Sunday, 3 April 2022

World Cup and Croatia: 5 Reasons to Dream of Glory (Again)

April 3, 2022 - The Vatreni already know their rivals for the biggest football event to be held in Qatar this year, and there are reasons to believe that Modrić and company can add yet another page to the wonderful history between the World Cup and Croatia.

There is no easy rival in the World Cup, and this should be well known by now. It doesn't matter what path took you to the biggest stage in football, once you're there all you think about is winning and advancing as far as you can. If not, ask Croatia in 1998 and twenty years later, in 2018. To qualify for the World Cup in France, Croatia had to play a two-game playoff against Ukraine, after finishing second in their qualifying group behind Denmark. They beat the Ukrainians 3-1 on aggregate, and destiny led them to finish third in their first-ever World Cup finals.

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The Croatian national team, led by ''Ćiro'' Blažević, reached third place in France '98. (Image: Croatian Football Federation)

Unlike other national teams, Croatia's qualifying history has not been constant. After the success in France, Croatia qualified directly for the World Cups in Korea-Japan in 2002, and Germany in 2006. However, they would miss the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and again would need the playoffs to qualify for the World Cups in Brazil in 2014 and the most recent in Russia in 2018. Little or nothing Messi's Argentina, host Russia or Harry Kane's England would have imagined, that the Croats did not travel to Russia on vacation. They had a mission, and this led them to overcome what was done by Šuker, Boban, or Prosinečki twenty years before that. Croatia, defying the odds, reached the final of a World Cup.

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Croatia could not beat France in the World Cup final in Russia, but the second place achieved will always be remembered. (Photo: PIXSELL)

Can Croatia repeat a memorable feat? We think so, and here are 5 reasons why you should too.

Group draw

Two days ago, the draw for the group stage of the World Cup in Qatar was held. Croatia, despite coming second in the previous World Cup and finishing first in their qualifying group, was placed in Pot 2 of the draw. Those led by Dalić could not avoid playing against teams such as Brazil, France, Argentina, or Spain, but they could avoid others such as the Netherlands or Germany, also in Pot 2. Thus, the chances for Croatia to be put in a theoretical ‘‘group of death’’ were low.

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Image: @FIFAWorldCup/Twitter

Croatia will be in Group F, with the Belgian team as the leader, and where they will be joined by Canada and Morocco. I would like, at this moment, to remember the first thing I said at the very beginning: there is no easy rival in the World Cup. Oh yes, I've read loads of people on social media saying "not bad" or that it is an "affordable group for Croatia". The reality is that we are up against Morocco, a team that has matured since the last World Cup in Russia and one of the toughest in Africa. While the absence of Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea) may sound motivating for many, the Moroccans still have a group of talented players such as Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), Achraf Hakimi (PSG), Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina), Adel Taarabt (Benfica), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla), or the very young Ez Abde, from Barcelona B.

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Croatia's first World Cup match will be against Morocco on November 23 at Al Bayt Stadium. (Image: @EnMaroc/Twitter)

Canada might sound to many like the rival to beat, but don't underestimate that the Canadians finished the CONCACAF standings in the first place and very comfortably ahead of more experienced teams like the United States, Mexico, or Costa Rica. The North American country will be looking to bring out the best in a golden generation that includes the likes of Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Jonathan David (Lille), and Cyle Larin (Besiktas).

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Croatia's second game will be against Canada on November 27 at the Khalifa International Stadium. (Image: @CanadaSoccerEN/Twitter)

Finally, Belgium will surely be Croatia's big test, and many believe that it will be between them who will go through to the round of 16 as group leader. But despite the fact that some point out the bad moment and the injuries of Eden Hazard at Real Madrid, the lack of continuity of Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea, or the departure of emblematic defenders such as Vincent Kompany or Thomas Vermaelen, the truth is that the Belgian team also has reasons to go far. A team that has Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Yannick Carrasco (Atlético Madrid), Axel Witsel and Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund) at the peak of their football maturity, as well as many youngsters who will refresh the team with their mischief, like Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Alexis Saelemaekers (Milan), Albert Sambi Lokonga (Arsenal) or Jérémy Doku (Rennes), is a team to bet on as World Cup champions. In 2018, they were the third-place team behind Croatia.

