‘Failure was not an option for us’ - Zlatko Dalic
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic heaped praise on his players after they saw off Greece with the minimum of fuss in their playoff tie on Sunday to seal a place at the 2018 World Cup.
The impressive Croatians held Greece to a goalless draw at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in Sunday’s second leg in Athens to complete a 4-1 aggregate victory – making it the fifth time have qualified for a major finals via the playoffs.
“Congratulations to my players, it was a great game tonight, full of tension, and we’ve achieved what we had set out to do and are going to Russia,” said a delighted Dalic.
“We played a truly awesome game in Zagreb in the first leg, tonight here it was much harder; but it was never important for me who would be our opponents in this playoff, because I was convinced that we would win whoever we played against.”
Having done the hard work four days ago by winning 4-1 in the first leg in Zagreb, Zlatko Dalic’s team finished the job comfortably against a much-improved Greek team, who were full of attacking intent and tenacious tackling but lacking creativity in attack.
For all their possession and hard work, Croatia came closest to scoring on the night with Ivan Perišić hitting the post in the first half.
Dalic admitted his team oozes quality and said he had benefitted from the work of predecessor Ante Čačić, who was sacked on Oct. 7 after a run of poor results.
“The bottom line is that we have very good players with enormous quality,” Dalic said.
He added: “I did not have to do much; I mostly talked to my players. This qualification is also as much down to the previous coach and comes as a result of his work. We are a very good team and failure to qualify for the World Cup was not an option.”
There was a nice touch from Dalic after the final whistle as he asked for Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ shirt.
“I wanted something to remind me of these moments against Greece in the playoffs and Papastathopoulos, along with [Kostas] Manolas, are two of the best defenders in Europe,” he said.