Düsseldorf Croatian defender Sime Vrsaljko threw his coach to the ground with joy. Croatia beat England 2-1 after extra time in the World Cup semi-finals. And like Vrsaljko, everyone from the small Eastern European country probably knows who has made a significant contribution to the success of the Croatians: the hitherto unknown national coach Zlatko Dalić.
The 51-year-old, who played for various Yugoslav clubs in his playing career, previously only coached middle-class clubs in Croatia, Albania and the Persian Gulf – until the President of the Croatian Football Association, Davor Suker, surprisingly appointed him coach of the Croatian national team in October 2017 . But the nomination seems to be the right decision.
Dalić led the Croatians into the World Cup qualifying play-offs, in which they beat Greece – and thus booked the tickets for Russia.
At the World Cup, the Croatians have so far impressed with one thing in particular: the self-sacrificing fight. Nobody embodies him more than Dalić himself. Coach AC Milan’s star striker Nikola Kalinic sent home early after the first group game. Kalinic is said to have not been ready to follow the coach’s instructions. The others in the “Karos” team did – and they were rewarded.
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The sensation and simultaneous revenge for the semi-final at the 1998 World Cup against France (1: 2) could follow on Sunday. But no matter how the game ends: There are already enough winners on the Croatian side: fans, players – and last but not least Zlatko Dalić. Who will be remembered for sure after this World Cup.