Croatia’s experience might prove key when they go up against a youthful Spain in Sunday’s Nations League final in the Netherlands, midfielder Ivan Perisic said on the eve of the game.
Croatia, who finished second and third respectively at the last two World Cups, are looking for a first major title as they take on the Spanish in Rotterdam to decide the third edition of the Nations League. They overcame their Dutch hosts 4-2 after extra time in Wednesday’s semi-final at the Feyenoord Stadium.
“We have been together for a long time and there is a core of the team that has developed a deep understanding after all these years.
“The Spanish team has lots of new, young players but they do play for great clubs. Yes, we do have more experience than they do, having been runners-up at the 2018 World Cup and then third in Qatar.
“I believe that we might have a little competitive advantage. We had a great experience from Russia and from Qatar. But we’re still talking about Spain, who are always going to turn out a great national side.”
Spain reached the final with a last gasp winner against Italy in their semi-final in Enschede on Thursday.
“We have come close to a major title before, but I think that this is going to be third time lucky where first place is going to happen for us,” Perisic predicted.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said another positive was that there had not been much change in their side since the World Cup last December.
“We had a great World Cup in Qatar, where we were a team that have played great matches and put together great results. I think our game has not changed much since.
“Almost all the players are the same. They’re here. Of course, we miss (defender Josko) Gvardiol a lot. He’s one of our greatest strengths.”
The highly rated 21-year-old pulled out of the Nations League finals because of injury.
“But I believe that the team has over the last years built up a sort of continuity and developed into a football superpower, so I’m really happy for that,” Dalic added.
“I’m happy that we play great football, I’m happy that we have great players playing at big clubs in good leagues, and also we have a Croatia league that is competitive and a good springboard for those at home,” he added.