Monday, 9 November 2020

Nations League: Croatia and Portugal without Spectators in Split

November 9, 2020 - The national teams of Croatia and Portugal will meet at Poljud Stadium in Split on November 17 for their final Nations League match this season. 

Today, the National Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia extended the Decision on necessary epidemiological measures restricting assemblies and introducing other necessary measures and recommendations to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 through gatherings.

The decision of the headquarters includes the measure of holding sports competitions without the presence of spectators.

Following such a decision by the National Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian Football Federation informs the public that the Nations League match between Croatia and Portugal, scheduled for November 17 in Split, will be played without spectators. Also, the match between the youth national teams of Croatia and Lithuania in Pula will be played without fans.

The mentioned measure also refers to other competitions under the jurisdiction of HNS, which will be held without spectators until further notice.

Due to similar measures in Turkey and Sweden, the matches of the Croatia national team against Turkey (November 11) in Istanbul and Sweden (November 14) in Solna will be played without spectators.

Source: HNS

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Monday, 26 October 2020

Coach Zlatko Dalic Announces the Croatia Player List for Nations League in November

October 26, 2020 - National team coach Zlatko Dalic announces the Croatia player list for the upcoming Nations League matches in November, when the 2018 World Cup finalists will again have a tight schedule.

As in October, the national team will play three games during the upcoming gathering in November. Namely, Croatia will play a friendly match against Turkey on November 11 in Istanbul, followed by their two final matches in the Nations League - on November 14, they will play against Sweden (Solna / Stockholm), and three days later, they will host Portugal in Split.

Croatia currently sits in 3rd place in Nations League Group 3 with 3 points. Portugal and France are in first and second place with 10 points each. Croatia has only won one game in this Nations League campaign against Sweden earlier this month in Zagreb. 

Coach Dalic invited 23 players and eight call-ups, among which is Bordeaux midfielder Toma Basic for the first time.

"We will monitor the condition of all players in the next two weeks and react on time, depending on the situation. I wish all invited players to be healthy so that we can welcome the last matches of this year and finish the competition in the Nations League in a satisfactory position," said Dalic.

The national team will gather on November 9 in Istanbul, and the day after the match against Turkey, they will travel to Stockholm. Croatia will travel to Split immediately after the match against Sweden.

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livaković, Simon Sluga, Ivo Grbić

Defenders: Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Borna Barišić, Duje Ćaleta-Car, Dario Melnjak, Filip Uremović, Domagoj Bradarić

Midfielders: Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić, Marcelo Brozović, Milan Badelj, Marko Rog, Mario Pašalić, Nikola Vlašić

Attackers: Ivan Perišić, Andrej Kramarić, Josip Brekalo, Bruno Petković, Mislav Oršić, Ante Budimir

Callups: Ante Rebić, Tin Jedvaj, Lovre Kalinić, Mile Škorić, Josip Juranović, Toma Bašić, Antonio Mirko Čolak, Marin Pongračić

Source: HNS

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Sunday, 11 October 2020

UEFA Nations League: Croatia Tops Sweden 2:1 in Rainy Zagreb

October 11, 2020 - Croatia tops Sweden 2:1 in their 3rd-round Nations League match on Sunday at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb.

Croatia continued their Nations League campaign on Sunday against Sweden, a team they didn't meet back in September. Croatia and Sweden met in rainy Zagreb at Maksimir Stadium at 6 pm. 

Coach Zlatko Dalic unveiled a slightly different lineup for this match, featuring Livakovic in goal, Melnjak, Caleta-Car, Lovren, and Uremovic in the back, Brozovic, Vlasic, Modric and Kovacic across the midfield, and Perisic and Brekalo up top.

Before this match, Croatia had played Sweden four times - in a friendly in 2003, in World Cup qualifiers in 2004 and 2005, and in another friendly in 2012, which is the only time they lost. 

The match began with heavy rain and a quick yellow card for Mateo Kovacic, who was cautioned in the first minute of play. While Sweden pressured Croatia's goal within the first five minutes, Croatia picked up the pace and Brekalo even scored an offside goal in the 10th minute. The wet pitch certainly made things more difficult.