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Croatia will close the group stage against Belgium on December 1 at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium. (Image: @BelRedDevils/Twitter)

So if the group is not as easy as we thought, why would it be a reason to dream? Although I insist that confidence comes from not underestimating the rivals but instead being cautious, other groups have more even teams. Group E has Spain, Germany, and Japan (waiting for Costa Rica and New Zealand). Group H has Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea, and Ghana. Croatia will first play Morocco, then Canada, and will play the last game of the group stage against Belgium. If Croatia believes in its chances, it could arrive with six points to face the Belgians and fight for first place in the group. But, of course, those six points must be won first, and for that, they will have to be at the same level as the Moroccans and the Canadians.

A new generation of Croatian football players

Something that surprised (and saddened) everyone after the World Cup in Russia was the retirement from the national team of many players who were part of that wonderful team that got second place: Danijel Subašić, Vedran Ćorluka, Ivan Rakitić or Mario Mandžukić. Likewise, some starting players have been left out due to physical problems, such as Ivan Strinić, or behavior, such as Ante Rebić.

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Mario Mandžukić and Ivan Rakitić, two key players who are no longer part of the Croatian national team. (Photo: Igor Kralj/PIXSELL)

It is difficult to deny the negative impact of their absences on the Croatian team, and this could be seen in the subsequent Nations League (2018-19 and 2020-21) and Euro 2020, where it seemed that Dalić's team could not find a way to cover their exits.

But the Croatian team, especially in the second part of the World Cup qualifying phase, seems to have found several young players who will make their debut in the top competition, and nourish the team with their energy and desire. Dominik Livaković (Dinamo Zagreb) in goal, defenders Borna Sosa (Stuttgart), Joško Gvardiol (RB Leipzig), and Josip Juranović (Celtic), midfielders Nikola Vlašić (West Ham), Nikola Moro (Dynamo Moscow), and Lovro Majer (Rennes), and striker Josip Brekalo (Torino) are some of the players who will complement the more experienced players.

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Lovro Majer (left) and Joško Gvardiol (right), two young Croatian players who are called to renew the national team with their youth and projection. (Photo: Josip Regovic/PIXSELL)

Likewise, and despite not being as young as those already mentioned, some players who did not go to the last World Cup will also have the opportunity to bring the best of their talent and experience to the Croatian team. Marko Livaja (Hajduk Split) and Mislav Oršić (Dinamo Zagreb) shine in the Croatian First League and will help Vatreni regain offensive power with their fighting spirit.

In the last games that gave Croatia the qualifying ticket, these players showed not only to be decisive but also made it clear that they are ready for any football challenge. Many of them are starters for their clubs and in competitive leagues, and some of them are even starters for the national team. Let's hope Dalić gives them the opportunities they need to shine and gain experience.

Experience all around the field

And while many of the players who achieved the epic in Russia are no longer in the squad, Croatia will need more than ever of those who stayed. Croatia will need their leadership, their experience, and their hunger for revenge. An extremely young team is not always good, and neither is a team with a lack of renovation. But Croatia seems to have found that balance, and in all lines.

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Marcelo Brozović, the undisputed midfield leader at Inter Milan who became champions of Serie A in the 2020-21 season. (Photo: Milan Sabic/PIXSELL)

The good news for Dalić is that several of the players who were in Russia, despite now being four years older, are in even better sporting form than they were back then. Marcelo Brozović has established himself as the decisive player in Inter Milan's midfield, ending Juventus' reign in Serie A last year and fighting for a second consecutive Scudetto this season. Also at Inter, Ivan Perišić has managed to maintain his status as a starter, and despite the passing of the years, Ivan continues to be a benchmark in the Neroazzurro attack, as he proved himself by winning the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League during his loan spell at Bayern Munich.

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The last seasons of Mateo Kovačić at Chelsea have been spectacular and he is called to be the companion of Modrić and Brozović in the Croatian midfield after the retirement of Ivan Rakitić. (Photo: Igor Kralj/PIXSELL)

Mateo Kovačić, who played a more secondary role in 2018, is now indisputable in Thomas Tuchel's plans at Chelsea, with whom he won the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League, in a midfield that also includes players like Kante, Jorginho, or Saul. Many fans of the London team consider him not only his favorite but also the best. In defense, Dalić still has Domagoj Vida and Dejan Lovren, who in 2018 showed the world their valuable fighting spirit on the field, something that they can still pass on to the younger players.

