Thursday, 15 October 2020

Zlatko Dalic After France: I Need to Put Together a Competitive National Team by March

October 15, 2020 - Croatia Coach Zlatko Dalic spoke to the press after the loss against France in the 4th-round Nations League match in Zagreb on Wednesday. 

Coach Zlatko Dalic was satisfied with most of what was shown against France, but he pointed out that Croatia again made mistakes that France always knows how to punish.

"Hats off to the team, especially for the second half, but we lost again, and we didn't deserve it; that's why we are upset," said the coach at the beginning of the press conference.

"We played well, but a mistake happened. We didn’t play against anyone but against world champions. They punish every mistake, and we must avoid mistakes. Against a team like this, which is worth a billion, you can't avoid it. But the second half was excellent. We started very badly, in the first 15 minutes we could have conceded another goal. We settled down afterward, and it tuned in," he added.

He denied that Pasalic played on the left-wing: "Pasalic was not a winger, but a midfielder. It may have seemed to you because he was a bit on the wing in defense, but he is a midfielder and should be in that position."

Dalic was also asked if he had made a mistake in choosing Vida instead of Caleta-Car.

"I wasn't wrong with Vida. He is our standard stopper. You have to look at the second goal again because Vida was not to blame for it. See who Mbappe was with and how he reacted. We have three more games where we can try some things. After that, I have to have a clear picture before the qualifications for the World Cup. We have to be objective. Croatia is putting together a new national team; there are no more Juventus and Bayern players here. I am satisfied with this, and my task is to put together a competitive team for March. Everything is important, and I am sorry that we did not win. Everyone should be given a chance. I am worried that we are receiving goals, and we need to work on that," believes Dalic.

He has a generally good opinion of this three-game mini-cycle.

"I can be satisfied with this mini-cycle. We got Switzerland who played 3:3 against Germany. With that match, we secured a top seed status in the World Cup qualifiers, and Sweden is our competitor to stay in the Nations League. We played a good second half against France, and I am glad that the fans applauded the players. I am very pleased, and I told that to the players in the dressing room. I am a great optimist because I see that we have players coming," the coach concluded.

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

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

UEFA Nations League: France Better than Croatia in Zagreb

October 14, 2020 - France was better than Croatia in Zagreb in the 4th round match of the UEFA Nations League. 

The Croatia national team met France in the 4th round of the Nations League on Wednesday at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. Seven thousand fans (30% of the stadium) were there to cheer on Croatia.

Croatia beat Sweden 2:1 at the same stadium on Sunday and took third place in the group. With a victory against France, they would join the fight to win the group. 

Coach Zlatko Dalic changed the starting formation a bit from Sunday's match against Sweden. While Livakovic stayed in goal, the backline included Borna Barisic, Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, and Filip Uremovic. The midfield featured Luka Modric and Milan Badelj, with Nikola Vlasic as the attacking midfielder. Ivan Perisic and Mario Pasalic were on the wings, with Bruno Petkovic up top. Marcelo Brozovic had to sit this game out due to cards. 

France coach Didier Deschamps, on the other hand, sent his strongest players in the attack, and decided to rotate the midfield - Lloris; Mendy, Varane, Lenglet, Digne; Tolisso, N'Zonzi, Rabiot; Mbappé, Griezmann, Martial.

The first five minutes of the match was even, and Croatia even had a chance to attack thanks to a quick run by Bruno Petkovic. However, it was France to find the back of the net first after Griezmann nailed the upper corner of the goal in the 8th minute for 0:1. 

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Slobodan Kadic

France danced around Croatia's defense and had what seemed like another sure chance in the 15th minute though Mbappe luckily hit wide. 

Five minutes later, Lovren had a chance with a header off a Croatia corner kick which went over the goal. 

A foul on Petkovic awarded Croatia a free-kick just outside the box in the 24th minute. Perisic hit just over the crossbar.

Vlasic took the France midfield in a quick counter-attack that found Barisic in the box, though Croatia was unable to capitalize. They certainly picked their momentum. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia spent the better part of the next ten minutes in France's half. Perisic and Petkovic called for a handball in the box in the 35th minute after a brilliant play by Vlasic and Pasalic, but the ref let them play on.

Petkovic capitalized on a Mendy mistake in the 42nd minute and proceeded to get fouled again outside of the box, though there was no whistle to be heard. 

A header from a France free-kick in the 44th minute made it close to being 0:2 but the match ended 0:1 at the half.  

The second half began with some changes by Dalic. Kovacic and Brekalo were subbed on for Badelj and Pasalic.

Within the first two minutes, Perisic had a great attack on goal, though no one was in the box in time to receive his cross. Nikola Vlasic hit a rocket in the 52nd minute which just missed the goal. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia was aggressive at the start of the second half and gave France little chance of moving their attacking game. Modric and Petkovic worked their way into the box often but the France defense held their backline. 

