FIFA World Cup 2018: Zlatko Dalic hails Croatia defenders for stopping ‘best player in the world’ Lionel Messi
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic praised Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Strinic for their roles in nullifying Lionel Messi during their team’s 3-0 World Cup win.
Messi was left frustrated as Dalic’s men cruised to a convincing victory in Group D Thursday, as goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic saw them to their win.
Brozovic came into the Croatia starting XI to play behind Modric and Rakitic, largely to try and reduce Messi’s impact.
And that plan worked for Dalic, who lauded the Inter midfielder and Strinic for their performances in Nizhny Novgorod.
“We had three solutions for that position. After Nigeria, we had someone in front of Modric and Rakitic, this time we had a screen behind them,” he told a news conference.
“I chose Brozovic because he is the quickest option and has played that position for Inter. He’s very calm and he had to double up on Messi. He was excellent with Strinic.
“Later, he went further forward and Luka dropped back. It’s essential for them to switch positions.”
The win booked Croatia’s spot in the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time since France 1998, when they finished third.
Asked about emulating that team, Dalic said his side needed to stay calm and focused amid the excitement over their display.
“We have to be happy. We’ve done a lot of good things. We played two games and beat a great Argentina with the best player in the world, Lionel Messi. Everything was top notch,” he said.
“However, we have to pray that we don’t go over the top. We must be calm, humble, dignified, be disciplined as a team, and I want my 22nd player in the squad to be as good as the first, hungry and desiring victory.
“Nobody is happier than I am but I have to keep composed.”
A point against Iceland in their final group game Tuesday would be enough for Croatia to seal top spot.
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