World Cup calendar

Due to the high temperatures in Qatar between June and July, the usual format of the World Cup will change for the first time in its history. Now, the opening match will be on November 21, while the final will be on December 18. Previously, the group draw was held in December, six months before the start of the tournament. This year, the qualified teams already know their rivals with more than eight months to go until the start of the World Cup. Also, after the draw in December, the players used to face only the second part of the season and some friendlies before integrating with their national team in June.

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Contrary to previous editions, the World Cup will take place between November and December, and the draw for the group stage will take place in April. (Image: @HNS_CFF/Twitter)

In this way, Zlatko Dalić not only has two additional months to evaluate his players well before making a final decision on his squad in October or November, but he will do so by playing high-competition matches such as the Nations League, in a group that they make up France and Denmark (qualified for the World Cup in Qatar) and Austria, which reached the playoffs. Thus, some players who were not part of the qualifying process from the beginning will have more opportunities to show that they can be decisive in Dalić's tactics. Sometimes four friendlies before the World Cup are not enough to draw any conclusions about line-ups and strategies.

On the other hand, the Croatian players will play two different seasons before the start of the World Cup: the second part of the 2021-22 season, and the first part of the 2022-23 season. This can be beneficial for three main reasons. First of all, some players who are currently not playing many games as starters (Nikola Vlašić at West Ham or Šime Vrsaljko at Atletico Madrid), can solve their situation with a transfer or loan to another team during the summer, and from this way to pick up more form by playing more games.

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Croatia already knows its rivals eight months before the start of the World Cup, enough time to study them and prepare. (Photo: Igor Kralj/PIXSELL)

Secondly, some players like Ivan Perišić at Inter, Mateo Kovačić with the current problems at Chelsea, or Dejan Lovren at Zenit, can resolve the contracts with their current clubs, and thus become more focused on the field and the Croatian national team.

Finally, and taking into account the competitiveness of the second part of the season, many football players used to miss the World Cup in June as there was not much time to recover from their injuries, some even minor. If it were the case (hopefully not) that a Croatian player suffered an injury in these months, it is possible that they could recover before the World Cup in November, especially considering the rest months between June and July.

The Croatian national team has everything to arrive in good physical condition and great concentration in November, and Dalić to decide on a harmonious line-up and strategy, which could help them face their rivals in Group F with a lot of preparation.

One of the Best Players in the World

Croatia did not get third place in France '98 with a single player, nor the second place of Russia in 2018. Football is a team sport, and to win a World Cup eleven players is not enough, but a complete squad with players committed to a common goal. That is the reason why Croatia reached the final against France before other teams like Argentina, Portugal, or Brazil.

However, if in your squad you have a uniquely talented player, an undisputed figure in one of the best football clubs in history, a leader with 16 years of experience in the national team, and an endless fighting spirit when it comes to attacking and defending even in the 120th minute, it is enough to motivate an entire country and make them believe that they can go very far. Some still believe to this day that Luka Modrić received the 2018 World Cup best player trophy, the Ballon d'Or, and FIFA The Best as consolation after losing the final against France. If his season with Real Madrid (where he was decisive in winning the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League) and his goals and performance in the 2018 World Cup were not enough, Luka has shown them today that he is more relevant than ever and one could even say that he's in the best moment of his career.

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Luka Modrić will play his fourth and last World Cup at the age of 37 and in great shape. (Photo: Luka Stanzl/PIXSELL)

Since he secured a place in Real Madrid's starting eleven in the 2013-14 season with Ancelotti (winning the UEFA Champions League along the way), no player has been able to take his place. Along the years, Luka has seen how several midfielders have come, gone, and stayed: Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Özil, Asier Illarramendi, Isco, James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos, Martin Odegaard, Casemiro, Dani Ceballos, Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga... but the Croatian has always been a constant, and has recently reached an agreement with Real Madrid to extend his contract even further.