Modric had a chance in the 18th minute, which was saved by Sweden goalkeeper Olsen, though it didn't stop him from shooting again moments later, albeit over the goal. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-12 at 07.39.22.jpeg

Slobodan Kadic

Sweden had their first real opportunity when Kulusevci shot in the 24th minute, though it was no problem for Livakovic to save. Vlasic took a chance at Sweden's goal two minutes later.

However, Croatia and Nikola finally got their chance. A brilliant play by Modric at the midfield line saw Croatia attack up the pitch. Brekalo found the boot of Vlasic who scored for 1:0 in the 32nd minute!

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-12 at 07.39.21 (1).jpeg

Slobodan Kadic

Vlasic shot again off a Modric corner found him just outside the top of the box, though he hit over the goal in the 38th minute. The game ended 1:0 at the half.

Unfortunately, the weather only worsened at the start of the second half, and we could only hope that the already weak Maksimir pitch wouldn't flood. 

Croatia came out aggressively in the first few minutes, though it was Sweden to threaten Croatia's goal in the 50th minute. What was nearly an own goal by Lovren was saved by Livakovic on the goal line to keep Croatia in the lead. Sweden, however, called for a penalty as it looked as though there was a Croatia handball in the box.

Brekalo had a great chance in the 52nd minute, which went wide of the goal for a corner.  

Sweden had another excellent chance in the 56th minute from a free-kick which Livakovic tipped over the goal then caught it to ensure Croatia's lead. 

Pasalic was subbed on for Kovacic in the 60th minute.

A rocket from Perisic's right boot saw the Sweden keeper make a difficult save for a Croatia corner in the 61st minute. 

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Slobodan Kadic

A quick Sweden counter-attack in the 65th minute saw Berg even the score for 1:1. The goal certainly gave Sweden momentum, as they picked up their game considerably in the minutes that followed. 

Andrej Kramaric and Domagoj Bradaric were subbed on for Brekalo and Melnjak in the 74th minute. 

Thankfully, Kramaric brought Croatia the luck they needed. In the 83rd minute, Perisic found Kramaric unmarked in the box, who scored for the Croatia lead! The game was now 2:1.

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-12 at 07.39.23.jpeg

Slobodan Kadic

A dangerous play by Sweden in the 89th minute could have leveled the result again, but Livakovic was solid in goal. The referee added 4 minutes, in which Sweden was unable to score. The match ended 2:1 for Croatia!

In their 4th-round match, Croatia will meet France on Wednesday in Zagreb at 8:45 pm. 

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Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Tickets for Croatia Matches Against Sweden and France On Sale Today!

October 7, 2020 - Tickets for Croatia matches against Sweden (October 11) and France (October 14)  at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb will begin on Wednesday, October 7, at 10:00.

The Croatia national football team will play two consecutive Nations League matches, both at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, against Sweden on October 11 at 6 pm, and against France on October 14 at 8:45 pm. Ticket sales for both matches are organized exclusively via the Internet at the following prices:

Tribune west middle lower: 250 kn

Tribune west lower: 150 kn

Tribune west upper: 100 kn

Tribune north lower: 60 kn

Tribune north upper: 60 kn

Ticket sales include e-tickets that the buyer must download online and print out. Only citizens of the Republic of Croatia, regardless of residence address, have the right to purchase by filling in the required personal information.

Due to special epidemiological measures in the stands, one person can buy only two (2) tickets, no less, no more. In addition to their data, the customer also enters data of the other ticket holder, who does not necessarily have to be a citizen of the Republic of Croatia.

The deadline for purchasing tickets online is:

October 11, 2020, until 12:00 for the match against Sweden, or October 14, 2020, until 12:00 for the match against France or until the games are sold out. 

Tickets will be available online on the HNS ticket portal, where you can find detailed information on ticket sales and payment methods.

HNS warns fans that when entering the stadium, the security will check the accuracy of personal data on the tickets. Fans who try to enter the stadium with a ticket in another name will be denied entry. Therefore, fans should not buy tickets from scalpers with someone else's information on the ticket.

As a reminder, UEFA allowed the return of spectators up to 30 percent of the stadium's capacity, which in the case of Maksimir was reduced by closing the east and south stands that were damaged in the earthquake.

Anyone entering the stadium must disinfect their hands as often as possible and maintain the recommended physical distance between themselves and other spectators.

