Croatian players will sacrifice World Cup final places if not fit – Dalic

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MOSCOW, July 14, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is prepared
to make changes for Sunday’s World Cup final against France if some of his
players have not recovered from their exertions in reaching football’s
biggest game.

Dalic’s men have been forced to go through three periods of extra-time,
against Denmark, Russia and England, to become the smallest country in 68
years to make the final.

“Tomorrow is the World Cup final. Simply, the players know what that is,”
Dalic said on Saturday.

“One thing that brings me happiness is that all my players tell me if they
are not 100 percent fit. They will concede they are not fit. They know what
is at stake but if they are unable to give their all they will tell us. They
have such an attitude.”

Ivan Perisic, who scored and set up Mario Mandzukic’s winner in a 2-1
semi-final win over England, was among five Croatian players to miss training
on Friday.

“We have nothing to train. We need relaxation and rest to gain freshness
for tomorrow,” added Dalic.

“We have some minor injuries, minor problems, and I hope my players will
be ready. If not, I have great players on the bench who will be raring to
go.”

Dalic, 51, was little known outside his homeland until the tournament, but
has masterminded an incredible turnaround in Croatia’s fortunes.

A team boasting the talents of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic were
struggling even to qualify for the World Cup before his appointment in
October last year.

His first match in charge was a must-win qualifier away to Ukraine just to
make it into a playoff where they beat Greece.

“We are in the World Cup final. That was the influence of our coach,” said
Modric.

“Our qualification for the World Cup was in doubt and in the most
important game, the first game, he talked us up to give us self-belief and
self-confidence. He told us there were still good players despite this
crisis.

“Against Ukraine we got the result, we breezed past Greece in the playoff
and a great deal of that is due to our coach. What I most like is his
sincerity, attitude and approach to every single player. He’s shown his
qualities not just as a coach but as a human being.”

Croatia’s run to the final has restored the players’ status as national
heroes back home after fans had become disenchanted by corruption cases
blighting the game in recent years.

Modric was even charged in March over alleged false testimony he gave in
the case that saw Croatian football kingpin Zdravko Mamic sentenced to six-
and-a-half years in prison.

Modric’s indictment still has to be formally approved by a Croatian court
and he is not currently facing arrest.

And Dalic hopes that feel-good factor continues for a nation of just over
four million people.

“We can only be happy and proud that despite the crisis, Croatians have
put aside the problems and the hardship,” said Dalic.

“Win or lose, tomorrow there will be a seismic event in Croatia. Hopefully
there will be four million people out on the streets celebrating.”

Modric’s performances in Russia have seen him emerge as a strong contender
to finally end Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s 10-year grip on the
Ballon d’Or.

The midfielder also won a fourth Champions League in five seasons with
Real Madrid in May.

However, Modric insisted it is the collective prize rather than personal
acclaim he is seeking on Sunday.

“When you are mentioned in that context it’s very nice and pleasing but I
don’t preoccupy myself with that,” he added. “What I want is my international
team’s success, not individual awards.”

 

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