Luka will arrive at the World Cup at the age of 37, probably being one of the oldest among all players. However, and as has been shown in this season of the Spanish La Liga (where Real Madrid is close to winning the title with a great difference in points over their rivals) and in the UEFA Champions League, the Croatian captain is in a great moment of form and with intact talent and technique. Also, Modrić's style of play and his position on the pitch are essential for the team's performance. Some rely on goalkeepers, central defenders, or even forwards as the star of the team, but Croatia sees having a player who is among the best in the world in attacking and defensive work as the key to success.

Luka assists, scores goals, recovers balls, and, above all, leads his team by example and attitude. This will be his last World Cup for him, and we are sure that he will want to say goodbye to the national team in the best possible way and with him a team with talented players who will help him lead Croatia back to glory.

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

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Zlatko Dalić on Croatia World Cup Draw: "Goal is to Get Out of Group"

April 2, 2022 - Coach Zlatko Dalić comments on the Croatia World Cup draw, expressing that the goal is to get out of the group stage. 

Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalić commented on the 2022 World Cup draw, which placed Croatia in Group F with Belgium, Morocco, and Canada, reports HNS.

Impressions are positive.

"At first glance, the group is not too tough. However, there is no easy group at the World Cup because there are the best national teams in the world. It won't be easy, but we have our goal, and that is to get out of the group. I believe we will prepare to win every game and make a step to the next round. The schedule of playing matches is good; we are playing against Morocco, Canada, and only then against Belgium." 

What does the opening against Morocco bring?

"We know that the coach of Morocco is Mr. Halilhodžić, who took four national teams to the World Cup. He will certainly prepare well for us, and it will be a tough match. Morocco beat Congo in the additional qualifiers, and several outstanding players in their ranks play in Europe. But, equally, Morocco will be very motivated because this is their first game in the World Cup."

Next up is the match against Canada, the team's first appearance at the World Cup since 1986.

“They achieved great success, but they fully deserved it. They were the first in their group; they beat the USA and Mexico, which signifies that they are very good. So they will be very motivated, they will come to the World Cup with a lot of good energy, and we will be a kind of "target" for them. So we have to be very careful because we have a tough opponent ahead of us."

In the last match in the group, Croatia awaits Belgium, the strongest national team on paper. 

"Belgium has been first in the Fifa ranking for several years; I know Mr. Martinez very well, a great coach. He has a great team at his disposal, powerful and capable of great things, with many quality individuals. That game will be our biggest challenge in the group, and it is good that it will be our third game. In any case, Belgium is the favorite in our group in terms of rating." 

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

Monday, 28 March 2022

Zlatko Dalić Reveals Croatia Lineup against Bulgaria in Doha

March 28, 2022 - Coach Zlatko Dalić has revealed a much different Croatia lineup against Bulgaria on Tuesday. It will be the second friendly match in Doha after Croatia and Slovenia drew 1:1 on Saturday.

Croatia national football team coach Zlatko Dalić once again commented on Croatia's performance in the first friendly match in Doha on Saturday, reports HNS.

Croatia dominated Slovenia for most of the match, which ended in a draw after conceding a goal in the last moments.

"I am sorry for the goal we conceded in the last minute. We knew there would be two minutes of stoppage time before that corner kick when we didn’t react well, and then we conceded a goal anyway. We did not stand well in the initial formation; a hole was created, but, well… It is better that it happened now than later. We will analyze the situation well, see where we went wrong, and correct it.

All in all, it saddened me because we didn't deserve the game to end 1:1. We played well, especially after the first twenty minutes when we weren’t ourselves. We had narrowed a bit; our legs were stiff and heavy, there was no depth. I have to admit that it was much better in training. It was good," said Dalić, who once again commented on the defense.

 

"The players had to attack the ball after the cross, but they didn't set up well. If they had stood properly in the space, the Slovenian player would not have come to the ideal situation to score. It's a matter of concentration. However, the problem was that we replaced six players, so the formation and schedule of players changed at that break, and we could not follow everything. Even though we knew we had two minutes. I'm sorry for the goal we received in the last seconds, but we will try to fix it in the games that follow."

The coach announced a completely new team against Bulgaria.

