Croatia wary of ‘young, alive, attacking’ England ahead of semi-final showdown
Croatia are yet to win a knock-out game in normal time in this tournament.
Zlatko Dalic insists his Croatia team have not run out of steam before their World Cup semi-final against England after advancing through the previous two rounds on penalties.
Dalic’s team looked exhausted as they laboured against unfancied hosts Russia for 120 minutes on Saturday night before they advanced via a shoot-out success for the second successive game.
It was a similar story in the round-of-16 against Denmark and, on the back of those two gruelling encounters, they now have just four days to prepare for an England side that beat Sweden in 90 minutes.
Yet Dalic does not fear fatigue being a factor for his players in Moscow on Wednesday night.
“Of course there is some power left for the English,” he told a post-match press conference.
“We do not want to stop, we will try to play our best game. We have two matches to play and we are very motivated. We’re giving our all. It will be a battle again but I trust us, I have belief in us.”
Dalic admired the way the Three Lions handled their business in the 2-0 success over the Swedes.
He was reluctant to identify a favourite for the tie, though, highlighting how many of those fancied to win the competition before it began such as Brazil, Germany and Spain have already been ousted.
“They breezed past Sweden, they scored twice, they were better,” Dalic added of England. “They have a young, alive, attacking team.
“There are no favourites in this World Cup – every game is 50-50 and you have to fight it out. The big teams are home. Those who are hard-working, compact, united, well-organised, they are here in Russia. This is the character of the four teams remaining in the tournament.”
Croatia’s wait to return to a World Cup semi-final has been shorter than England’s 28-year absence.
Twenty years ago, in France, a Croatian team featuring Davor Suker, Slaven Bilic and Zvonimir Boban made the last four of the competition only to be beaten by the hosts, and eventual winners, despite taking the lead.
This is the first time they have reached the knock-out phase since – and they had to qualify for Russia via the play-offs – and Luka Modric reckons their good fortune is long overdue.
“It makes us extremely proud and happy that after 20 years we’ve reached the semi-final of a World Cup,” the former Tottenham midfielder said.
“We took the difficult route, we were unlucky in previous major tournaments, particularly at Euros, but now we are collecting those debts at the World Cup this year.
“Hopefully we will go a step further than in 1998. We have all of the requisites for that – we have a great team, backroom staff, coach, and I hope we will be able to make that extra step to reach the final.”