DOHA, Qatar, Dec 8 – Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic hailed his country’s new generation of players just for making it to the World Cup quarter-finals but skipper Luka Modric believes they can pull off a shock result against tournament favourites Brazil.
The Croatians have followed their remarkable run to the final in Russia in 2018 by reaching the last eight at this year’s tournament in Qatar after qualifying from their group ahead of Belgium and then ousting Japan on penalties in the last 16.
Only four of the players who started the defeat in the final against France four years ago, including Modric, were in the line-up at kick-off against Japan, while the emerging star of the new team is 20-year-old centre-back Josko Gvardiol.
“This is a new national team. We have 18 new players who were not here four years ago,” Dalic said of his squad on the eve of the showdown with Brazil in Doha.
“In 2018 we had a national team that had been playing together for 10 years. They were playing in the best leagues and for the best clubs.
“We need time to mature but I believe that for us to be here at this World Cup among the best eight teams in the world is tremendous.”
Croatia, a country of just four million people, has now made it to at least the quarter-finals three times in six appearances at the World Cup.
However, beating Brazil may be a step too far for a team led by a 37-year-old Modric and who were taken to the draining experience of extra time and then penalties by Japan.
“I agree that we did a great thing by getting to the quarter-finals but regardless of that we would like to do more,” said Modric, who will come up against his Real Madrid teammates Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Eder Militao in the match at Education City Stadium.
“We know that the greatest match is ahead of us. Brazil are always favourites. We have to be ourselves.
“I believe that big things are possible but the only prerequisite is that we give our best.”