Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic told his team they had a chance to “settle a score” against France in the World Cup final. (FIFA World Cup semi-final highlights – Croatia beat England, enter final)
Goals from Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic helped Croatia to a come-from-behind 2-1 win over England in the semi-finals on Wednesday.
The result saw Croatia reach a first World Cup final, where France await in Sunday’s decider in Moscow.
It was France that ended the nation’s previous run at the showpiece tournament, winning their 1998 semi-final 2-1 before going on to claim the title.
And Dalic said the 2018 final was an opportunity for Croatia to avenge the defeat of 20 years ago.
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“In 1998, I was in France for the first three games as a supporter. I had to go back [to Hajduk Split] for pre-season for the last games,” he said.
“Of course, everybody in Croatia remembers [Lilian] Thuram, the 2-1. This has been the discussion for the last 20 years.
“Maybe this game has a historic significance. The chance to settle a score. Both teams have shown their qualities and are deserved finalists.
“This is football, what we have to do is focus on preparing the best game in the tournament in the final.”
Croatia were incredibly pushed to extra time for a third straight game, with Mandzukic scoring a 109th-minute winner.
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Dalic lauded his team’s character after they came from behind for the third consecutive game.
“I insisted that I cannot teach these players football, they play fantastic football already. I am in charge of some other things. This is what they have accepted,” he said.
“Initially, on their part there was not full trust and confidence but as the tournament progressed they have gained confidence. They are stronger in terms of mentality, strength.
“I said this tournament would be won by teams with character who execute on the pitch as their coach shows them. We were 1-0 down in three games in a row and we overtook all these. We have done that today in extra time.
“On top of all the football qualities, they have shown character. We are a nation of people who are proud, never give in and have character.”
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