. 

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Slobodan Kadić

Croatia's pressure only increased in the next two minutes, with Sosa attacking up the left-wing and Modrić nailing a shot at the keeper. 

Gvardiol scored in the 12th minute which was called offside, and Malta scored from offside a minute later! An exciting first 15 minutes kept us on the edge of our seats, but the most important thing was that Croatia stayed ahead.

Croatia finally increased their lead in the 22nd minute. A Modrić free kick found the head of Ćaleta-Car for 0:2!  

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Slobodan Kadić

Unfortunately, Croatia's defense was caught in the 31st minute, resulting in an own goal by Brozović for 1:2. 

It didn't take long for Croatia to get back to a comfortable result. An incredible ball from Majer found Kramarić alone on a counterattack. Pašalić ran into open space to score for 1:3 in the 39th minute! 

And the first half wouldn't be complete without a goal from the captain. A brilliant backheel from Pašalić found Luka at the top of the box for 1:4 - and Modrić's 20th Croatia goal! 

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Slobodan Kadić

Kristijan Jakić replaced Brozović to start the second half as Dalić needs Broz fresh against Russia. And there was not much need for him anyway - Kramarić assisted Majer's goal in the 47th minute for 1:5 Croatia! 

And then another one just 5 minutes later - Kramarić took advantage of an empty goal for 1:6 Croatia in the 52nd minute!

Dalić subbed on Oršić, Petković, and Vlašić for Perišić, Kramarić, and Modrić in the 53rd minute. Livaja was subbed on for Pašalić in the 61st minute. 

Majer was on fire, scoring his second goal of the game in the 63rd minute for an incredible 1:7 Croatia! 

Croatia dominated for the remainder of the match but was unable to increase their lead. The match ended 1:7 for Croatia! 

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Slobodan Kadić

Croatia and Russia will meet in the final Group H World Cup qualifier on Sunday at Poljud Stadium in Split. The winner will directly qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.  

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Zlatko Dalić Believes Sold-Out Poljud is Best Croatia Motivation for 2022 World Cup

November 11, 2021 - The Croatia national football team will face Malta on Thursday night in the penultimate sprint to the World Cup in Qatar. Zlatko Dalić believes the best motivation for Croatia is a sold-out Poljud on Sunday against Russia.

There are two more games left, and Croatia has everything at its fingertips. However, the calculation is quite clear, and with the victories against Malta and Russia, Croatia will qualify for the 2022 World Cup, reports HNS.

"We know that two victories separate us from the World Cup in Qatar, and our thoughts are focused on Malta. It is an opponent that we respect to the maximum, but of course, we are the favorites in that game because we are of better quality in every segment of the game. However, we have to show that on the pitch and play a good and serious game. We have to be patient; only three points are important, how to get them is less important. So, first Malta and only then we can start thinking about Russia," points out the coach Zlatko Dalić, who faced the health problems of several players before the decisive qualifying matches.

"Yesterday, three players skipped training with the rest of the team; Brekalo, Livaja, and Sučić worked individually. We will see their condition. We took 27 players to Malta because of injuries, coronavirus tests, and we didn't want to leave anything to chance. Against Malta, we need offensive players in the first place, and in that direction, we will set up the game and determine the players who will be on the bench. So, there are no personal interests, only the interest of the Croatia national team, and qualifying for the World Cup is important. Luka Modrić? He trained, everything was fine, but of course, the virus left a little mark on him. However, I do not doubt that Luka will be OK, and if everything goes well, he will start the game against Malta." 

As much as the coach indicates that players must be armed with patience, the ideal scenario in the match against Malta would be an early goal. 

"It would be nice to open the game with an early goal, but the most important thing is not to get nervous if that doesn't happen. We had more than an hour of fighting in Rijeka against Malta, who held at 0:0 for a long time - Cyprus too, the whole half. So, we should not get nervous and panic if we don’t score a goal on time. I told the players that we have to be brave, and at the same time, I think we have to overcome all the temptations we may face. Of course, it would be nice if we secured three points as soon as possible to rest some players, but I don't think that way. We have to enter the game as men. Malta strives to outplay more than Cyprus, that is their style of play, but it is up to us to prevent their patterns through the game." 

