By Simon Peach
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic believes his side were better “in all segments of the game” as they won their World Cup semi-final against England.
Gareth Southgate’s men opened the scoring at the Luzhniki Stadium, but it is the Vatreni that will return to take on France in Sunday’s showpiece finale.
Ivan Perisic drew Croatia level and Mario Mandzukic secured a 2-1 extra-time win to propel the country into their first World Cup final.
Asked why his side had won, Dalic said: “Because we were the better team in all segments of the game.
“We did not underestimate them. We respected them because we analysed them.
“We knew what they were doing and where.
“We played a high press on their backline. We closed down (John) Stones and (Jordan) Henderson. We nullified them.
“We let the centre-halves play. (Luka) Modric and (Ivan) Rakitic pressed their backline and we had the ball possession.
“During half-time, I told the players ‘calmly pass the ball, do not lose your heads’.
“We showed that we were the better team in all segments of the game.
“I think this was our best game. We played today better than against Argentina.
“We were motivated and what I told these players before the game was ‘there’s no pressure, no nerves, don’t lose your head – you’ve reached the semi-final, be proud and enjoy your football’.
“And this is exactly what they did- they enjoyed their football.”
Dalic thanked Croatia’s fans and players for their efforts in securing this historic win, setting up Sunday’s encounter with France – the team that knocked them out of their previous World Cup semi-final in 1998.
“There is no weakness in a team which is in the final,” Dalic said of France. “They are a top-drawer team with fantastic players.
“But we are going to discuss France tomorrow. We’re taking it step by step.
“We’ve entered the final today. We’re going to celebrate, to rest and then we will prepare for France.
“We’re facing another daunting task but it’s going to be a fantastic match. We are ready for it. I am sure everybody will enjoy watching that match. I have huge respect for France.”