"Croatia solved all its problems four months ago. We are calm and peaceful, what we have to do now is check some things, that is my job as a coach. We need to get answers to some questions, and we only have a chance now. Competitive matches come later when there are no more sub-questions so that we will give a chance to all players. I told the guys that it’s all up to them, that no one will be deprived; what they show and play will be the only thing relevant to whether or not they will be part of the national team. That is why I want to give a chance to all the players. Ivušić will get a chance in goal; we have small problems in the defense because Sosa is in pain, and I don't think we will use him. He surprised me because he came to the gathering with an injury he didn’t talk about. He wanted to be with us, he tried, he struggled, but we will not force him. It doesn't make sense; I want him to rest and be ready to return to the club."

Dalić announced the rest of the lineup:

"The stoppers will be Škorić, Vida, and Ćaleta-Car, on the left side Barišić, on the right maybe Juranović, although it will be his second game then. Moro, Pašalić, and Majer will be in the midfield, and Vlašić and Livaja will be in the attack. When it comes to the right flank, we are only in a little doubt; I will not tell you who we are thinking about because you will make drama around it. The goal is to try this team and, of course, win the game." 

The coach again praised the players for their engagement and the game against Slovenia.

"We played a fair game; it's good to have a wide frame; sweet worries await me. The Nations League is already waiting for us in three months. We face difficult exams during which we will have to use more players because we will play four games in ten days. After the Doha games, the players will, in any case, know what they did or did not do."

Croatia also awaits the upcoming World Cup draw. 

"Croatia has competed in five world championships and won two medals. Who has that? And we underestimate that. A country of four million people has achieved such great results… This is something fascinating. The draw... it would be good if we pulled Qatar, no matter how much we underestimate anyone. Our goal is to go through the group to take that first step. It will be difficult, Qatar will be with the best national teams, but I believe in our team and us. I do not want to talk about some higher goals. In Russia, we went step by step. All opponents are tough from the first strong group, except the host, who is objectively the easiest opponent. The third and fourth strong group… I didn't think much about it; when the draw is over, I will be able to comment a bit more," concluded the coach.

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

Friday, 25 March 2022

Zlatko Dalić Reveals Croatia Lineup against Slovenia in Doha

March 25, 2022 - Zlatko Dalić has revealed the Croatia lineup against Slovenia tomorrow, which kicks off the friendly tournament in Doha. 

The Croatia national football team will play a friendly match against Slovenia in Doha on Saturday at 3 pm, which will be an excellent opportunity for coach Zlatko Dalić to try out the new system.

"I expect the players to show what we have been doing these two days, and we have had great training sessions these two days. I can tell you right away which 11 will start tomorrow. Livaković will be in goal; the back three will be Ćaleta Car, Gvardiol, Pongračić; Perišić, and Juranović will be on the wing, and the three in the midfield are Jakić, Modrić, and Kovačić. Kramarić and Budimir lead the attack.

The decision to play here is one hundred percent right; we are here to get acquainted with the conditions that await us at the World Cup. I need to emphasize that this is great that we have already qualified so we can play more relaxed."

Croatia has not yet secured a place in the second pot for the World Cup group draw:

"There is no relaxation, and we have to play to win, we have two good opponents, and we have to play at the highest level."

Joško Guardiola is one of Croatia's best new players. 

"It all depends on Joško; he has shown his potential, he has to work every day and prove himself again, that is the most important thing. Nevertheless, we got a great player for the national team."

Dalić spoke about their decision to come to Doha for these friendly matches:

"I worked hard to come here, to see the conditions; I wanted to feel this place as a team. We wanted to play against Qatar, but I understand their coach wants some easier opponents. I wish Qatar a lot of luck, they put in a lot of effort, and I have a lot of fond memories here."

Slovenian journalists were interested in how seriously Croatia was preparing for Slovenia:

"We come here with full respect for Slovenia and Bulgaria; Slovenia has a great coach in Kek, we will have a worthy opponent tomorrow. We were preparing for the game, they have already beaten us once, so we know how dangerous they are. I was one of those who invited Slovenia to this tournament."

Guardiol was also present at the press conference and commented on the new system:

"I am not unfamiliar with playing three in the back, as we have been practicing this with Leipzig for half a year. The problem with the national team is that we don't have much time to adjust, but the last two training sessions, we were maximally focused on this, and we will try to transfer that to the game."

