Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic insisted his team’s World Cup bronze medal did not mark the end of an era and declared there was “nothing to fear” about the future.
The head coach saw his team overcome Morocco 2-1 on Saturday to take third place at the Qatar 2022 finals, four years after they were runners-up when Russia hosted.
Croatia, a country with a population of around four million people, has produced remarkable football teams since gaining its independence from the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and Dejan Lovren have been kingpins of the side for many years, and Modric and Lovren have already ruled out carrying on until the 2026 World Cup, while it would be a major surprise if Perisic remained on the team.
He would be 37, and given his role is a high-energy one that involves getting up and down the pitch, Perisic can probably be counted out of that tournament.
Modric intends to play on for now, certainly to the Nations League next year and perhaps through to the Euro 2024 finals, and Dalic believes the newest and next generations of Croatia internationals can thrive just like the current breed.
“Yes, this is the last World Cup for some of my players today, due to their age and some other aspects,” Dalic said. “But we have young players too, there’s a hopeful Croatia: Orsic, Stanisic, Sutalo.”
Of those, defenders Josip Sutalo and Josip Stanisic are both 22 years old, while midfielder Mislav Orsic is 29, and should be good for another World Cup cycle.
It was Orsic who hit the winning goal against Morocco, a classy strike from a difficult angle that left goalkeeper Yassine Bounou grasping at air.
2 – Croatia have only lost two of their 14 total matches across the last twotournaments (W6 D6): versus France in the 2018 final (2-4) and Argentina in this year’s semi-final (0-3). Granite.
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Dalic said of the rising stars in his ranks: “We have many of those players on the bench, but they’d not be able to have good performance without the older ones.
“The older players instil confidence, they allow them to grow and mature. We have a great football school for the future. Croatia has nothing to fear for its national team.
“Is this the end of an era or a generation? I think not. We have the Nations League and qualification for the Euros in 2024, that is what awaits us, but we have great talents.
“There are four players from the Croatian league in the team today and I believe Croatia has a fascinating future.”