Croatia manager: Beating Argentina in semi-final would be our greatest victory

The 2018 runners-up aim for second successive final

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Victory against Argentina on Tuesday would represent Croatia’s “greatest game of all time”, according to manager Zlatko Dalic.

The 2018 runners-up are attempting to reach a second successive World Cup final when they take on the South American champions in their last-four encounter at Lusail Stadium.

Croatia, beaten in the final four years ago by France, booked their spot on Friday in the semis by defeating Brazil, then tournament favourites, on penalties.

On Monday, when addressing reporters in his pre-match press conference, Dalic praised his team for making it to another World Cup semi-final.

"We are among the four best teams in the world. That is an extraordinary success for Croatia. However, we want more,” said the former Al Ain manager, who was in charge when Croatia contested the country’s first World Cup final, in 2018.

"We are playing the great Argentina, a terrific team led by Lionel Messi. We have analysed our opponent and we know how they play, where they want to take the game.

"I am an optimist by nature; I trust my players. They have great character, and they would not have made the semi-finals without that."

Dalic said that there were no real fitness concerns among his squad, despite a gruelling journey thus far in Qatar, adding: "We have played extra time in two matches, but we are in the semi-finals of the World Cup, so we are not discussing exhaustion.

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"We have strength, willingness and energy. We will give our best. We have recovered after each match."

On where beating Argentina would rank in Croatian football history, Dalic said: “For me, the semi-final match against England [in 2018] was the greatest of all time, and Brazil was second. Tomorrow's match will be third.

"To repeat such an achievement [of reaching the final] on the World Cup stage, to win tomorrow, it would make it the greatest game for Croatia of all time."

In 2018, en route to the showpiece, Croatia defeated Argentina in their group, but Dalic said: "This 2018 match has nothing to do with tomorrow's match. It is a great match for both countries. The stakes are high for both teams. Tomorrow, none of us will spare any effort. I expect a solid, dynamic and fair game from both sides."

As to what it would mean to get through to another final, Dalic said: "The Croatia national team four years ago made a dream a reality for all small countries – we gave those countries the right to have those dreams. Four years ago nobody expected Croatia to reach the final. They have been encouraged by our fight and our quality.

"Both teams bare great emotions. Emotion and passion. Football brings a lot of good things and a lot of disappointments. From four teams, two will reach the final and there will be only one winner."

Updated: December 14, 2022, 7:02 AM