Source: HRT

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

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Croatia without Brozović and Vrsaljko in Doha, Brekalo Misses Slovenia Match

March 22, 2022 - The Croatia national football team faces two friendly matches against Slovenia and Bulgaria in Doha. Brozović and Vrsaljko will not travel with the team to Qatar, while Brekalo has tested positive for coronavirus. 

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić announced the tournament in Doha on Monday as the national team gathered in Zagreb for the first time since qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. Croatia will face Slovenia and Bulgaria in Doha on March 26 and March 29, reports HNS.

 

Dalić revealed that Šime Vrsaljko and Marcelo Brozović dropped out due to injuries, while Mile Škorić and Nikola Moro will step in instead.

"Brozović and Vrsaljko dropped out of the original lineup due to injuries, and I'm sorry about that. We gather in Zagreb, but five players come to Doha directly from their clubs. Our motivation is great in the upcoming matches to prepare for what awaits us in June. This will be a very good test for all of us to see what we can do, to prepare for the Nations League," said Dalić, who made it clear that he intends to use all players.

"We invited 25 players, and the idea is for everyone to play. We will give a chance to all the players, but there is no point in burdening them to the maximum. I want to try all the players. Our goal is for everyone to play. We will make two teams for those two games; the players are very busy in their clubs anyway. I think it will be good to relieve them a bit."

"We will play with three in the defense in both games; we will try that system to have another tactical addition. We will have two good games because the opponents are good. We will work on the unity of the national team," Dalić began and added:

"I am looking forward to this gathering and matches because the national team is together after four months. Unfortunately, Brozović and Vrsaljko dropped out due to muscle injuries, both of whom remained at their clubs to rehabilitate. That is why we activated the reserves Škorić and Moro." 

What happened with Petković?

"I do not want to write off Bruno Petković, and I did not write him off. I want him as he was in the qualifications. That is good for us, and I am waiting for him. I want him back in shape; I emphasize in the striker position because I see him there.

I hope that he will come back and that by June, he will be better and understand my message that he is not up to standard and that he can do much, much better. We do not have a more complete and better striker than Bruno Petković when he is in the right form. He has not been written off, and I want him on the national team. "

Who will be in goal?

"Livaković will defend one game, and one by Ivušić. That's the plan. Grbić has no right to be called if he does not defend at his club. The goalkeeper is not in the right condition if he does not defend. So we have no reason to fear, Livaković is defending well, Ivušić as well, and younger keepers are coming. There is also Lovre Kalinić, who is good in Hajduk," reveals coach Dalić.

Brozović and Vrsaljko dropped out, as well as Josip Brekalo

"Something always happens that we did not anticipate, and Brozović and Vrsaljko dropped out. We are following the others, especially the young players, surely some will come to the competition. First of all being Stanišić and Sučić, who are already with us.

There is also Šutalo, but all in good time. We have the basis of the team; we have the breadth because each position is filled with two or three players. We have a combination of experience and youth, new ones give energy, but without more experienced ones, it will not work. We are not in a hurry with the final conclusions; we will give everyone a chance. We follow young players who have an opportunity to jump in with good performances," said Dalić.

Last night, news arrived that national team member Josip Brekalo tested positive for coronavirus and will miss Croatia's first friendly match in Doha on March 26 against Slovenia. Depending on how the situation develops, he will compete in the second match in Doha on March 29 against Bulgaria.

Brekalo recorded 30 appearances for the national team and scored four goals.

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

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Mile Škorić and Nikola Moro to Join Croatia National Team at Doha Tournament

March 20, 2022 - Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalić has called up Osijek defender Mile Škorić and Dinamo Moscow midfielder Nikola Moro to the upcoming friendly matches against Slovenia and Bulgaria in Qatar.

The Croatia national football team will play two friendly matches later this month in Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup. The first match is scheduled for Saturday, March 26 at 3 pm against Slovenia. The second match will be played against Bulgaria on Tuesday, March 29 at 4 pm, both at the Education City Stadium in Doha.

These will be the first Croatia national team matches after qualifying for the 2022 World Cup and will serve as preparation for coach Zlatko Dalić and what awaits the team for the rest of the year. This tournament also serves as excellent preparation for the World Cup in Qatar, as the climate and stadiums will be tested. As far as tactics are concerned, Dalić will also test a new formation with three in the backline as there will be no room to experiment in the four Nations League matches in June.

