Zlatko Dalic exclusive: Croatia manager moved by messages of support from UAE

Victory over Argentina resonated in the UAE, with the Burj Khalifa lighting up in red and white on Thursday night with the country's name emblazoned on its exterior as a tribute to former Al Ain manager

Croatia's coach Zlatko Dalic attends a training session at the Roschino Arena outside Saint Petersburg on June 23, 2018, during the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament.  / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS
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Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic has thanked the UAE for its support following his side’s World Cup victory against Argentina.

Dalic, who shares a strong affinity with the Emirates having spent three years as Al Ain manager prior to taking the Croatia post, guided his country to a 3-0 win against the two-time world champions in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday. One of the most memorable results of the tournament in Russia thus far, it gave Croatia a second successive Group D triumph and secured their place in the last 16 with one match to spare.

The victory resonated in the UAE, with the Burj Khalifa lighting up in red and white on Thursday night with the country's name emblazoned on its exterior. The world’s tallest tower has been marking each team’s victory throughout the tournament as part of a promotion organised by Adidas.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom Centre in Riyadh also commemorated Croatia’s win. Dalic previously managed in Saudi Arabia, enjoying spells at Al Faisaly and Al Hilal.

The Croat posted both images on his Twitter account, with each soon garnering thousands of retweets. As of Sunday, the Burj Khalifa post had close to one million impressions, while the Kingdom Centre tweet had 1.15m.

Speaking to The National in Russia as his team prepare for their final group match against Iceland on Tuesday, Dalic said: "I am very happy and very proud because when I saw this picture it was great. It was special for me and also people from my country; it is a big support for us.

“I’m proud of my time there and that the people of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia give huge support to me. It’s now big news in my country, also because I put a message on Twitter about this just to say ‘thank you’. Almost more than one million people have seen the tweet. So it’s really good for me.”

Al Ain was Dalic’s most recent job before being appointed Croatia manager in October. Installed as Quique Sanchez Flores’ successor in February 2014, he guided the Garden City club to President’s Cup success and, the following season, to the Arabian Gulf League title.

In 2016, Dalic took Al Ain to a first Asian Champions League final in 11 years, but his team were defeated 3-2 on aggregate by South Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. He left the club in February last year.

Dalic said he was moved by the amount of congratulatory messages sent by his former employers and players, adding that his busy schedule made it impossible to personally thank everyone.

“I received a lot of messages, especially from Al Ain and the Al Ainawi people [fans] and from some players, such as [Ibrahim] Diaky and Ismail [Ahmed],” he said. “Also from the Al Ain management, from the board. So many people. There have been a lot of messages everywhere, on social media, my Whatsapp and Viber.

“Really, I’m proud of this. Like I said, I was so happy when I saw how many messages I received. So in this way I want to tell everyone thank you. Thank you for the support. I really appreciate it and it really means a lot.”


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