Saturday, 8 January 2022

Croatia Cup in Osijek: Croatia Handball Falls to Russia 26:28

January 8, 2022 - After beating Russia in the first match on Friday, Croatia fell to Russia on Saturday in the Croatia Cup in Osijek.

The Croatia handball team had its second dress rehearsal ahead of the European Handball Championship, which starts on January 13. For the second time, Croatia met Russia in the Croatia Cup as the final friendly match of their preparations. In the first match, Croatia convincingly won 30:24.

Croatia was meant to meet Bosnia & Herzegovina in the Croatia Cup though they pulled out last-minute due to COVID-19. 

Croatia is still without the injured Luka Šebetić, and Domagoj Duvnjak and Luka Cindrić are in COVID-19 isolation. 

Recap

Croatia led 2:0 in the first minute of the game. Russia equalized at 2:2 in the 4th minute. Jaganjac put Croatia back in the lead for 3:2 in the 7th minute and again for 4:2 a minute later. 

Russia equalized at 4:4 in the 9th minute. Martinovic scored for 5:5 in the 11th minute. 

Croatia finally went back in the lead in the 17th minute for 6:5. Mandic made it 7:5 in the 19th. Mihic made it 8:8 in the 23rd minute. 

Jaganjac scored his 5th goal of the game for the Croatia lead in the 24th minute - 9:8. 

Mihic made it 10:9 with 5 minutes to go in the first half. Jaganjac scored for 11:10 with two minutes to go, and Mihic put Croatia up by 2 for 12:10 with a minute to go. 

Mihic scored for 13:10 and it was 13:11 going into halftime. 

Martinovic opened the second half with a goal for 14:11. Jaganjac made it 16:13 in the 6th minute of the second half. Gadza scored for 17:13. 

Jaganjac scored his 8th goal of the match for 18:15 in the 9th minute. Sipic scored for 19:16 one minute later. 

Mihic scored for 20:18 in the 16th minute. Russia took the lead with 10 minutes to go for 20:21. Sipic equalized for 21:21 one minute later. 

It was going goal for goal, and Martinovic scored for 22:22 and 23:23. 

Russia was up by 2 in the 26th minute (24:26). Jaganjac made it 25:26 moments later. It was 26:27 going into the final minute of the game. 

Russia scored to make it the final 26:28. 

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

Friday, 7 January 2022

Croatia Cup in Osijek: Croatia Handball Tops Russia 30:24

January 7, 2022 - Because COVID-19 plagued the Bosnia and Herzegovina national handball team, Croatia handball met Russia to open the Croatia Cup in Osijek on Friday. 

As Russia's appearance at the tournament had been agreed upon earlier, the Croatian Handball Federation reacted quickly and arranged two friendly matches against Russia instead. The first was played on Friday, January 7, and the second to be played on Saturday, January 8, at the same time.

Croatia was left without Luka Šebetić due to an injury, while captain Domagoj Duvnjak and Luka Cindrić are in COVID isolation. Marko Mamić was ruled out of the Croatia Cup to prevent further injury. 

Russia was once an international handball powerhouse. In the last 30 years or so since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has won eight medals from major competitions. The last one, however, was a long time ago, in Athens at the Olympic Games when they won bronze.

Russia is in a very interesting group at the European Championship, along with Norway, Lithuania, and one of the two hosts, Slovakia. Their first round is played in Košice. 

Recap

Russia scored the first goal of the match for 0:1 at 1:41. Cupic equalized for 1:1 10 seconds later, before Russia took the lead again on a quick counterattack. Mandic made it 2:2 at 2:30. Martinovic scored for 3:2 in the 6th minute and a Mandic goal made it 4:2 in the 7th. 

Martinovic made it 5:2 before Russia finally scored for 5:3 in the 10th minute. Martinovic scored again for 6:3 a minute later!

Cupic made it 7:4 in the 12th and it was 8:4 for Croatia moments later. A Jaganjac lob made it 9:4 in the 14th. Mandic made it 11:7 in the 19th minute. 

Martinivoc hit the upper left corner for a goal in the 24th minute (12:9), again for 13:9 one minute later, and again for 14:10 in the 26th! 

Croatia's star continued to find the back of the net - Martinovic bent it around the keeper for 15:12 with 2 minutes to go in the first half. 

The first half ended 15:12 for Croatia. 

Croatia scored the first goal of the second half in the first minute for 16:12. Glavas scored from 7 meters for 17:12. 

Martinovic scored from 7 meters for 18:13 in the 5th minute. Mihic scored his first goal of the match in the 7th minute for 19:15. 

Sipic scored for 20:16 in the 10th minute and again for 21:17 one minute later.  