Petkovic came out for Ante Budimir in the 60th minute.

After continued pressing from Croatia, it finally happened. Split wunderkind Nikola Vlasic did it again and scored the equalizer for 1:1 in the 64th minute! 

The Croatia crowd found new energy to cheer and chant in the minutes that followed, which gave Croatia the strength to carry on. 

France was awarded a corner that shouldn't have been which resulted in a crowd in front of Croatia's goal and quick reaction from the defense to clear the ball. Croatia was lucky France didn't retake the lead. 

Bradaric came on for Perisic in the 78th minute.

Unfortunately, a long ball from Pogba found Mbappe who caught the Croatian defense off guard to score for 1:2 in the 79th minute. Dalic subbed Kramaric on for Vlasic one minute later. 

Brekalo hit a rocket from just outside the box in the 85th minute which gave Lloris a tough time to save. Croatia was not giving up hope. 

Modric found Kramaric for a chance in the 89th minute which Lloris saved again. More chances for Croatia in the final minutes of added time also proved unsuccessful. The match ended 1:2 for France.

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia's Nations League campaign continues next month against Sweden away and Portugal at Poljud Stadium in Split. 

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

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

UEFA Nations League: France Tops Croatia 4:2 at Stade de France

September 8, 2020 - Croatia and France met in Paris on Tuesday evening for the second round of the Nations League A group. In the 2018 World Cup rematch, France tops Croatia 4:2.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic changed half of the starting lineup from the match against Portugal. Melnjak was thus moved to left-back and debutant Uremovic to the right. Lovren played in the heart of the defense, accompanied by Duje Caleta-Car, while Perisic and Brozovic returned to the first 11. Modric and Rakitic were not included in this Nations League campaign. 

France coach Deschamps also changed his starting eleven, and Lloris, Upamecano, Kante, and Griezmann remained from the first round against Sweden. 

Recall, in the first round on Saturday, Croatia suffered a heavy defeat against Portugal, ending 4:1 for the current European champion and the first winner of the Nations League. 

Croatia started the match much better than against Portugal and hungrier for the win. In the first five minutes, they attacked France's backline, while the defense was solid in denying Griezmann any chances. France had their first corner in the 11th minute, which was headed out by the Croatian defense. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia had their first real chance in the 13th minute, though Kovacic missed the shot after Kramaric attacked to get the ball into the box. A few minutes later, Brozovic playing a beautiful through ball to Rebic which ended in Croatia's first corner. Brozovic played a high ball in which found the foot of Lovren who brilliantly scored far post for 1:0 Croatia!

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia saw their second corner of the match in the 18th minute, which was played short and didn't make it into the box.

France picked up their game by the 20th minute, though their second corner was headed out by the Croatian defense. Griezmann was dangerous moments later but the backline remained solid in the block. 

Perisic and Melnjak played a beautiful one-two up the left line which forced a free-kick for Croatia outside the box. An unlucky ball resulted in another Croatia corner.  

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia continued playing calm and collected, a much better performance than the team we saw just a few days ago. 

They unraveled, however, for the first time in the 32nd minute - Griezmann had a chance to score but Brozovic and Livakovic were stellar to stop the dangerous play. 

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Slobodan Kadic

A France free-kick in the 34th minute, much like what we saw in the World Cup final, was worrying, but Griezmann shot over to keep the score 1:0 for Croatia.  

Croatia was combining brilliantly for the remainder of the half, playing quick passes up the pitch to press the France defense. Perisic shot in the 42nd which was saved by Lloris. 

Unfortunately, a quick France counter resulted in a goal in the 43rd minute. Griezmann scored for 1:1. Two minutes later, another quick counter saw France lead 2:1 with 30 seconds to go in the first half. Croatia held 57% of the possession in the first half. 

At the start of the second half, Josip Brekalo was substituted in for Ante Rebic. France made no changes.

Croatia saw their first corner of the second half already in the 46th minute, though Vlasic called for a handball. Without VAR in the Nations League, there was no review. 

Croatia continued pressing at the start of the second half and created good scoring opportunities, which were short of goals. France had their first corner of the second half in the 51st minute, which went over the post for a Croatia goal kick.

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Slobodan Kadic

But then it happened, and Croatia could not have equalized any better. An incredible Kovacic ball from the halfway line found the foot of Brekalo who moved through three players in the French defense for 2:2!

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Slobodan Kadic

A free kick in the 61st minute deflected to Vlasic who crossed the ball back into Perisic, though he volleyed over the crossbar.

France had a corner in the 64th minute which finished in a goal to put them back in the lead at 3:2.

