Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic admits his team were spurred on by what they saw as a lack of respect towards them in the English media as they won 2-1 in Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final.
“We always respect our opponents and expect them to respect us back,” Dalic told reporters in Moscow on Thursday. “Maybe England or the English media did not show enough respect to the Croatian national team, which we deserved, especially when you look at the clubs our players play for. This may have given us extra motivation, but this is football, you have to be dignified in victory and in defeat.”
Croatia came from behind to win the game at the Luzhniki Stadium with Ivan Perisic equalising in the second half before Mario Mandzukic scored the decisive goal in extra time. Elements of the English media had talked up how tired Croatia might be coming into the game after being taken to extra time and penalties in each of the previous two rounds. Captain Luka Modric made comments similar to those of his coach following Wednesday’s game, after a match which saw the dreams of English fans doused.
“We were motivated irrespective of that. We wanted to make the final and make our fans happy,” added Dalic, as his side now prepare to take on France on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Dalic insisted that Real Madrid playmaker Modric has been the outstanding player at the competition, having been named man of the match three times on their remarkable run in Russia.
“Before the World Cup it was only normal to talk about Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, but they have gone home, they are at the beach and others have stayed, like Luka Modric,” he said.
Modric has emerged as a leading contender to win the Ballon d’Or with his performances for Croatia following another excellent season at club level which saw him win the Champions League.
“He still sprints in the 115th minute, he tracks back, he leads the team, he is the man of the tournament,” added the coach. “Nobody would be happier if Luka won the Ballon d’Or. He has won everything with his club but there is an empty trophy cabinet with his national team. He is at the pinnacle of his career. I am sure he would be a deserving winner.”