Croatia are in dreamland after qualifying for their first ever final in the greatest show on earth as England were sent packing in the second semi-final of the 2018 Fifa World Cup at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow Wednesday.
Ivan Perisic canceled out an early English goal from Kieran Trippier and despite playing 120 minutes for the third successive game, it was Croatia who prevailed, thanks to a late winner by Mario Mandzukic in the 109th minute. Croatia bettered their best ever previous finish from the 1998 edition in France when they lost to the Les Blues, the Vatreni's opposition in the grand finale Sunday at the same venue.
Dhaka Tribune has talked with some local football coaches in Bangladesh to find out the reasons behind the Vatreni’s success and the most common replies were “strong midfield” and “team spirit”.
“They have a world-class midfield and some top-class players like [Luka] Modric, [Ivan] Rakitic and Mandzukic, and many of their players regularly compete in the top European leagues, but that is not the only reason,” said former Bangladesh head coach Saiful Bari Titu.
“The key fact is that they play together as a team. They are very organised and sharp, both technically and tactically. I don't know who their physio or doctors are but their physical ability to play for 120 minutes in three consecutive games deserve special praise, and it was possible because of their dedication and team work,” he added.
BFF's coaches' education director Bayazid Alam Zubair Nipu said, “Every big teams have their own icon. Croatia also have some quality players like Modric but it didn't reflect in their games, rather it looked more like every player performed for the team.”
Last season's head coach at Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society, Kamal Babu however, credited Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic in the first place. “Their coach is a true motivator. It would have been very difficult for them to reach such a stage had they not possessed good combination in the team. This team know how to keep the heads calm when the situation of the game is not on their side,” said Kamal.
“The difference between small and big teams has decreased. There is barely any existence of a big team in the current World Cup. The big teams like Brazil and Argentina were really big sides in 1998 in terms of depth and quality of the players and Croatia did exceptionally well in such circumstances (on their debut WC),” he added.
“The individual skills of the players were better in 1998 but the game tempo is more fast now,” said Titu before elaborating, “A lot has changed in 20 years and football nowadays has become tougher than ever before. When the opponents decide they wouldn't concede goals, it makes the big teams suffer. But Croatia overcame every obstacle so far with their determination and team spirit.”