Gadza scored for 22:18 in the 13th minute. Jaganjac scored a rocket for 23:19 in the 15th minute. 

Martinovic scored his 10th goal of the game in the 17th minute for 24:20. A quick Croatia counter made it 25:20 in the 18th. 

Jaganjac scored again for 26:20 for Croatia's biggest advantage of the game. Jaganjac scored for 27:22 in the 22nd minute. 

Goalkeeper Mate Sunjic saved a Russia penalty in the 24th minute. 

With 3 minutes to go, Croatia was up by 5 points (28:23). 

A fab play by Glavas made it 29:23. Glavas scored again for 30:23 with 2 minutes to go. Russia scored the final goal of the game which ended 30:24. 

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.

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.

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

Friday, 15 October 2021

Decisive Croatia-Russia World Cup Qualifier at Poljud: UEFA Sets Time, Tickets Soon

October 14, 2021 - The decisive Croatia-Russia World Cup qualifier at Poljud on Sunday, November 14, will be played at 3 pm. Tickets should be announced by HNS soon. 

In exactly one month, the Croatia national football team will play in Split, at Poljud Stadium, against Russia. Not only is it their final qualifier for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but the winner of the match will secure a direct spot at the next World Cup and avoid rather difficult additional qualifications. 

Russia and Croatia are in a dead race for first place in Group H, the only spot that leads directly to Qatar. After drawing against Slovakia in Osijek, Croatia will need a victory against Russia to take them directly to the World Cup. Any other result leads Zlatko Dalić's team to a tricky playoff round, and Russia directly to Qatar. This is, of course, assuming Croatia defeats Malta three days before the big battle in Split, on November 11.

Fans can be happy that Croatia plays against Russia on Sunday, November 14, meaning many do not have to take the day off from work. A full Poljud stadium is to be expected. 

UEFA has confirmed the date on its official website, as well as the time. Thus, Croatia and Russia will meet at 3 pm, which isn't as common as the 9 pm clashes we are used to watching. However, it should be taken into account that four groups will be playing final qualifying matches on that day.

Namely, Croatia, as well as its opponents in Group H, will start at 3 pm, Group J will be played from 6 pm, and Groups B and A from 8:45 pm. 

Tickets for the Croatia-Russia match are not yet on sale, though the Croatian Football Federation should soon announce the prices and when ticket sales will begin. It will be one match football fans won't want to miss. 

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

To learn more about sport in Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Croatia against Russia at Poljud to Decide 2022 World Cup Spot

September 8, 2021 - Croatia against Russia at Poljud Stadium - the match that will decide the winner of Group H and a direct spot at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Croatia completed their September World Cup qualifiers with the victory against Slovenia (3:0) at Poljud on Tuesday, winning seven out of nine points. In the last six days, all three games were played against the main competitors for direct placement in the 2022 World Cup, reports Index.hr.

Croatia must finish the qualifications at the top of the group to directly qualify for the World Cup. Recall, finishing second leads to the most difficult additional qualifications for the World Cup in history. It is important to emphasize that these qualifications for the World Cup are completely different from all others so far. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the schedule is condensed, so the European part of the World Cup qualifiers is played across eight months, instead of the previous one and a half years. Namely, Qualifications run from March to November this year.

Furthermore, only ten group winners will secure a spot at the World Cup, while ten runners-up will play additional qualifiers. Thus, two winners of the 2020/21 Nations League groups will join those national teams, but only those who did not directly qualify for the World Cup and did not secure additional qualifications as runners-up in the World Cup qualifying groups.

Unlike in the past, during these additional World Cup qualifiers, the national teams will be divided into three groups. Only one knockout match will be played to define which three European national teams ensure their spot at the 2022 World Cup.

Four games before the end, it is clear that Croatia and Russia will decide the winner of the group. Both national teams have 13 points, and one goal only divides them. 

Before the qualifications, coach Zlatko Dalić said that he thinks 20 or 21 points will be enough for first place in the group. However, Croatia could again finish in the additional qualifications with 20 points, just like for the 2018 World Cup, when Croatia overcame Greece.

Apart from Croatia, Denmark also went to the playoffs with 20 points, but it is worth noting that in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, Portugal and Ukraine went to the playoffs, even though they had 21 points each. So Dalić's calculation should not be taken as relevant.

Croatia has 13 points after six games, and by the end of this part of the qualification, four more games will be played from October 8 to November 14.

If Croatia, as expected, beats the two weakest national teams, Cyprus and Malta, it would have 19 points. Still, the decision will fall in Osijek and Split against the significantly stronger Slovakia and Russia. A mitigating circumstance for Croatia is that they play against both national teams at home.

