Yesterday, after the usual drama of overtime and penalties, Croatia knocked out Japan and placed among the eight best national teams in the world, and for the semi-finals of the World Cup we will fight against the main favorite for the title, Brazil.
The Croatian hero of the game was the wonderful Dominik Livaković, Dinamo's goalkeeper saved three out of four penalty kicks and took us to the quarterfinals.
The day after another great success for Croatian football, coach Zlatko Dalić addressed the press:
It’s a very nice morning when you wake up as part of the team that qualified for the quarterfinals. We celebrated a little, I think we deserved it. We played well. I don't need any special analysis, I think Croatia played well. In the first half, for the first half hour, we imposed our style of play, but then we got into unnecessary nervousness with a couple of mistakes and put the opponent in a better situation, but we improved later.
When the results are made, there are no mistakes anywhere, everything is as it should be. We communicated on the bench, we saw where it was going, in extra time and we had to look for a solution, we were not allowed to make mistakes, especially in substitutions and conserve energy. Modrić, Kovačić and Perišić got tired, and it was logical to replace them. I believe in the players on the bench, who came in and got the opportunity to shoot penalties.
Budimir did his job
To explain the situation with Budimir, he went in instead of Petković because we needed a jump game, I didn't replace him because he was bad, but I wanted to try with Livaja, so that he could score some kind of goal with one move.
We did not fall into the trap like Spain and Germany
Japan was down physically and we wanted to take advantage of that. Germany and Spain fell into Japan's trap and wanted to win over Japan with a pass game. We didn't, we went with a longer ball game and whenever we did that we created some problem. Obviously, that was the way we could get a goal and balance the game. Yesterday we again ran four kilometers more than the opponent and that's how it is. We are exhausted.
Brazil is the most powerful team at the World Cup. Their choice of players, quality... It's scary. We have a big test ahead of us, a difficult task against a team that plays football and competes. They will need to prepare very well for that match. We have nothing to fear, we have to enter the match with faith and confidence. Maybe it's too early, it would be better if it were the final... Brazil is the favorite, but we're not afraid and we won't give up. We will rest, give our maximum and oppose them with a good game.
I told the players at the meeting yesterday that they have a chance to go down in history. We have 18 players who did not play four years ago, this is a new generation. It's not rewarding to compare this generation to the one before, these players are just coming up. This will be a good boost for them, that they were key players in the penalty shootout. Everyone works well and deserves a chance, they train well. This is the third best result in the history of Croatia, and the players have already made history. The boys deserved this. If you look at 2018 and where the players played, Barcelona, Real, Bayern, Inter, Juventus... Now we have six of them from the Croatian league.
About the first striker
We will see how and what we will against Brazil. We don't have a number 1, we don't have attackers from Atletico and Juventus, now there are attackers from Hajduk and Dinamo. Let's not live in the clouds. We are of quality, we will look for a solution. It's not fair to dissect the game, it's not fair to them. This is not figure skating, but a fight for a result. We entered the top 8 and the players deserve praise. We did everything right and that's how we will do against Brazil.
It is often commented that he needs to be waited for, but he always arrives. He scores crucial goals for the national team, he and Kramarić. Just when you think we can't come back, he shows up and scores a goal from an impossible situation. He is an important player for us. When it's hard for us, he shows up. Just respect. He and Kramarić scored the most important goals in my career on the bench of the national team and I am glad that he became our best scorer in major competitions.
This team never gives up
Recently, we have shown exactly that character and mentality. It was constantly said that we have quality, humor in the game and technique, and that mentality was always missing, but in the last matches we showed that character and we always came back, we never gave up. It is a feature of the players' togetherness and trust. We always have the same goal, to do something great for the homeland. Playing for clubs is a game for a contract, but playing for your country is a game for prestige, a matter of emotion, a matter of pride and I can only be happy how the players react. 4 years ago we showed quality and character against England. One fact that is fascinating, in 11 games at the WC, we lost only one game, the final with France.
A message to Brazilian journalists
There are 250 million of you, there are only four million of us. We are like a suburb of one of your cities. A Small country with big dreams. I believe that we can oppose you, going into a big rally with Brazil is not very smart, giving them a lot of space is also not smart. We will talk to our players, it is not a 50:50 match, but we are not outsiders. We will try to be good.
Are penalties a matter of luck or training?
Happiness is important in everything, but you can't just be happy and be second in the world, be happy and be among the top eight in the world. It's not just like that. The mental strength, determination and courage of the players is important. Yesterday, Vlašić came and said he would shoot first, he showed confidence. Those guys weren't planned to shoot, there's Luka, Perišić, Brozović, Kovačić. This strengthens us even more. The day before we worked on a penalty shootout where Livaković actually saved four of five penalties. That gave me a lot of confidence. It's not just luck, but it's more about other things.
Switzerland showed the most against Brazil
I watched all the matches and I think Switzerland was the best. Serbia did it well in the first half, and after they conceded a goal it didn't look good anymore. The most compact was Switzerland, that model was the best, we will have to study that. Yes, Cameroon won, but then the second string team from Brazil played and it cannot be compared.
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