Dalic hopes for Croatian about-turn

ZAGREB • New coach Zlatko Dalic will lead Croatia out today for their final World Cup Group I qualifier in Ukraine confident of success.

The 50-year old was named as coach on Saturday after Ante Cacic was dismissed following Friday's 1-1 home draw with Finland that left their hopes of reaching next year's World Cup Finals in Russia hanging in the balance.

Croatia are second with 17 points from nine games, two behind leaders Iceland and ahead of third-placed Ukraine on goal difference.

A win today would guarantee a runners-up finish and a play-off berth, with the top spot available only in the unlikely event that Iceland slip up at home against bottom team Kosovo.

"I am ready for the upcoming challenge, aware of the difficult situation, including the poor atmosphere around the national team. However, I do not want to look behind, I am fully committed to the Ukraine clash," Dalic told the Croatia Football Association's (HNS) website yesterday.

"During these two days, we shall try to improve as much as we can. I will talk to the players, we shall try to find the consolidate our ranks and find the necessary chemistry.

"Quality is present, it just has to be activated. I am convinced we can succeed, I wouldn't take this job if I didn't believe in these guys and my capabilities."

The former midfielder spent the bulk of his career at Croatian side Varteks Varazdin, and coached Emirati team Al Ain in the past three years, taking them to the Asian Champions League final last year.

Pressure mounted on Cacic, unpopular with many of the Croatia players and most fans, halfway through the campaign as they suffered 1-0 defeats in Iceland and Turkey before the draw with Finland allowed Iceland to leapfrog them.

When asked whether Dalic was a long-term choice, HNS president Davor Suker said: "Coaches live by their results and we will see what happens. I am confident we can get a (good) result in Ukraine."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2017, with the headline 'Dalic hopes for Croatian about-turn'. Print Edition | Subscribe