ZAGREB Russia (Xinhua) --
Twenty years ago, Croatia led by Miroslav
Blazevic won the third place at the France World Cup and put the
country on the world’s football map. Blazevic, known as the
“coach of all coaches”, is very optimistic about Croatia’s
chances in Russia.
“Zlatko Dalic (the
current national coach) just called me to ask some questions
regarding the next game against Russia. Although I appreciate
that he asks for my advice, he doesn’t need it. Dalic is a great
coach and he is doing a fantastic job,” Blazevic told Xinhua.
“Mark my words:
Croatia is going to win the World Cup. We will beat Brazil in
the finals and that is not only my opinion but many of my
colleagues around the world think the same,” Blazevic said.
He explained that
the whole nation stands behind the team, just as it happened in
1998. “With such support, when you know that nation is behind
you, players are extra galvanized and success is
unquestionable,” Blazevic argued.
always had superstars who have been playing in top European
clubs, the national team had never passed the group stage since
It all changed last
week after dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Denmark. They
will play hosts Russia on Saturday for a semifinal place
Croatian media and
fans are comparing this team with the “bronze generation” and
somehow trying to relate this year’s World Cup to the one 20
years ago. Croatia, again, has a great national team with
players like Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, both of whom play a
significant role in Real Madrid and Barcelona, or Juventus
striker Mario Mandjukic and Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren.
The team is in high
spirit while the nation is living through each and every game.
People on Croatian streets are wearing national team shirts,
cars are decorated in red and white squares, and every bar has a
big TV screen with football games on it. When the national team
plays its games, main squares in the city centers are full of
people cheering and celebrating every goal. Fans are just
certain that Croatia is on the way to repeating the success of
the World Cup 20 years ago and maybe even play in the finals.
Croatian players are
also confident that this team can do something special.
“We can do better
than the 1998 team, but let’s see,” Dejan Lovren, Croatian
defender told reporters in Russia after the stunning victory
Barcelona’s midfielder, thinks the same. “God willing, we can
achieve the same result, or maybe even more. I wouldn’t say it’s
something that burdens us. We need to enjoy the tournament. We
want to show the world how good this Croatian team is, how hard
we fight for our country. Hopefully, in 20 years, they are
talking about us in the same manner,” Rakitic said.
Drazen Ladic was a
goalkeeper in the 1998 squad whose saves lifted Croatia to the
third place. He is currently serving as an assistant coach in
the national team. Since he joined the team in March this year,
he has claimed that this team is more talented and better than
the one 20 years ago.
Croatia had only two
players from big clubs in 1998, Zvonimir Boban in AC Milan and
Davor Suker in Real Madrid. Others were less known.
So which team is
better? The one from 1998 that finished third, or today’s team
that is on its way to semifinals? “I will admit that they are
better only after they have done better than us. But I’m sure
they’ll do it and win the World Cup,” Blazevic insisted.
Modric looking to
take Croatia one step further
MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) --
Croatia captain and inspirational midfielder,
Luka Modric is looking for his side to take a further step
towards success when they play hosts Russia for a place in the
last four of the World Cup on Saturday.
Croatia’s win over
Denmark following a penalty shootout in the last 16 saw them
progress past the first game of the knockout stage of a major
competition for the first time since 2008 and speaking to the
press, the midfielder highlighted the importance of that
achievement which now sees them face the hosts in Sochi.
“The attitude and
organization of Russia was vital when it came to limiting
Spain’s potential,” said Modric, who expected the Russians to
sit deep when they play his team this weekend.
“Russia are very
comfortable playing on the break, they work hard and they are
well-organized. I know they are going to try and take their
chance to progress.”
“It’s going to be
spectacular to face Russia and their fans... They have already
got past serious problems to get this far, especially as they
have the lowest FIFA ranking,” he added.
Modric also looked
at his own side’s success as they look to emulate or improve on
the performance of the side which finished third in the 1998
“We have not got
past the first knockout round since 2008 and It was very
important for us to get past that. We have finally got a good
result after many years of trying and that means a lot to me. I
started playing for Croatia in 2008 and we have had a lot of
unlucky defeats, we needed a bit of luck to get through, but we
have worked for it,” said Modric.
“I want this
Croatian side to confirm its talent and to take another step
forward,” he concluded.