Monday 16 July 2018

Croatia ready for partisan crowd as they tackle World Cup hosts Russia in Sochi

Zlatko Dalic’s men are hoping to guide their nation into the World Cup semi-finals for only the second time in their history.

Croatia face Russia in the World Cup quarter-finals (AP)
Croatia face Russia in the World Cup quarter-finals (AP)

By Andy Hampson, Press Association Sport

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is confident his side can handle the atmosphere as they take on hosts Russia for a place in the World Cup semi-finals.

Croatia will come up against a partisan Russian crowd in their last eight-tie in Sochi on Saturday evening.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Dalic said: “We cannot choose our opponents, hosts or otherwise. We are facing a huge game in the quarter-finals and it doesn’t matter who the opponents are.

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Croatia will face a big and partisan Russian crowd in their quarter-final (Aaron Chown/PA)

“The only difference is they will have vociferous fans but every week our team plays with opposing fans howling at them. It shouldn’t be a problem.

“We will not be looking for excuses. We have to play our own game regardless of who is in the stands.”

Russia’s run to the quarter-finals, which included a shock defeat of Spain in the last round, has been unexpected. Croatia will go into the game as favourites but Dalic is not underestimating the hosts.

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Russia stunned Spain (Aaron Chown/PA)

He said: “We have a great deal of respect for them. You can’t reach the last eight of the World Cup if you don’t have quality. If you beat Spain, then you deserve your place among the eight best teams in the World Cup.

“I can’t tell you their gameplan or tactics – but I know our gameplan. We have to repeat what we have been doing in the last four games, be well organised and defend well.

“We have to be united, go forward and apply pressure. We have the strength and quality to do that.”

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Croatia beat Denmark on penalties to reach the last eight (AP)

Victory would see Croatia emulate the achievement of their 1998 side in reaching the last four.

Dalic said: “That was a great success for Croatia as a nation. We are on the right track to repeat that feat but it is not going to be easy.

“We have to find the motivation to play a good game and progress against a very respected host nation.”

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Ivan Rakitic (right) is ready for the Russian challenge (AP)

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic says preparations have been thorough.

“I know all their players,” he said. “We have been briefed in detail about them and how they play, and I know them personally.

“They have a very serious national team. They deserve to have reached the quarter-finals. It is up to us to take the game to them and play our game.”

Press Association

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