Taking Croatia, a country of 4 million people, into a World Cup final and (at least) a semi-final is an incredible achievement. And a great credit for this performance goes of course to the coach of the national team, Zlatko Dalić.
The success against Brazil in the quarter-finals on penalties went around the world. The Selecao was considered the main favorites to win the trophy, but Croatia got the best out of their squad and overturned all odds.
“This is the victory for the Croatian people. After an amazing match, we eliminated the big favorite. This is Croatia: pride, courage, confidence and patriotism. Croatia is the best when it comes to it. When it counts, Croatia always succeeds. Nobody they should underestimate us. It’s not over, we keep going. We can achieve great things,” Zlatko Dalic explained Croatia’s success.
Zlatko Dalic was an underrated coach
Since being named to the national team in 2017, the coach has lost just one match at the World Cup. And this was specifically the final against France. Zlatko Dalic was an underrated coach on many occasions. He was also contested by some Croatians before taking over the national team in October 2017. At that time, he was a coach without an impressive record in Europe. And without any selection in the past as a player for the Croatian national team. It basically came from “nowhere”.
But he caught the attention of the federation, especially with the results he had with Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates, with which he reached the final of the AFC Champions League. He was given one game and 48 hours to make a difference, to get Croatia out of a difficult situation and to qualify at the 2018 World Cup. Davor Suker called it “shock therapy”. Dalic didn’t receive a contract, but “When I got the chance,” he said, “I didn’t have time to think, I just headed for the airport.”
But from the moment he arrived on the national team of Croatia, Zlatko Dalic contributed fully to the performances achieved. He succeeded in Russia 2018 and proves also in Qatar 2022 that he is a real strategist and is primarily betrothed with luck. Croatia has won four of their last six World Cup knockout matches on penalties, with Denmark and Russia in 2018, Japan and Brazil in 2022. And in another game, in the semi-final against England in 2018, they qualified after extra time.
He turned down a 30 million euro contract after the 2018 World Cup
Shortly after his impressive performance at the 2018 World Cup, Zlatko Dalic turned down a €30 million contract offered by a club in China. The coach says that if he had accepted, he would have sent the wrong message to all Croatians, given that he has always spoken of “unity and patriotism”.
“After I got those huge offers, I was told to take advantage and take the money. After the World Cup, I decided to stay because I was the one who talked all the time about unity and patriotism. If I left for the money, what a message I would be conveyed to young people and to all people in Croatia? That I say one thing and do another.
I am a rich enough man. I don’t mean materially, but I have everything sorted out in life. I have a family, I have two children with faculties.
There have been some incredible offers, especially from a club in China. I was offered a net salary of 10 million euros per year and a contract for three seasons. I thanked them and declined. After half a year, the president of that club came back, but I told him that I am not leaving the Croatian national team. I was never sorry. I am proud of this decision.”
The Dalic – Modric relationship is essential
Zlatko Dalic is now described as a meticulous, pragmatic coach, a problem solver. “He filled us with confidence. The atmosphere in the team is very good,” said Luka Modric at one point. And the collaboration between manager Dalic and captain Modrid is one of the keys to Croatian success. Whenever he has the opportunity, the coach does not hesitate to highlight the importance of the 37-year-old player from Real Madrid in the team, and this happened even after the game with Brazil.
“The way he plays is unbelievable. He’s not tired and he didn’t fall away when the game went to extra time. It’s the second time in four days that he’s played in a match that has gone beyond 90 minutes. It shows that is one of the best players in the world. I believe the recipe for success is his seriousness and his professionalism. He is a gentleman and he is impeccable in training. He always tries his best and he lives for football.
At 37, he’s shown his quality for Real Madrid and for his country. When we came to the World Cup, some people wrote him off. But he’s helped us to the semifinals and he deserves all of the success that he is having.”
With Dalic as manager and Modric on the pitch, Croatia has no intention of stopping in the semi-finals. And with the two at the “buttons” of the team, Lionel Messi’s Argentina has every reason to fear for its part.