Dalić claims that the players do not need special psychological preparation before the match against Malta. Here's why:

"If we look at our last five games, the energy is high. There are a lot of young players among us who are eager and motivated. So, you don't need a bigger motive than the World Cup and going to Qatar. It’s one thing, and on the other hand, you know if you beat Malta that a full Poljud and an atmosphere that happens maybe once in a lifetime is waiting for you. That must be the biggest motive for our players. We have to think about it, but we must not fall into the pressure trap and execute ourselves for it. Goalkeepers? We'll see. Livaković did not lose his position and our trust. At the moment, we are looking at who is in the best shape, and no one who will not play tomorrow has lost their position in the team. However, we are looking at the form and condition of the players; those who are the best and most ready at the moment will play," concluded Dalić.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 8 November 2021

"First Malta, then Russia at Poljud": Dalić Readies for Croatia's Final 2022 World Cup Qualifiers

November 8, 2021 - Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalić is maximally focused on the upcoming decisive matches for a spot at the World Cup in Qatar next year. Croatia plays Malta first away (November 11), then Russia at Poljud (November 14),

Dalić points out that the first game is the most important, reports HNS.

"We have two games ahead of us; two victories separate us from our goal. Given the state we have been in the last five games, I am optimistic. The first game that comes is always the most important. Malta is very important because, with a victory, we open the fight for first place in Split against Russia. Of course, Malta is an opponent who cannot match us, but we must be serious, patient, and responsible. Malta has been training for seven days, they want to oppose us, but if we are good, we will win. At no point do I want, nor will I talk about Russia until Split. There is no talk about Russia," says Dalić, who referred to the team's current condition. 

"Kovačić dropped out before, and we will miss him very much. Brekalo will come to the gathering, we will do an examination, and if something suspicious comes about and he is not ready, he will return to his club. Thanks to Ivan Jurić and Turin for allowing us to do that; if he is not one hundred percent ready, he will continue to recover at his club. Sučić suffered an unpleasant blow, so he will also have a check-up, and captain Modrić is much better, and we will see what will happen with him in the next two or three days. Luka had a fever; he had a virus, and couldn't compete in Real's last game. Of course, this is not an ideal situation, we will try to train him for Malta, but if he is not one hundred percent, we will not force him because we need the readiest players for Malta. However, I hope that Luka will be OK."

The day before the national team gathering, the coach subsequently sent invitations to Bruno Petković and Lovro Majer.

"We have two games ahead of us, during which we can only win. So we have nothing to defend and calculate; we need to be at a high level in the attack. Majer left a very good impression in September, then, unfortunately, he got injured, but now he is healthy and brings us more quality in that segment of the game. And Petković's quality was not disputable; it just didn't have continuity. He has raised his form in the last games, and he can help us with his qualities. We will have an exceptional 25 players; we must not allow any surprises so as not to get stuck at the last minute. Petković and Majer are in very good shape, and there were no doubts. Petković's position? In the position he plays at Dinamo. We have the best players in the world - Brozović and Modrić; he must finish for the national team, and a goal is important to us against Malta and Russia. So, Bruno will be used as a striker."

As a coach, Dalić has already led decisive matches on several occasions, so the current situation is not unusual.

"The pressure is always there, but I don't feel it. These are important matches for us because we want to avoid tough additional qualifications, but there is always pressure and desire without which you cannot work properly. We have to be ready for everything, expectations are high, but we are going step by step."

Given the frequent injuries, the coach has rotated a lot of players in the defense. But now, everyone is ready.

"And my wish is to have a standard team. In Russia, there were always eleven players who started matches, but now, I was forced to rotate due to the circumstances. We changed, we tried, it took seven days to distribute the forces. The players play from Wednesday - Sunday, viruses happen, immunity drops, fatigue occurs, and I have to take care of all that. Croatia has not been so powerful in stopper positions for a long time; we have great players in big clubs. The best ones will play, while Gvardiol has the advantage over everyone. He is left-footed and plays well at his club. And we finally have a left-footer in the position of the left stopper. We will see who will play on the right side."

Before the match against Russia, Dalić does not want to leave anything to chance.

"In Malta, for the first time in my term, we will stay there to sleep after the game. The match in Split is played at 3 pm, so we need to try to make sure that we get a good rest before Russia. We have to beat Malta, and after that, we will see what condition we are in. I really don't mean to worry about whether we will keep a player for Russia. Of course, we will rest some players in case of a favorable result, but let's not talk about Russia. I know that the focus is on that game, but for me, Russia is not a topic until we beat Malta," concluded the coach.

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