Until the end, Russia's schedule and results will be equally important to Croatia, and the derby will decide the winner of the group in the last round, Croatia - Russia at Poljud

Croatia's schedule until the end of the World Cup qualifiers:

October 8: Cyprus - Croatia

October 11: CROATIA - Slovakia

November 11: Malta - Croatia

November 14: CROATIA - Russia

Russia's schedule until the end of the World Cup qualifiers:

October 8: Russia - Slovakia

October 11: Slovenia - Russia

November 11: Russia - Cyprus

November 14: Croatia - Russia

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

To learn more about sport in Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Russia and Croatia Draw in Moscow (0:0)

September 1, 2021 - Russia and Croatia draw in Moscow in the first 2022 World Cup qualifier for the Vatreni this month. 

The Croatia national team continued their qualification cycle for the 2022 World Cup against Russia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Coach Zlatko Dalic faced a problem before the start of the match. Gvardiol, who was supposed to play stopper with Lovren, felt muscle tightening before kick-off. Duje Ćaleta-Car entered the starting lineup instead. Recall, Luka Modrić did not travel with the team to Russia due to an injury. 

Lineups

Russia: Guilherme; Mario Fernandes, Diveev, Dzhikiya, Karavayev; Kuzyayev, Barinov, Golovin; Ionov, Miranchuk, Zakharyan

Croatia: Livaković; Juranović, Lovren, Ćaleta-Car, Sosa; Brozović, Kovačić; Vlašić, Pašalić, Perišić; Kramarić

The match started with a Russia attack which was no problem for Livaković. Good movement up Croatia's wings saw a few balls played into the penalty area but went short to Russia's keeper. Croatia's first corner of the match was in the 11th minute. Ćaleta Car's header went high over the goal. 

Russia's most dangerous opportunity came in the 14th minute with a rocket from Zakharyan, but Livaković's fingertips forced it out for a corner. 

Croatia began attacking more aggressively in the 5 minutes that followed, with crosses lobbed into the box by both Sosa and Juranović. 

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Slobodan Kadic

While Croatia maintained possession they maintained their calm and didn't attack Russia's goal much from the 30th minute. Russia, however, also had trouble giving Livaković much work to do. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia's best chance came in the 40th minute with a world-class through ball from Kovačić. The Russia keeper beat Kramarić to it by a millisecond, thus ending the play. Another great chance happened two minutes later. A brilliant Juranović cross into the box went off Pašalić's head to Perišić who just shot wide of the goal. 

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Slobodan Kadic

The match ended 0:0 at the half after a much more offensive Croatia in the final 5 minutes.  

The second half started with a shot on goal for Russia which Livaković saved to keep the score 0:0. Croatia's first real chance of the second half came 10 minutes later when Vlašić shot over the goal. Croatia was struggling to break through the tough Russia defense. 

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Slobodan Kadic

Croatia's defense was lucky when a Russia attack was called offside in the 62nd minute. Sosa shot from outside the box two minutes later but it was an easy save for the Russia keeper. 

Luka Ivanušec came in for Mario Pašalić in the 69th minute. Mislav Oršic came in for Andrej Kramarić and Mirko Livaja for Ivan Perišić in the 72nd. 

Russia increased its attacking game but failed to find the back of the net. Ivanušec shot at the keeper in the 81st minute. An injury ended Ćaleta Car's game in the 84th minute. Mile Škorić was subbed on in his place. 

A weak clearance from Lovren in the 87th minute nearly cost Croatia a goal, but Livaković saved it to keep the score even. The final few minutes saw panic for the Croatia defense who were threatened by Russia in the penalty area. 

Four minutes were added by the referee. 

Kovačić used his technical skills to dribble through the Russia defense, sending a slow-motion ball across the goal line in the 2nd minute of added time for another Croatia chance, but it wasn't enough. The match ended 0:0. 

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

To learn more about sport in Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Monday, 30 August 2021

Zlatko Dalić Ahead of Croatia's 2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Luka is Impossible to Replace

August 30, 2021 - September is nearly here, meaning Croatia's 2022 World Cup qualifiers are upon us. Coach Zlatko Dalić spoke to the press ahead of the first match against Russia on Wednesday. 

The Croatia national football team has arrived in Moscow, where the first of three September matches will take place. Croatia will face Russia on Wednesday to continue the 2022 World Cup in Qatar qualification cycle, reports HNS.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić fondly remembers the beautiful memories of Moscow and the historical silver but is aware of the fact that one cannot live from old glory in football. 

