Dalic delighted to see Croatia deliver
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Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic believes his players stepped up and delivered the performance they needed against Scotland to book their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2020.
The pressure was certainly on the 2018 World Cup finalists heading into their final Group D clash with Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday, as they knew a victory would secure their place in the last 16, but anything less would have seen them eliminated.
There had been suggestions in the build up to the game that Croatia were past their best, with Vatreni having only collected one point and one goal from their opening two group matches against England and the Czech Republic.
An early goal from former Everton forward Nikola Vlasic did help ease any Croatian nerves in Glasgow, but Callum McGregor drew Scotland level late in the first half, which left both teams in danger of being eliminated.
However, it was Croatia that coped with the pressure best after the restart, with second-half strikes from the magnificent Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic helping them to a 3-1 victory, much to the delight of Dalic.
“Congratulations to the lads for an effervescent performance that propelled us into the knockout rounds and we will now be ready for whoever comes our way in the last 16,” Dalic told reporters at his post-match press conference.
The 3-1 win was actually enough to see Croatia move into second place in the group and they have now reached the knockout stages of each of their last three major international tournaments in the men’s game.
The win also appears to have eased the pressure on Dalic, with reports in Croatia prior to Tuesday’s game having suggested the 54-year-old was in danger of losing his job had they not reached the knockout stages,
Dalic, who has been in charge of Croatia since 2017, certainly felt his side were worthy winners against Scotland and he reserved particular praise for his captain Modric, with the Real Madrid star having been the driving force behind the victory, not least due to his spectacular goal.
“We were compact and although we let Scotland back into the game late in the first half, we talked things over at halftime and never lost our heads,” Dalic revealed.
“It was a matter of time before we scored the second and what a fantastic goal by Luka, it’s amazing how he keeps going at this level. I am proud to have him as the team captain.”
Modric himself was keen to share out the praise with his team-mates, as he felt even if they had lost the game, they would have still been able to leave the pitch with their heads held high.
“After the performance, we’d have been able to walk off the pitch with our heads high even if we had lost,” the 35-year-old told Croatia’s HRT state television broadcaster.
“The goal I scored means a lot to me and I am glad it helped us win, but the most important thing is that the whole team looked the part.”