More information can be found on HNS HERE.

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Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Zlatko Dalic Revealed the Plan for Switzerland, Upcoming Nations League Campaign

October 6, 2020 - After the Croatia national team gathered on Monday in St. Gallen, coach Zlatko Dalic revealed the plan for Switzerland and the upcoming Nations League campaign against Sweden and France.

The Croatia national football team gathered on Monday in St. Gallen before three crucial October exams - a friendly match against Switzerland on Wednesday, and the Nations League campaign in Zagreb against Sweden (October 11) and France (October 14).

Unfortunately, coach Zlatko Dalic is left without Sime Vrsaljko once again.

"Unfortunately, we are left without Vrsaljko again. This is new news; he was injured again in training a few days ago, so he will not be with us at this gathering. I'm sorry he's not here again because he's back; he was with us after a long time. As for the other players, we still don’t know the whole situation to the end. According to the latest information, Badelj will still come, and we are waiting for news about Brekalo. I hope that everyone will be together, except that we were already left without Rebic."

Analyzing the September matches, Dalic points to two completely different approaches against Portugal and France.

"We had two heavy defeats, but the approach was bad only against Portugal. We were not ourselves in that game; there was no aggression, running, duels. We encountered a much stronger opponent at the time; Portugal was better in all segments of the game. Against France, this was not the case, we were much better then. We played a good game that we did not deserve to lose, in the analysis we saw, for example, that we ran three kilometers more than France."

However, deconcentration in some situations, a drop in responsibility, and two interruptions contributed to the defeat. We were great until the 43rd minute, dominated, absolutely controlled the game. And then two unseen mistakes happened to us, so instead of going 1:0 at half time, we lose 1:2. In such a situation, it was not easy to enter the continuation of the match, but we got back into the game, equalized, and then come two interruptions that destroyed us. In Zagreb, however, I expect a different game. We are constantly on par with France and we always lose. I expect that we will be better this time, the players are a month deeper into training and competitive form, and they will certainly come to this gathering in a much better position."

For the first time, Croatia will play three matches in a gathering. What is Dalic's plan? Are the Nations League matches more important than the friendly match with Switzerland, and how does Dalic intend to share the playing time amongst players?

"There is little time and a lot of games. Not all players will be able to withstand that, and that is why the list is a bit wider. My goal is to give the opportunity against Switzerland to players who have played less so far and who have not always been on the national team. We want to see them, which means we will play against Switzerland with a team that will be quite mixed. Of course, the Nations League is important to us, we want to stay in the elite group, and we must focus all our efforts on the matches against Sweden and France in Zagreb. These are two important matches, we will do our best to win at least one in order to stay in the elite group."

What answers would Dalic like to get against Switzerland?

"We want to see players who have not been in the national team circle and are playing well in their clubs. They all deserve a call and now have the opportunity to impose themselves and show that we can count on them in the near future. My rule is already known, it is difficult to get in and out of the national team, but given the circumstances in which frequent absences of players occur, we must find certain solutions. We said that we are preparing the team for the European Championship, and this is an opportunity to see some new faces."

Andrej Kramaric scored again and is still the leading scorer in the Bundesliga. What is his role in the team?

"The task of me as a coach is to find the best solutions for all players in the system in which Croatia plays. Kramaric played in several positions in the national team, and in the end, he took us to the World Cup in Russia with two goals when he played against Ukraine. So, there are no doubts on that issue. We will see the situation, and I will try to make Kramaric play in a position where he is the best for the Croatia national team. In any case, my task is to make the best use of its qualities."

Ivan Rakitic said goodbye to the national team, and Ante Rebic is out due to injury. How much does that change the concept of the Croatia national team's game, and is Kovacic or Vlasic closer to a staring 11 spot?

"We will see who will be in the starting lineup, everyone will get a chance, and I need to use Kovacic and Vlasic in the right way. They have already proven that they can do it. I am sorry that Rakitic is no longer with us, but younger players are coming who will have to replace him. It will not be easy for them at all, they will need time and experience, but Kramaric, Vlasic, and Kovacic can also jump into that position. In general, we have good solutions."

How important is the return of Luka Modric?

