14 June 2024

Croatia head into Spain clash looking to continue ‘miraculous’ achievements

14 June 2024

Zlatko Dalic has warned Croatia’s rivals that his team will continue to punch above their weight in their search for respect.

Croatia are not among the favourites to win Euro 2024 despite the presence of midfield great Luka Modric and impressive performances at the World Cup, finishing runners-up in 2018 and third four years later.

They launch a challenging group campaign against Spain – the team that defeated Croatia on penalties in last year’s Nations League final – in Berlin on Saturday, but Dalic insists a country of 3.9million people is ready to rise to the occasion once again.

“The things that Croatia is achieving are miraculous. I would even say impossible,” Dalic said.

“That’s why it bothers me when people underestimate us. This Croatian team needs to be respected for achieving those things in such challenging circumstances and drawing on such a small pool of players.

“We’re fighting against the world’s footballing powerhouses. For that reason, we are the proof that a small country can achieve great things. We should be an example for others that it is possible.

“Our unity is our greatest strength. Many players from the Qatar World Cup are still with us – and young players have joined. They have shown they can be relied on and that they can make a difference.

“We all want to play against big teams. We are looking forward to the match. We’ve played against Spain several times and we know that details will be decisive.

“We will have to be at our best at every moment and pay attention to the small things. It never gets boring to play such big matches.

“We are here to get a great result. We are excited and hopeful that we can accomplish something great.”

Spain are aiming to win the Euros for a record fourth time and boss Luis de la Fuente is looking to harness a mixture of national identity and individual brilliance.

“We need to have that sense of what it means to be Spanish and say ‘we are representing a country!’ The pride that you feel representing an entire nation which is backing you… that gives you a lot of strength,” he said.

“When you bring that talent and national pride together, it will make any team very dangerous and very strong. That’s what I’m trying to instil into our national team.

“We are very talented, we have players that are exceptional in a footballing sense.

“We’re a strong team and can compete at the top level – my counterparts with other national teams acknowledge this.”

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