"We'll try a new system with three in the back and we'll see how it works. We'll stick to our tactics so far, but now we have some training, so we will try something different," said Dalić ahead of the tournament. 

"We've tried putting three players in the back a couple of times, but now we have time and we want to try that system. Several of our players play it in their clubs and it could fit."

Dalić subsequently added two players from the reserves list, namely Mile Škorić from Osijek and Nikola Moro from Dinamo Moscow for the friendly matches against Slovenia and Bulgaria. Osijek defender Mile Škorić will join the national team at a gathering in Zagreb on Monday (March 21), while Dinamo Moscow midfielder Nikola Moro will arrive in Doha, where the 2018 World Cup finalists will arrive on Tuesday.

Source: HNS

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

Monday, 7 March 2022

Zlatko Dalić Announces Croatia Player List for Doha Friendlies in March

March 7, 2022 - Coach Zlatko Dalić has announced the Croatia player list for Doha friendlies later this month against Slovenia and Bulgaria. 

The Croatia national football team is back this month! Coach Zlatko Dalić has published a list of players he is counting on for friendly matches against Slovenia and Bulgaria in Doha, reports Gol.hr.

Croatia will first play against Slovenia on March 26 at 3 pm, while they will play against Bulgaria on March 29 at 4 pm.

"We want to play good games, we are going to win, but it will be a little more relaxed. We want to make the most of those eight days."

"We will try to play in Doha with three players in the back. That does not mean we will change the system in general. We will try to change our way of playing because after a long time we finally have enough training to try. Some of our players play like that in clubs and we will try to see what it looks like in the national team," announced Dalić.

"4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 were both good at some points, but now we're going to train with three."

Croatia does not go to Qatar without problems.

"We have some problems. Lovren is not in training, I don't know how ready he will be, but he is going to Doha. Majer and Perišić skipped this week, Vrsaljko got hit in the hip. Quite painful, but it won't be dangerous and he will be good in a few days. They stayed in rhythm."

Dominik Livaković is the chosen goalkeeper. 

"Grbić has not defended in the last games. If his status does not change, we will not count on him. He has to defend to be on the national team."

Šime Vrsaljko returns to the national team.

"He is playing again, he has a continuity of games and he is healthy. Now he is playing the way he should for the national team. I need him like this. I want more from him. We had a conversation, no big problems. I hope it gets even better. The conversation remains between us. He plays well; that's what I need."

Dalić wanted stronger friendly matches.

"I wanted one stronger, one slightly weaker game, and it failed because of the organizations. Slovenia and Bulgaria are not top-level, but the matches carry some uncertainty. We need games because of the second strongest group for the World Cup. We can try some things and collect some more points if we need them for the second strong group, although I think it's over." 

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Croatia's player list for Slovenia and Bulgaria

Goalkeepers: Livaković, Ivušić, Grbić

Defenders: Vida, Lovren, Vrsaljko, Barišić, Čaleta-Car, Juranović, Gvardiol, Sosa, Pongračić

Midfielders: Modrić, Kovačić, Brozović, Pašalić, Vlašić, Majer, Jakić

Attackers: Perišić, Kramarić, Brekalo, Oršić, Livaja, Budimir

Callups: L. Kalinić, Škorić, Čolak, Moro

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

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Zlatko Dalić and Croatia Coaching Staff Prepare for Doha Friendly Tournament

February 26, 2022 - Zlatko Dalić and the Croatia coaching staff are preparing for the upcoming national team gathering in March, when Croatia will play a friendly tournament in Doha against Slovenia and Bulgaria. 

Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalić held a meeting with members of his professional staff on Thursday at the HNS headquarters, reports HNS.

In addition to coach Dalić, the meeting was attended by technical director Stipe Pletikosa, assistants Ivica Olić, Mario Mandžukić, and Dražen Ladić, goalkeeper coach Marjan Mrmić, fitness coach Luka Milanović and team manager Iva Olivari, while Vedran Ćorluka and Marc Rochon were justifiably absent.

Dalić spoke with his associates about the upcoming national team gathering in March, the first after November 2021 when Croatia successfully qualified for the World Cup in Qatar. In March, Croatia will travel to Doha to play friendly matches against Slovenia and Bulgaria.

