Dalic vows 'this is not the end' in Croatia's World Cup journey

The 2018 finalists will now take on Messi and Co after knocking out favourites Brazil in Qatar

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Zlatko Dalic vowed that “this is not the end” after his side shocked favourites Brazil on Friday to book a place in second successive World Cup semi-final.

The 2018 runners-up appeared to be heading out of the tournament when Neymar scored at the end of the first period of extra-time at Education City Stadium.

However, Bruno Petkovic struck in the final few moments to set up a penalty shoot-out, with Rodrygo and Marquinhos both failing to convert as Croatia progressed 4-2.

They will take on Argentina on Tuesday for a place in another World Cup final. Inspired by Lionel Messi, the South American champions defeated the Netherlands on Friday, also on penalties.

Speaking after the Brazil victory, a jubilant Dalic said: “This is a victory for Croatian people. A great match. We eliminated the main favourites.

“This is Croatia: pride, courage, faith and patriotism. Croatia is the best when it's needed. When it matters, Croatia always succeeds. No one should underestimate us.

“This is not the end; we are moving on. We can achieve a lot.”

Dalic, a former Al Ain manager, guided Croatia to the final four years ago, where his team were beaten 4-2 by France.

The past two global finals have been marked by Croatia’s indefatigability; they won two penalty shoot-outs in Russia and now have done the same in Qatar (Japan the other, in the last 16).

“[The players] are great fighters and only Croats can do that,” Dalic said. “We have very strong character and we do not give up. We were prepared for anything today.

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“It has become quite normal for us in shoot-outs to become favourite; it's as though we have already won at that point. But you need to get to the penalties first. It's a feature of our team.”

On Saturday, Dalic was greeted at a press conference at the team's training base with applause from Croatian media representatives.

“When you kick out of the World Cup a team like Brazil, which surely were the biggest favourites, then you must be both happy and proud,” he said.

“I am tired but happily tired and … one should enjoy this moment, but not too much as today we already have to start to prepare for Argentina.”

On summoning another huge effort against Argentina on Tuesday, Dalic said: “Fatigue will not be an issue at all, and we will not mention it at all. They are also very motivated, they are awaiting the title and they are happy because Brazil fell out and they celebrate it.

“I think that a very, very tough job is awaiting us now. They will have huge support now in the semi-finals as Messi is still their main player and someone they can rely on. He plays splendidly.

“I really cannot yet review Argentina just yet. All will depend on us. If we do not play right, if we are not serious and motivated, it will be in vain even if they perform poorly. At this time they are excellent as they reached semi-finals.”

Updated: December 10, 2022, 12:21 PM