"Very important. Luka is the leader of our game and the leader on the pitch; he is very important to me as a coach, the staff, and players. With Luka, players feel safer on the pitch, and everyone is 15 percent better. I am looking forward to Luka's arrival; he is healthy and ready. We did the right thing when we released him from obligations in September; we gave him a chance to be better at both Real and the national team. Luka was never questioned, he always gave his best, the only thing that matters is that he is healthy," concluded Dalic.

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Sunday, 4 October 2020

HNS Announces Tickets for Croatia Matches against Sweden, France in Zagreb

October 4, 2020 - After UEFA decided that fans can return to stadiums at 30% capacity, HNS announces tickets for Croatia matches against Sweden and France in Zagreb. 

HNS announced that following UEFA's decision to allow spectators to fill 30 percent of the stadium's capacity in UEFA competitions, the Executive Board of the Croatian Football Federation decided to use this opportunity and allow spectators to come to the Nations League matches against Sweden, France and Portugal. By UEFA's decision, the arrival of fans to away matches is not allowed.

Croatian fans will once again have the opportunity to watch and support the Croatia national team at home games, after a break of almost a year thanks to COVID-19. The UEFA Executive Board, with the participation of HNS President Davor Suker, decided to allow the national federations to return spectators to a maximum of 30 percent of the available capacity of the stadium.

Although there is little time left for Maksimir Stadium to organize the matches against Sweden (October 11) and France (October 14)  and despite the numerous requirements that the organizer must comply with UEFA, the HNS Executive Board decided that the Federation will do everything for Croatian fans to watch Croatia play in a few weeks. After these games in October, Croatia will host Portugal in Split in November, also with spectators.

Spectators will be able to buy tickets for the West and North stands for the matches against Sweden and France, while the East and South stands will be closed to the public because of the Zagreb earthquake in March.

Ticket prices are as follows:

West middle lower: 250 kuna
West lower: 150 kuna
West upper: 100 kuna
North lower: 60 kuna
North upper: 60 kuna

Tickets can be purchased exclusively online, with ticket printing at home.

At the beginning of next week, HNS will inform the public about the manner and start time of ticket sales. Also, the Federation will inform the public about all organizational details of the match, i.e., strict measures that all spectators will have to follow to protect their health, the health of other spectators and in general - the concept of returning spectators to stadiums.

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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. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-09-08 at 23.18.55.jpeg

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!


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.  


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. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-09-08 at 23.30.35.jpeg

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.


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. 


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.

Slobodan Kadic Facebook

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Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Zlatko Dalic and Ivan Perisic Address Press Ahead of France Rematch

September 8, 2020 - Zlatko Dalic and Ivan Perisic addressed the press ahead of the Nations League rematch against France on Tuesday evening in Paris.

Ivan Perisic has fond memories of the Stade de France. Perisic played for the first time for the Croatia A national team at Saint-Denis on March 29, 2011, in a friendly match that ended without goals in front of seventy thousand spectators. Tonight, he and the Vatreni will replay the World Cup final in Russia, unfortunately without spectators. The Nations League meeting between France and Croatia begins at 8:45 pm.


Slobodan Kadic

"When you play for Croatia, it doesn't matter who is on the other side, this match is special because it is the first against France after the Moscow final during which we dominated in the first half, but we, unfortunately, received two goals. We tried to change things in the second half, but it didn’t work. There is no rematch; this is a new game for me. There are a lot of new players on both sides, France will play in the new system, so this is a completely different story. I hope that we will be ready; we have to give our best," says Ivan, who is just getting in the right shape after a hard but successful season and a few days off until the start of new obligations.

"After the Champions League final, I only had seven days off, in general, neither of us is one hundred percent, but that should not be a reason not to get something positive out of these two games. We didn't get into the game against Portugal well; we didn't stand well on the pitch, there wasn't enough aggression, we didn't even try to play, which is one of our best traits, we just kicked the ball… There are many things we need to fix and do better because it won't end well if we continue like that. We spoke, we know where we went wrong, tomorrow is a new day, a new game, and we will get something positive. Not even France is one hundred percent, because most of the players, almost no one has played games. However, we have to give the maximum be it 45, 60, or 90 minutes. We are playing for Croatia against the World Cup finalists, every game must be like the last one for us," points out Ivan and points out the strength of the next opponent.


