MOSCOW (Reuters) - Croatia’s run to the World Cup semi-finals may be a surprise to some, but coach Zlatko Dalic said his players had long been among the best in the world and are ready to go down in history as another golden generation when they face England on Wednesday.
Soccer Football - World Cup - Croatia Training - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - July 10, 2018 Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic and players during training REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Croatia’s best previous World Cup run dates back 20 years to 1998, when they lost in the last four to eventual winners France. In 2002, 2006 and 2014 they were eliminated in the group stages, and they failed to qualify for the 2010 tournament.
“Croatia has great players playing at the greatest clubs, but it is true we have not had good results at major tournament for decades,” the coach said on Tuesday.
Soccer Football - World Cup - Croatia Training - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - July 10, 2018 Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic talks with Marcelo Brozovic during training REUTERS/Carl Recine
His players’ club list reads like a who’s-who of European elite players, with Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic at Real Madrid, Ivan Rakitic at Spanish rivals Barcelona, forward Mario Mandzukic at Italian champions Juventus, and Dejan Lovren at Liverpool among others.
“The results were below the level and quality of our players. Something had to change to get the results,” Dalic said.
“So we should not be surprised that Croatia are in the semi-finals given the quality of the players.”
“This generation has been underrated for a long time because of their poor results, but they have shown their quality when it mattered at this World Cup, and it will go down as a golden generation like that of 1998.”
Soccer Football - World Cup - Croatia Training - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - July 10, 2018 Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic during training REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Dalic has managed to get the best out of his player