Despite a gruelling encounter with Russia stretching to extra time and penalty shootout, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic insisted his side will be ready for their World Cup semi-final showdown with England.
Dalic’s Croatia advanced to the final four for the first time since 1998 after winning a penalty shootout 4-3 against hosts Russia in Sochi on Saturday.
Neither team could be separated after extra time, which ended 2-2 following an absorbing and exhausting battle at Fisht Stadium.
But two unsuccessful Russia penalties and Ivan Rakitic’s match-winning effort silenced the home crowd and led Dalic to tears afterwards.
“Congrats to my lads but also to Russia who fought well,” Dalic – whose Croatia also survived penalties in the last 16 – said during his post-game news conference. “This wasn’t a beautiful game but a fight. A battle for the semis. We were lucky, thank God.
“I was concentrated throughout but after Rakitic’s penalty, it came bursting out of me. I felt really relieved. We made ourselves happy but also everybody back home in Croatia happy. I don’t cry often but now I have good cause. Croatia are in the semis. This is a great result.
“We have power left for England. We won’t want to stop. We will try to play our best. We have two matches to play. We are very motivated. We are giving our all. It will be a battle again but I believe in us.”
England moved in to the semis after outclassing Sweden 2-0 earlier in the day thanks to goals from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli.
“They breezed past Sweden. They were better. They are young and alive. Attacking team,” Dalic added.
“There are no favourites in this World Cup. It’s all 50-50. You have to fight it out. The favourites are home now. Those who work hard and organised are still here in Russia. This is the character of the teams remaining.”