Slobodan Kadic

"France is a football force and, regardless of the character of the match, they have a player staff of about forty or fifty top players. Simply, whoever they put you don't know where the greater danger will come from, and they also have a great coach, and we will really have to be at a high level if we want to get a positive result."

Coach Zlatko Dalic spoke in selected words about Perisic's contribution to Croatia's game.

"Ivan is one of our most important players, the holder of the game, this year he had a great season with Bayern, which he crowned by winning the Champions League. When there are not a few main players, Modric, Rakitic, and Vrsaljko, he is the one who, as captain, will be the main one on the pitch on our side. He said that he is not very well prepared, which is normal considering that he recently played in the Champions League final. Still, I expect him to be the team leader, get a new impetus with him, and raise the level of our game compared to the game against Portugal," says Zlatko Dalic, who is aware of the fact that the team failed in Porto.


Slobodan Kadic

"We suffered a very difficult and painful defeat that we absolutely deserved. There were many bad things, it was not a game at the level of the Croatia national team, but we must understand that it is the beginning of the season, that there are a lot of new players in the national team. After all, our goal is the European Championship; we have to make a selection of players through these matches and try to find what is best. This is not the same team that played in the World Cup in Russia, which is normal; we had to make a slight change of generations. I repeat, we were not good in Porto. The players' physical condition is not at the level; there was not enough energy and aggression, we simply overslept in the game. We will make some team changes because some players who played first cannot run in another strong game in three days. We will have to change the way we play and approach; we have to be much more responsible; there has to be a lot more discipline in our game. Anyway, I expect a better match than in Portugal. I have tremendous respect for the French world champions who have great players. We have to set ourselves up much better, helping each other in the defense phase. Against Portugal, we lacked that compactness and homogeneity; we were not together; we were not close; there was no support. We stayed in situations where the opponent had a surplus; it looked like Portugal was playing with 15, and we with 10 players. Even harder work awaits us against France."

Of course, everyone misses the fans.

"We all miss the fans, and football doesn't make sense without them. We are all handicapped, but, given the overall situation, we need to adapt to the new measures. It is not easy for us; football is played because of the fans. I hope they will return to the stands soon," concluded Dalic.

Source: HNS

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Saturday, 5 September 2020

Portugal Defeats Croatia in Nations League Opener

September 5, 2020 - In an opening match of this year's football Nations League, Portugal defeated Croatian national team in Porto, with the result 4:1. 

The current European champions played against the World Cup finalists in Porto, so the expectations were high. The teams started in the following formations: 

PORTUGAL: Lopes - Joao Cancelo, Pepe, Ruben Dias, Guerreiro - Danilo - Joao Moutinho, Fernandes - Jota, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva

CROATIA: Livaković - Barišić, Vida, Lovren, Jedvaj - Vlašić, Kovačić, Pašalić - Rebić, Kramarić, Brekalo. WhatsApp Image 2020-09-06 at 04.04.04.jpeg

Slobodan Kadic

While the game started with some great attacks by the Croatian team, it soon became one-sided, with Portugal being completely in charge. Before the first goal was scored in 41st minute by Joao Cancelo, Portugal managed to hit the goalposts three times (!). The first half finished 1:0 for Portugal, and some commentators say that it was probably the worst half-time played by Croatia since Zlatko Dalić has been in charge of the team. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-09-06 at 04.04.06 (1).jpeg

Slobodan Kadic

Things didn't improve much in the second half for the Croatian team. Diogo Jota scored in the 58th minute, and in the 70th Joao Felix made it 3:0. In the 90th minute it seemed that the final result wouldn't be a total disaster, as Bruno Petković scored and made it 3:1, seconds before the official time was up. Andre Silva, however, managed to score yet another goal in the last seconds of the game, making 4:1 the final result. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-09-06 at 04.04.06.jpeg

Slobodan Kadic

In three days, Croatia will play the world champions France at the Saint-Denis stadium in Paris. Hopefully, at least somewhat better news for the Croatian national football team and their fans will come from Paris. 

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Friday, 4 September 2020

Zlatko Dalic Ahead of Nations League: "Portugal Has Ronaldo, But We Are 2nd in World"

September 4, 2020 - The Croatia national football team has arrived in Porto, where they will play their first match in the second edition of the Nations League against Portugal on Saturday. After ten months, the Vatreni are back together at the start of a new competition season. Zlatko Dalic addressed the press ahead of the Nations League clash against Portugal. 

