Croatian national football team coach, Zlatko Dalić, at the start of a new cycle of international play during which his team will play two qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, away in Cyprus on Friday and in Osijek against Slovakia on October 11, said today that these matches must be taken as seriously as those in September in which they won seven points in three matches.
“I expect that all the players from the roster will get to tonight's training, which is at 7 p.m. I hope they are ready and without injuries,” said Zlatko Dalić in the introduction to his press conference.
Previously, Celtic right-back Josip Juranović and Zenit stopper Dejan Lovren dropped out of the roster due to injury problems, so Dalić has called up Duje Ćaleta-Car and Marin Pongračić.
“Juranović cannot immediately join the full training, so we decided that it is better for him to remain at his club and be treated. It is logical that in the absence of Juranović, the first option for right back will be Stanišić, who played several games for Bayern in that position. Lovren, on the other hand, was ill for 10 days after the last national team game and did not play a single game for his club. That is why we agreed to sit him out. We have a situation with stoppers because Vida was out of action for a long time, but he played a game over the weekend. However, we have activated Ćaleta-Car and Pongračić, who are in a different situation, they are in full training, but they are not first string in their clubs,” added Dalić.
In relation to the list of players for the September matches, Dalić returned Josip Brekalo to the squad for October, but Bruno Petković and Ante Rebić have not yet returned to the national team.
“Josip Brekalo has never been a problem for me in any sense. At the time I was making the last roster he was looking for a new club and we knew he was out of shape. He is now in Turin, he has found his form, he is playing great and that is why he is on the roster again. No one will be deprived of the national team if they deserve it with their games, behavior and attitude towards the national team. Petković has been playing well lately, I need him, especially as he was in the previous qualifiers against Slovakia and Hungary, and the door to the national team is open to him. I did not communicate with Rebić, there was no contact,” commented Dalić.
The Croatian coach said that this phase will be easier than the previous one only due to the fact that there will be two games on the schedule instead of three.
“We have to take this cycle very seriously, it is easier than the last one just because we play two, not three games. If we are not serious and responsible we could have problems. Just because we have fewer games, there are fewer invited strikers because we believe that we will find a good solution with this choice as well. Luka is back so we will have our standard midfield which will make the situation easier for us. The first options for positions in the forefront are Kramarić and Livaja,” announced Dalić.
Ahead of the two matches in October, Croatia is at the top of Group H with 13 points, the same as Russia.
“The most important thing is that we depend on ourselves until the end of the qualifications, but I would not like to be in a situation where we have to win the last game against Russia in Split. We are going step by step to make our journey easier,” added Dalić.
Asked about his opinion on a current issue regarding the possible playing of the World Cup every two years, which has caused controversy in the football world, Dalić was clear: “I think this is not a good idea, especially for players because it would lose the charm and passion of the world championships. We coaches don’t have enough time to work with players anyway and that’s why I think it’s a bad idea, especially in terms of player health.”
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