Croatia coach Dalic complains he is taken for granted

Croatia coach Dalic complains he is taken for granted

June 20, 2024 at 11:32 AM
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is under pressure following his side's stuttering start to Euro 2024
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is under pressure following his side's stuttering start to Euro 2024. Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
Source: AFP

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Under-fire Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic hit out at his critics on Thursday after their Euro 2024 draw with Albania, defending his team selection and complaining that he is taken for granted.

Croatia are in danger of a surprise group-stage exit from the tournament after losing 3-0 to Spain and then conceding a 95th-minute equaliser to be held 2-2 by Albania on Wednesday.

They will likely need to beat Italy in their final Group B match on Monday to reach the last 16 for a fifth straight major finals.

Dalic has come in for criticism back home, despite having led the team to the 2018 World Cup final, 2022 World Cup semi-finals and last year's Nations League final in an unprecedented spell of success.

"We will do everything to prepare for Italy. I have learned some things in these seven years where there have been far more successes than failures," he told reporters.

"I'm also used to criticism. I always say it's my responsibility. I am aware that when medals are won, my role means nothing and that I am there by accident, but that's how it is in Croatia."

Croatian media have questioned Dalic's faith in his more experienced players.

He stuck with his midfield trio of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic against Albania, but replaced Brozovic at half-time with 21-year-old Luka Sucic who impressed in the second period.

"I choose with the staff what I think is best," Dalic said.

"Of course, some others have merit, but those who I think are the best play.

"This probably applies to the older players and I will be with them as long as I live, but those who deserve to play, play."

Croatia's fate is still in their own hands as they prepare to face holders Italy.

They came through similar situations in the last two major tournaments.

Dalic's men beat Scotland in a must-win final group match at Euro 2020, before clinching a tense goalless draw with Belgium in their last group game at the Qatar World Cup to also progress.

"We were on the verge of elimination both in Qatar and at the last Euros.

"Victory means we're through, defeat puts us out. We must accept responsibility and correct our mistakes. In Russia (in 2018), we conceded only one goal in the group, and five this time.

"We have to change that and we are aware of it. For us, this is the knockout stage."

AFP photo