HNS reports:

"When the national team gathers, there is always a good atmosphere; it's cheerful, the guys are in the mood, and we all missed it. After ten months, we are back together; we use this time to prepare, work, and get back together as before. The boys are eager to work and train; they came to the national team full of will and motivation," says Zlatko Dalic, who is very aware of the demanding back-to-back games against Portugal and France.

WhatsApp Image 2020-09-04 at 21.13.17.jpeg

Slobodan Kadic

"It couldn't have been harder right at the beginning, we are playing against the two strongest opponents, against the European and world champions on their pitches, and we are not in an ideal condition for such matches at the moment. Of course, this is no one's fault; the situation is as it is. Most of the players came to the gathering from holidays, a few of them started preparations, and a smaller part of the championship started. Therefore, in this regard, we have a very colorful situation, and it will be very difficult for us. We have demanding matches ahead of us, and we will have to be at a very high level if we want to achieve a good result. I expect that, but, I repeat, it will not be easy. Especially because we are not physically ready, and we can only use three subs at a time. Therefore, we will have to be very careful in that direction as well."

Especially because the team is handicapped by the absence of two important players, captain and vice-captain, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, whose roles will be taken over by some new, younger players.

"We will miss a lot of players who are not there, especially two captains, and that is a handicap for us, but in the near future, Croatia will be without Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, Lovren, Vida, and the time will come for some other players to take over their roles. Therefore, this is an ideal chance for them to prepare for it to get a chance to play matches. It will be difficult for us without Luka and Ivan; you know how sensitive I am to the players who have been with me in the national team since the first day and how much I respect them, but that is the situation. I think this is an ideal time for young players who play great in their clubs to get a chance to play for the national team because soon they will be the holders of the game and replace the older players. That is inevitable."

Dalic paid a lot of attention to opponents who require the maximum engagement of the whole team.

"I have already said, we are not in such a physical condition that we could play high pressure throughout the game and chase opponents on the pitch. In this segment of the game, we will have to mix, be in the block for a while and try to open quickly, and, when possible, decide on high pressure. During the game, we have to know how to rest, to have possession of the ball, because it will not be good if we are constantly chasing; we are not ready for that at this moment. However, we have the quality to save the ball, especially in the midfield, to develop the game through quality passing. We will have to be compact and homogeneous; if we succeed in that, we can expect a good game and result. I hope that the team will meet all the requirements."

Of course, at the mention of Portugal, everyone highlights Cristiano Ronaldo, which is, to some extent, unfair to a team that is too strong to be talked about exclusively in the context of one of the best players in the world.

“Of course Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world, a scorer who always gives his best, always physically flawlessly ready, a player who can take advantage and score a goal from any situation. We have to be very careful with him, but, on the other hand, Portugal is the current European champion and winner of the Nations League and has a number of quality players who can create problems. It will not be good if we focus only on Cristiano Ronaldo; the Portuguese have a good style of play. They are well-coordinated, have a rotation in the midfield, and throw a lot forward, especially backline players… We have to prevent that, Ronaldo is the most dangerous player, but he is not the only danger for Portugal."

The Nations League also allowed players the chance to prove themselves. 

"We always play for the result, and that must always be the case when it comes to the Croatia national team. Croatia must always look for a victory no matter who they play with, but the Nations League will also serve as good preparation for the European Championship. We will try to check and get some players through these matches, and in that sense, we are completely ready to welcome the European competition. That is our main goal, but we do not have much time to play some new variants. We are only together a few days, and there will be time to try some things when the friendly matches come. We have to look to achieve a good result and come back from Portugal and France with good results. I repeat, it will be extremely difficult and demanding, the opponents are the most dangerous at the moment, but we are also second in the world," concluded Dalic.

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Slobodan Kadic

On late Friday evening, Portugal coach Fernando Santos confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo would miss the match against Croatia.

"He trained very well on Monday and Tuesday, but he had leg problems on Wednesday, so we sent him to the gym then. During lunch, we found out he had swelling in his leg, like a wasp sting, so he's on antibiotic treatment," Santos said after Friday's training, which was open to the media for 15 minutes.

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