Croatia reached the final of the 2018 World Cup and is among the top eight nations at the Qatar edition as well. Some of the key people in Russia have withdrawn. Others enjoy the last party to the max. At the same time, Zlatko Dalic’s team is also producing lesser-known heroes until this final tournament. As was the case with goalkeeper Dominik Livaković, who saved three penalties in the shootout against Japan, and Mario Pašalić, the player who scored the decisive goal for qualifying in the quarter-finals and brought people to the streets in Croatia.
“Already with the second penalty saved by Dominik, given that I knew I would be the fourth to take the kick, I somehow thought that I might like this penalty, that I could decide the game. I approached calmly, I had already decided where I going. I shot and thank God, the ball went into the goal,” said Pašalić after the round of 16.
He is an idol for Hajduk Split fans
Interestingly, Pašalić was born in Mainz, Germany, where his parents lived and worked at the time. But soon after Mario was born, they returned to Croatia, near Split, where they decided to live. And 2022 is a year to put in the frame with great stories for the athlete. He has now become one of Croatia’s heroes after also celebrating the birth of his son Luka in February.
Before being the hero of the entire nation, Pašalić was the hero of Hajduk Split. At the age of 18, before being transferred by Chelsea London, the player scored two goals in a match against the great rivals, Dinamo Zagreb (2-0). Since then, he has remained forever in the hearts of the fans. The midfielder later received a mural painting in Tomislavgrad, where the origins has, depicting him in a Hajduk shirt and celebrating a goal. And behind him was placed the logo of the Croatian club and the message ‘Dok svira radio…’ (While the radio is playing…). It was a song often sung by Hajduk fans in honor of Mario Pašalić.
Chelsea signed him after a full year at the senior level
Chelsea signed him from Hajduk Split after just one full season at the senior level, in which he scored 11 goals in 32 games.
“I have a central midfielder, my favorite player is Frank Lampard, and so I am very happy to be a Chelsea player,” declared Pasalic after signing with the London club, where he did not get to play a single match. As with other youngsters, the Croatian found it difficult to break into the starting line-up due to the abundance of established players.
He has been loaned out to several clubs, including Monaco, Milan, Spartak Moscow and Atalanta. The latter club transferred him permanently in 2020 for 14.5 million euros, after having him on loan for 2 years. In the summer of 2022, he was on Jose Mourinho’s list at AS Roma, but the Bergamo outfit did not agree to part with him. The Croatian is described in Italy as a player that fits like a suit. He is intelligent, reads the phases of the game well, always very prone to enter the opponents’ penalty area with the ball at his feet. He often ends up in the situation to score. He already has 34 goals for La Dea.
How big will his role be with Brazil too?
At 27, Pašalić is playing in the first World Cup of his career. In 2018, he was named in Zlatko Dalić’s preliminary 32-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia but did not make the final 23. He scored his debut goal for the national team on 7 October 2020 in a friendly 2–1 victory over Switzerland. Today, he already has 47 matches and 7 goals for the national team. “I have the honor and privilege of living every boy’s dream. I’m glad that things are going in a positive direction, and I hope we will continue like this,” said Mario.
Although he is a player coming off the bench, Pašalić played in every match at the World Cup in Qatar. And he is expected to play a role in the quarter-final match with Brazil. How important it will remain to be seen. With Japan few expected him to be at the fore, but he made the most of his moment of glory.