Livakovic and Brozovic once again saved a dangerous Greizmann counter. Croatia's tempo had died down in the second half, though they continued to push the ball up France's half when they could. 

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Slobodan Kadic

The game changed once France was awarded a penalty in the 75th minute due to a Croatia handball in the box. Giroud scored for 4:2, the same result as the 2018 World Cup final. 

Croatia tried finding the momentum and rhythm they had in the first half, but France was solid in denying any chances. 

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Slobodan Kadic

A Vlasic shot in the last two minutes of regulation time hit the side post, while Lloris saved another seconds later. The ref added four minutes, in which neither team was able to score.

The match ended 4:2 for France.  

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Slobodan Kadic

Conceding eight goals in two games is not the way Croatia wanted to start the Nations League. Up next, Croatia will meet Sweden and France at home in October.

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Sunday, 28 July 2019

Junior World Championship: Croatia Handball in Final for First Time!

The Under-21 Croatia handball team is in the final of the Men's Junior World Handball Championship! 

In Pontevedra, Spain on Saturday, Croatia topped Portugal 31:28 (12:9) and advanced to their first-ever final against France, to be held on Sunday at 4:30 pm, reports Gol.hr on July 27, 2019.

Portugal was Croatia’s most dangerous rival at this tournament, though Croatia led by four and five goals on two occasions during the game. Portugal finally woke up and played much stronger in the second half.

Between the 47th and 52nd minute, Croatia went from a goal behind (20:21) to up by three goals (25:22). It was a tense match until the very end, when Croatia found that extra energy, focus, and motivation to finally lead by 4 for the 31:28 victory. 

While many worried it would be the end of Croatia’s perfect showing in Spain, Croatia can thank Sarač, Martinović and Mileta, as well as their brilliant defense, for turning the game to their advantage.

Martinović was named the best player of the match with eight goals scored, while Mileta scored seven goals and Sarač six goas. Diogo Silva was unstoppable for Portugal with nine goals, while Fernandes had six on the wings.

Croatia will play in the final against France, who defeated Egypt on Saturday 35:33. Croatia and France will meet on Sunday at 16.30.

This is the first World Championship final for the young Croatian side. So far, they have played twice in the semi-final and lost the next two matches to win 4th place.

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

Monday, 15 July 2019

On This Day One Year Ago, Croatia Became World Cup Finalists

July 15, 2019 - On July 15, 2018, the Croatia national football team achieved the greatest success of any sports team in the history of the country. On July 15, 2018, Croatia became World Cup finalists.

Like most Croatians around the world, I’ll never forget July 15th - and the emotions that come with remembering that date one year on are just as overwhelming. 

However, also like many Croatians around the world, I initially presumed that a shot at the World Cup final was impossible. For starters, while we’re always full of pride, Croatian fans are also shockingly realistic. Recall, this squad was constantly plagued by poor coaches and lousy luck - curses that not even Luka Modrić could reverse. And at this World Cup, we had to overcome Argentina (and Lionel Messi) to get out of our group. Impossible. 

But that summer in Russia carried a different aura. We had a new coach that Croatians could relate to, even though we knew nothing about him before he was called to lead the team through the biggest tournament in four years.  After an atrocious year under Ante Čačić which killed our dreams of advancing to the World Cup at all, Zlatko Dalić restored our faith in the simple fact that he knew tactics and where to position our players who fought for the biggest football clubs in the world. But most of all, Dalić revived a team that was dull, disoriented, and disheartened from the failures experienced before, and returned a wave of positivity to the squad that had been missing since Croatia’s World Cup bronze in 1998. Croatia under Dalić had a spark in their eye - and one that ultimately lit the way for the country’s first ever World Cup final. 

Croatia’s road to the final really showed its legs once they tragically topped Argentina 3:0 in the group stage - a result that is still hard to believe one year later. Croatia finished at the top of their group, and fans around the world gained faith in the fact that if Croatia continued to play like this for the remainder of the tournament, they could upset anyone. 

But as all things Croatian require a splash of drama, this team took the long road to the final, one that came with twists, turns, and numerous bouts of nausea. In the round of 16, Croatia met Denmark. While Denmark was a team that shouldn't have been underestimated, considering they flaunt Tottenham superstar Christian Erikson in their ranks, Croatia was expected to pass without too much difficulty - though that quickly changed after Jorgensen scored for Denmark in the first minute of the game. Croatia was lucky to equalize from a Mandžukić goal three minutes later, but their wearied bodies on the pitch denied them another goal, and the game went to extra time. Croatia had the chance to seal the deal after Ante Rebić was fouled in the penalty area, though captain Luka Modrić missed - and Croatian fans began familiarizing themselves with that fatal fact that it just wouldn’t be their year. However, heroics from goalkeeper Danijel Subašić saved the day in the penalty shootout - and Croatia secured a spot in the quarter-final against Russia.

