Cape Town — Brazil’s sensational last-16 form and their star-studded array of players, who are household names around the world, have moved Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic to describe the five-time World Cup champs as “scary”.
Any team that includes the likes of Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Fabinho (Liverpool), Casemiro (Real Madrid) and Vinicius jnr (Real Madrid) will be a daunting prospect for opponents. This is the calibre of players that Croatia will face in Friday’s World Cup quarter-final in Qatar.
“If we are looking at it realistically, Brazil is the best team at the tournament,” said Dalic. “They have a great choice of players, a great squad, it’s scary, so it’s a great test for us.
“It will be a different game than against anyone we have played so far because Brazil likes to play football.”
The good news for Croatia is that superstars Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles are not fit and there is also doubt about Alex Sandro. The bad news for Croatia is that Neymar will be in the run-on XI after he came through the South Korea game unscathed following his ankle injury.
Brazil boss Tite is unlikely to change his starting XI. Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles have already been ruled out of the rest of the tournament while Alex Sandro continues to be a doubt with a hip issue, in which case Danilo is set to deputise once more. Neymar came through the last-16 match against South Korea unscathed following his ankle injury.
Dalic’s only regret ahead of the showdown is that the match won’t be a final but rather a quarter-final.
“Maybe we’d rather it was in the final than the quarter-final though,” said Dalic.
“We want to give maximum effort. We won’t surrender before the game. We want to counter Brazil’s quality with our own and we want to play football against them.”
On paper, Croatia’s squad is not as strong as it was four years ago in Russia. There are a few greenhorns and only veterans captain Luka Modric and winger Ivan Perisic have experience of playing at the highest level.
“We have already earned a historic result after getting silver in 2018 and bronze in 1998, this is our third-best Croatian result at a World Cup,” said Dalic.
“I wouldn’t draw comparisons to the team from 2018, when you look at our players then, they played for clubs like Barcelona, Inter (Milan), Juventus, Liverpool and Real Madrid of course.
“When you compare it to today, we have six players from the Croatian first division, it’s a different team.
“But I take my hat off to this generation because they are playing great.
“Brazil are favourites. You can tell they have a great atmosphere in the team, they have top world-class players.”