Brazil manager Tite said he is wary of Croatia’s “resilience and persistence” ahead of the sides' World Cup quarter-final clash, while he also defended his team’s recent goal celebrations that sparked debate outside of his country.
The five-time world champions take on the 2018 runners-up at Education City Stadium on Friday, with the former favourites to go all the way in Qatar. Brazil booked their place in the last eight by defeating South Korea 4-1 on Monday, when they provided one of the most complete performances of the tournament thus far.
Croatia, meanwhile, came through yet another penalty shoot-out on the same day, eventually seeing off Japan. It represented a third penalty shoot-out in their past five World Cup knockout matches, while another – the semi-final against England four years ago – went to extra-time.
Speaking on Thursday, Tite said of Croatia: “They have individual quality and collective quality as well as a resilience and persistence. We are aware of their virtues, but my focus is on maintaining our standards. Whoever plays best will go through.”
Tite, a former Al Ain and Al Wahda manager, had to field questions regarding Brazil's in-game celebrations against South Korea. His players had different dance routines for after every goal they scored, with Tite even joining in on one occasion as Brazil cruised to a 4-0 lead in the first half.
The dancing divided opinion, with some claiming it is disrespectful towards opponents.
However, Tite said: “I am very sorry, but I will not make comment on those who do not know Brazilian history or Brazilian culture, the way each and every one of us is.
“To those, I leave that noise aside. I want my connection to be to my job, to the people who I relate to, to those who relate to my work. They know how much I respect the Brazilian history. Those are the ones I give my heart to. I respect the culture.
“It is not being disrespectful to anyone else, that is how we do things, that is us. This may also help the education of young kids back in school, and we will continue doing things in our manner.”
Tite’s opposite number, Zlatko Dalic, was asked on Thursday if he found the celebrations disrespectful, or if he would encourage his Croatian players to do likewise whenever they score.
Dalic, another former Al Ain manager, said: “They have their own way, they celebrate how they know. It’s festive, they are so in unity, they are demonstrating their character and tradition. It is their right.
“Does that mean it is respectful or disrespectful to the opponent? I can’t say. I would not like to see my players dancing like that, but they are a different culture and they like to dance.”
Dalic, who at the 2018 World Cup guided Croatia to their best finish in the finals, said he believed Brazil to be the strongest side left in the tournament.
“I believe that this match will be the most demanding one,” said. “I can compare it to the final against France in the previous World Cup. A great opponent and a great challenge for us.
“We have had 11 matches at these two World Cups and we lost one. I wish this match came a bit later [in the tournament], but life is such.
“Croatia is a small country. We can claim to be one of the rare teams that reached this stage of the tournament two times. But we are ambitious. We will not rest here, and we try to win tomorrow.”
On the difference between his runners-up four years ago and the current Croatia side, Dalic added: "There are 18 new players who were not at the [last] World Cup. We need time to develop and mature. Our success to be among the eight best teams is tremendous.
“They have still to prove themselves at the World Cup and tomorrow is a good opportunity for them to do so. We want to do more and, if we manage to do it, it would be spectacular.”