Another grueling 90 minutes against the host nation that ended in a tied result pushed Croatia to another extra time, another draw, and another penalty shootout. Croatia’s spark had to fizzle now, I thought. But they were fearless. After fortunately failed penalties from Russia, Ivan Rakitić stepped up last and sent Croatia to their second World Cup semi-final ever. 

Croatia met England in the semi-final, a team also riding a wave of zeal and self-confidence as their fans thought they'd win it all. It was England’s first World Cup semi-final in 28 years. On the eve of the semi-final, journalists around the world questioned if Croatia had the stamina to surpass England, a nation who thought it was their year to bring football home, and who had an advantage over Croatia because their last two games didn’t move to penalties. Croatia was said to be mentally and physically exhausted after brutal battles against Denmark and Russia, and the legs on their fairytale were destined to buckle. 

Many of us worried that the media’s prophecy would be true after Trippier scored for England just five minutes into that historic semi-final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Croatia’s fatigue hardly carried them through the first half, which ended at 0:1 for England. Even the biggest believers in Croatia questioned if football really was going home to England that year. 

But Croatia’s second wind carried them through the second half, and Ivan Perišić scored the equalizer in the 68th minute. As the clock ticked to the final minute, time stopped for Croatian fans who feared they didn’t have a nerve left to spare to get them through another grueling extra time - especially one that decided their fate in the World Cup final. But with 10 minutes to go, Mario Mandžukić confirmed just why he is our Super Mario - and scored the goal that assured Croatia’s first ever World Cup final. The country erupted into madness. 

I remember the day of the World Cup final clear as day and as a total blur - like a dream you wake up wondering if it actually happened. The nation was more united than ever, we were honored, full of spirit, and football fans around the world had jumped on the Croatia bandwagon to watch the happy ending of our fairytale unfold. And in the end, it didn’t matter that the outcome wasn’t in Croatia’s favor. 

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Slobodan Kadić

Croatia and the powerhouse that is France met in the World Cup final on July 15, 2018, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Decked out in their classic red and white checkers, Croatia came out playing the best football they had all tournament. An unlucky own goal by Mario Mandžukić put France in the lead in the 18th minute, though a left-footed rocket from Ivan Perišić made it 1:1 ten minutes later. 

A dreadful and quite questionable penalty was awarded to France after the referee consulted VAR - and Antonine Griezmann scored for 2:1 at the half. 

Croatia’s chances dimmed after Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe scored in the 59th and 65th minute for 4:1, though Croatia wouldn’t let the negative result stop them from tenaciously fighting through their first World Cup final. Mandžukić managed one more for Croatia in the 69th minute for 4:2, and France ultimately won the World Cup title. 

Though Croatia was defeated by a result that didn’t correctly reflect their heroics on the pitch, they had just achieved the greatest sporting success in the history of their country. 

While Croatia failed to become World Champions, their team did feature the best player of the World Cup, Luka Modrić.

"I'm sad because we lost, but I'm proud of everything we did in Russia. The feelings are mixed, but surely when the time passes, we will become aware of the incredible success we’ve achieved,” Modrić said a year ago, and went on to win every individual football award that season. 

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Slobodan Kadić

And thanks to Croatia’s hero's welcome in Zagreb which continued throughout the country for weeks, you’d think Croatia won it all.

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

Thursday, 24 January 2019

World Championship: Croatia Handball Learns Opponent for 5th Place Game

January 24, 2019 - In the semi-final of the World Handball Championship, Germany will play Norway and Denmark will play France on Friday in Hamburg. The Croatia handball team will play for fifth place against Sweden in Herning on Saturday. 

Monday, 26 November 2018

Davis Cup Champions: Thousands Welcome Croatia's Tennis Stars in Zagreb

Croatia’s best tennis players were greeted as heroes in Zagreb on Monday after becoming Davis Cup champions. 

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Davis Cup Finals: In Dramatic Doubles Finish, France Gets First Point (1:2)

After the second day of the Davis Cup finals in Lille, Croatia leads France 2:1. 

Friday, 23 November 2018

Davis Cup Finals: Marin Čilić Brings Croatia Up 2:0!

After Borna Ćorić defeated Jeremy Chardy and brought Croatia up 1:0 in the Davis Cup finals in Lille, Marin Čilić defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3:0 in sets, thus bringing Croatia one step closer to winning the competition for the second time in history. 

Friday, 23 November 2018

Davis Cup Finals: Incredible Ćorić Breaks Chardy for Croatia's First Point

In the opening game of the Davis Cup finals, Borna Ćorić overcame Jeremy Chardy 3:0 in sets in just two hours and 19 minutes of play. Croatia now leads France 1:0 in Lille. 

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