"Three years have passed since the World Cup in Russia, but that is now behind us. Of course, it is nice to come here and remember everything we experienced. Still, our new task is the qualifying match against Russia, and we are focused exclusively on that," says Zlatko Dalić, who once again explained the choice of players against Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

“I stand behind this list. I have chosen players who play in their clubs and are in shape. I wouldn’t talk about names and specifically explain why I didn’t call someone, but no one was written off or crossed out. If those who are not there now are in shape and play in their clubs, maybe they will be with us again. This is a team that I believe can get a good result in these three games. How many points will be enough for us for Qatar? According to some of my calculations, we will need 20 or 21 for the first place, which means that we have to catch another 14, 15 in the next seven games."

Before the September matches, Dalić was first left without the captain and best player, Luka Modrić, due to an adductor injury. Then the news followed that Ante Budimir would miss at least the first match.

"It is impossible to replace Luka, but that is why all other players have to take on a greater amount of responsibility, especially the more experienced ones. One player cannot replace Luka, but everyone else must take on more responsibilities. It will be difficult for us without Luka and his help, but we have to get used to it. Luka will not be with us forever; I believe we will replace him as a team because we cannot change him according to the chess - 'figure for figure.' The midfield line? We will see, there is Brozović, Modrić, Pašalić, and Vlašić, and we will look for solutions among them. Again, Ivanušec is in good shape; our midfield must not and will not be a problem. Of course, Luka is difficult to replace, but I'm not afraid; I believe in this team."

Several Croatia members are currently in the middle of club transfers, which can be a problem ahead of important matches.

"Yes, that is a problem, their heads are in transfers, they have a lot of inquiries and information, and it is difficult for them to concentrate, and that worries us. Fortunately, Vlašić has finished his, he is on his way from London to Moscow, but they all have to forget the transfers and turn to the match against Russia. So my meeting with the players today will be in that direction. I know that these are their careers and lives, but now we are only interested in Russia." 

When it comes to Russia, the team has undergone significant changes compared to the one that played the World Cup quarterfinals against Croatia.

"Russia plays differently than in 2018 or at this year's Euro, which is logical considering that they have a new coach. Before, they looked for Juba with long balls. Karpin cultivates a different style, looking for a passing play in a 4-3-3 formation. We prepared for that; I spoke a lot with Olić, Ćorluka, and Pletikosa. Russia will not surprise us. This match is crucial to them; they allowed 20,000 spectators to be in the stands, we have a hard job ahead of us, but I believe that we will respond with aggression, fighting spirit, and energy," concluded the Croatia coach. 

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

To learn more about sport in Croatia, CLICK HERE.

 

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Olympic Qualifiers: Croatia Defeats Russia on Penalties to Qualify for Tokyo!

February 21, 2021 - Croatia defeats Russia on penalties in the 3rd-place match of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Rotterdam to qualify for Tokyo! 

Croatia and Russia met in the 3rd-place match of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Rotterdam on Sunday afternoon. A win was enough for Croatia to automatically secure a spot in Tokyo, as the top three national teams from the qualifiers advance to the Olympic Games. 

Behind Croatia are seven rounds made up of five victories and two defeats at the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Rotterdam thus far. Recall, Croatia won their first match against Romania at 16:6, defeated the Netherlands 25:8, topped France 10:13lost to Russia 13:14, and beat Germany 22:8 in the final group stage match. 

Croatia thus finished the group stage with eight points, four wins, and a defeat against Russia, which finished first with nine points. 

In the quarterfinal match on Friday, Croatia was better than Georgia (15:6), but lost to Montenegro in the semifinal match on penalties on Saturday. Russia lost to Greece 10:13 in the second semifinal on Saturday. 

Croatia v. Russia 

Maro Jokovic scored the first goal of the match from a penalty for 1:0 with 6:49 to go in the first quarter.  A Milos-Vrlic combo made it 2:1 for Croatia a minute later. Vukicevic made it  3:2 with 3:54 to go. Adro Buslje scored for 4:2 with less than 3 minutes left. The first quarter ended at 4:3.

Milos scored to open the second quarter for Croatia at 5:4. Vukicevic scored for 6:6 with 3:04 to go. It was 6:7 for Russia going into halftime. 

Garcia scored for 7:7 with 6:17 left in the third quarter. Croatia finally retook the lead for 8:7 thanks to a Bukic goal with 2:55 left. Fatovic scored for 9:8 with 4:60 seconds to go in the third quarter. 

It was 9:9 with 5:20 to go in the final quarter. Buslje scored for 10:9 with 4:47 left. Vrlic scored for 11:10 with 1:20 to go. The match ended at 11:11 and went to penalties, which Croatia won 25:24!

The finalists of the qualifying tournament, as well as the national team that wins the match for third place on February 21, qualifies for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are scheduled from July 24 to August 8, 2021. 

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

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