"Although we are in constant contact, it is good when we manage to gather live and talk about what awaits us. I am glad to see all staff members full of energy, enthusiasm, and optimism ahead of the March gathering, which everyone is very excited about. We are following our players in detail, we are thinking about how to make the most of this gathering in Doha both on and off the pitch, and I believe that we will lay a good foundation there for everything that awaits us later in the year," said coach Dalić.

Recall, the Croatian Football Federation management agreed that the Croatia national team would play a friendly tournament in Qatar in March, with two matches in Doha.

Croatia will face Slovenia on March 26 and play Bulgaria three days later. The national team of Qatar will also play in the tournament against Bulgaria (March 26) and Slovenia (March 29). The matches will be played at the stadiums in Doha, where the FIFA World Cup matches will be played. The exact timetables and stadiums will be defined later, and HNS will inform fans promptly about the possibilities of buying tickets.

The Croatia coach and the staff members also watched the Europa League match between Dinamo and Sevilla. The Croatian champion was eliminated after a 3:2 aggregate for the Spanish side.

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

Friday, 4 February 2022

Coach Zlatko Dalić Announces Possible Croatia Formation Change for 2022 World Cup

February 4, 2022 - Zlatko Dalić spoke to Nova TV after the friendly tournament in Doha was announced, saying he will experiment with a Croatia formation change, namely three players in the back. 

The Croatian Football Federation has agreed to represent the Croatia national team in a friendly tournament that will be played in Qatar in March, during which Croatia will play two matches. Namely, Croatia will play Slovenia on March 26, and Bulgaria three days later. In an interview with Nova TV, coach Zlatko Dalić commented on the national team preparations ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

"My wish was to go to Qatar, to prepare for what awaits us, what is to come in November, to get to know the climate, the terrain, and the ambiance. I am very pleased with this preparatory tour, these matches. They are not extra-quality opponents, but they are certainly good for us at the moment. We expect two really good games. We expect, of course, two wins and good play."

Dalić was asked if Croatia would try to play in a system with three players in the back. "Well, we're going to try to do something about it. We're going to have eight days now to try that. And that is in our plan."

Dalić desires to work on teamwork: "We want to spend those eight days in Qatar as one big team building event, to support each other. So far, every time we gathered, there was a lot of pressure, the imperative of a victory. This time, it is also imperative to win, but it will be a little more relaxed and supportive. We want these new players, and there are several of them, to get better acquainted with the national team and to create a new community."

Recall, the matches will be played at the stadiums in Doha, where the FIFA World Cup will be played. The exact timetables and stadiums will be defined later, and HNS will inform fans promptly about ticket sales. 

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

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Croatia to Play in Doha Friendly Tournament this March as 2022 World Cup Prep

February 2, 2022 - The Croatia national team will participate in a Doha friendly tournament next month as preparation for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar this December. 

The Croatian Football Federation management has agreed that the Croatia national team will play a friendly tournament in Qatar in March. Croatia will play two matches in Doha, reports HNS.

Croatia will face Slovenia on March 26 and will play Bulgaria three days later. The national team of Qatar will also play in the tournament, against Bulgaria (March 26) and Slovenia (March 29). The matches will be played at the stadiums in Doha where the FIFA World Cup matches will be played. The exact timetables and stadiums will be defined later, and HNS will inform fans in a timely manner about the possibilities of buying tickets.

"We wanted to play in Doha in March, so I thank the leadership of the Federation for agreeing to participate in this tournament - it will be a great opportunity to get to know Qatar and feel the conditions that await us - climate, infrastructure, culture.

I think the opponents are tailor-made, two quality teams that will be a good test for what awaits us next. First of all, we are looking forward to the gathering, to continue to build a community that will be key to success in the competitions that await us later in the year," said the Croatia national team coach, Zlatko Dalić.

"We are glad that we have reached an agreement on participating in this tournament in Doha, given the desire of the coach Dalić and the national team to play in Qatar, so that we can acclimatize to everything that awaits us at the end of the year. The most important thing is that our direct placement in Qatar has enabled us a peaceful year in which we can prepare well for the World Cup, and participating in this tournament will be an important step in that direction," said HNS President Marijan Kustić.

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

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