Dalic’s men overcame an early Kieran Trippier goal to beat England 2-1 in extra time in the tournament’s second semifinal on Wednesday, setting up a rematch of the tiny country’s 1998 semifinal with France.
In that game, Davor Suker’s goal in the 46th minute was cancelled out by a pair of strikes from France defender Lilian Thuram at the Stade de France, but Dalic said his Croatian team won’t be thinking about that semifinal loss.
“In 1998 I was in France for the first three games as a supporter. Everyone in Croatia remembers that game when Thuram scored and we lost 2-1. This has been the topic of discussion for the past 20 years,” Dalic said. “I remember when we celebrated Suker’s goal but as soon as we sat back down it was level.
“Both teams have shown their qualities, we do not seek revenge, this is football, this is sport, but what we have to do is focus on preparing to play our best game of the tournament in the final.”
Croatia needed extra time and penalties to overcome Denmark and Russia before outlasting England in another marathon knockout-stage match.
Dalic’s side seemed to get stronger as the match wore on and he hailed his team’s grit and willingness to run in the historic match against the Three Lions.
Luka Modric, left, and Zlatko Dalic, right, were pivotal in Croatia’s comeback win vs. England. Getty
“What our players did today, the strength they’ve shown, the stamina, the energy levels. I wanted to substitute but no one wanted to be subbed, everybody kept saying ‘I’m ready, I can run on’,” he said.
“Some players played with minor injuries with which they would not have played some other games. Two players played with half a leg, but it didn’t show!
“Nobody wanted to give in when I was preparing the first XI, nobody wanted to say I was not ready in extra time, no one wanted to be subbed and this shows character and what makes me proud. Nobody gave up.”