- Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic speaks to FIFA.com
- Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta await in World Cup qualifying
- “2018 was special and that you can’t repeat that every two or four years”
The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ represented a milestone for Croatian soccer, a summer time fairytale that can possible by no means be forgotten. Under Zlatko Dalic’s stewardship they made it to the Final, the place they succumbed to a 4-2 defeat by France in a spectacular encounter.
‘The Blazers’ subsequently underwent a interval of transition as stars corresponding to striker Mario Mandzukic and penalty-stopper supreme Danijel Subasic determined to name time on their worldwide careers following that individual spotlight. However Dalic, who has been at the helm since 2017, remained, decided that his path had not but come to an finish.
The 54-12 months-outdated efficiently built-in proficient children into the aspect and led the nationwide group to snug qualification for UEFA EURO 2020, which can happen in the coming summer time. Before then, nevertheless, they face one other severe check when the qualifying marketing campaign for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ begins in March. FIFA.com spoke to Dalic about the upcoming challenges, the difficulties 2020 introduced, and the coronavirus pandemic.
FIFA.com: Mr. Dalic, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta are ready in your to Qatar. What do you concentrate on your group?
Zlatko Dalic: There are not any simple teams as a result of qualifying for the World Cup is a dream for each nation. We have a tricky group however we settle for our place as a favorite in the group – we’re the finest seeded group and we’re present World Cup silver medallists. We actually respect all opponents in the group.
We’ve performed in opposition to Slovakia in qualifiers and they know us very nicely – they proved their high quality by qualifying for the EURO in play-offs. Russia was a really tough opponent for us at the World Cup, there they beat Spain, which says sufficient. Slovenia is bettering below the coach Matjaz Kek, who labored in Croatia and is aware of us very nicely, and our neighbours might be extremely motivated to show themselves in opposition to us. Finally, Cyprus and Malta are additionally amongst finest groups of their seeding teams, so we’re taking a look at a difficult group. However, we imagine in our high quality and we really feel assured forward of the qualifiers.
What are the challenges in these qualifiers?
Obviously, schedule might be very tight in March and September with three video games in a single week. It leaves virtually no time for coaching, and with the lengthy travels, it’s totally difficult for the gamers to play three so essential video games, particularly with their membership schedule additionally being fairly exhausting. It might be essential to plan very nicely and attempt to handle our assets the finest that we are able to, to defend the gamers whereas going for the finest outcomes. However, it is the similar for everyone, so we can’t use that as an excuse.
The different challenge is the proven fact that we have the EURO in the center of the qualifiers, which is uncommon, and it can additionally current an issue for all EURO members. For occasion, you’re beginning the qualifiers with one group, but it surely’s attainable that after EURO, some gamers retire from the nationwide group, so that you have to make essential adjustments in the center of the cycle.
What are you aware about Qatar?
I had a privilege of working in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia and UAE, so I’m accustomed to the tradition and individuals in that area. I have very good reminiscences of my time in the Middle East and nonetheless have many good associates there. Therefore, I’m sure we’ll have an awesome World Cup in Qatar as a result of the hosts will do all the things of their energy to present us their nice hospitality.
Do you assume it will likely be a really particular World Cup?
Yes, I feel it can. Hopefully, the pandemic might be over, and we’ll have an opportunity to take pleasure in the World Cup with followers from throughout the world. It might be a primary World Cup in the Middle East, but additionally the first World Cup the place followers may attend two video games in someday – all the stadiums are so shut to one another, and I feel that can create an awesome ambiance – one thing like Olympic video games. Stadiums are going to be nice, and once more, I’m certain the hosts will do an awesome job in organisation, safety and all the things else, to make sure that followers have a good time.
You reached the Final in 2018. Is there a whole lot of strain now?
I feel individuals perceive that 2018 was particular and which you can’t repeat that each two or 4 years. I feel we had extra strain in 2018, after we knew it was in all probability a final likelihood for a few of our senior gamers. Now, our strain is to qualify – we would like to be there, amongst the finest.
Once we’re there, we all know that we have the high quality, talent and self-perception to beat anyone on a given night time, however we additionally perceive that Croatia just isn’t in the first row of favourites – that is reserved for the largest groups, corresponding to France, Spain, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, England, Italy, Belgium or Portugal. Of course, as we confirmed in 1998 and 2018, that does not imply Croatia cannot make a historic run, however I do not assume we have strain to try this.
Some Croatian gamers retired after Russia 2018. Can you inform us one thing about your group proper now?
Yes, our group modified quite a bit since Russia. Players corresponding to Rakitic, Mandzukic, Subasic and Corluka are not with us, and we have proficient children coming in and taking over larger roles. We used the UEFA Nations League in 2018 and 2020 to give an opportunity to a number of new gamers and we obtained by way of EURO 2020 qualifying cycle fairly nicely.
Luka Modric continues to be our chief, and with Brozovic and Kovacic alongside him, we nonetheless have one among the finest midfields in the world. Senior gamers corresponding to Perisic, Vida and Lovren give us a lot wanted expertise, and we additionally have younger weapons, corresponding to Brekalo and Vlasic, who proved their potential, so we really feel fairly good forward when it comes to our future.
Next 12 months might be particular as EURO 2020 might be performed mid-World Cup qualifiers. What can your group obtain there?
We fulfilled our goals in Russia – that was unforgettable for everyone concerned, and for our followers as nicely. But it additionally offers us an additional motivation as a result of we all know how particular it’s to make the entire nation so joyful and proud. With the present pandemic occurring, and so many lives misplaced, we perceive that the entire nation will take a look at us to make them pleased as soon as once more, and it is our obligation to do our easiest to attempt to replicate that magic from Russia.
As I discussed earlier than – there are a couple of groups which might be, objectively, forward of us at the second. But, we’re fairly assured in our high quality and we certainly will not admit to anyone they’re higher than us till they show that on the pitch. And that is very tough to do, as a result of not solely we have the high quality, however we additionally play with a lot ardour and togetherness for Croatia.
What is your general evaluation of 2020? A tricky 12 months particularly due to Covid-19?
I stated throughout our final matches in November that I can not look forward to this entire 12 months to end. First of all, it’s devastating that so many individuals throughout the world misplaced their lives. Also, so many individuals and companies have been economically impacted by lockdowns and different measures. And then you definately have soccer with out followers, which is simply not the similar and it lacks that emotion that full stadiums present.
Finally, with all these measures, earlier than the video games we thought extra about the exams and who’s optimistic or not, than about ways, conditioning or something soccer-associated. It’s only a horrible 12 months and hopefully, we’ll all have a significantly better 2021. I simply want good well being for everybody.