Belfast Telegraph

Dalic: Croatians have also been inspired by fans’ pride back home

By Matt Slater

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic believes victory over England on Wednesday would spark the biggest party in the country’s short history.

Croatian players competed for Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1990, and the modern Croatian FA was not recognised by Fifa and Uefa until 1993.

Five years later, the team achieved its greatest result, third at France 1998, and they are now back in the World Cup’s semi-finals and hoping for more.

“We are a country where anything is possible, so there are no surprises,” said Dalic.

“We are four million people, four million coaches and four million players. Everyone has been out on the streets celebrating what we’ve achieved and that is a great source of pride for us.

“Those emotions are what drive us, that is our petrol and how we have come back to a semi-final after 20 years.

“I don’t know what will happen if we win, probably nobody will go to work. We’re not working much now so you can imagine what it will be like if we win.”

Dejan Lovren, a man crucial to Croatia’s chances, was sat next to Dalic last night and he exuded the same calm confidence as his coach.

Predicting a “difficult and intriguing match for both teams”, the Liverpool centre-back dismissed the notion that Croatia are at a disadvantage because they have had to play 120 minutes twice in a week.

He also said there was no need for him to give his team-mates any tips on England’s players, as they were all well aware of who they are up against.

Lovren, however, was annoyed by a question about one of his worst performances for Liverpool — last October’s visit to Wembley to play Spurs. The visitors lost 4-1, with Harry Kane scoring twice, but Lovren was substituted after 31 minutes.

“That defeat is completely irrelevant,” he said, with a face like thunder. “Why didn’t you ask me about when I played well against him? You are just nitpicking a bad performance.

“I’ve got the utmost respect for him — he’s been banging goals in for Spurs for several seasons — but he’s not alone, his team-mates play at top clubs, so it will be difficult. But if we are ready and compact like we were against Argentina, I don’t believe we’ll have any problems.”

Belfast Telegraph

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