Coach Zlatko Dalic said that the World Cup final will produce “a seismic event” back home in Croatia regardless of the result against France.
Croatia have reached the final of a major tournament for the first time in their team’s 26-year history, and Dalic said that while he did not know how fans would be celebrating, he knew everyone will be excited.
“Win or lose tomorrow, there will be a seismic event,” Dalic said in a news conference on Saturday. “This gives us strength and motivation.
“There can be no better moment for a player or a coach than tomorrow. Whatever happens, we will be happy and proud because we deserved it.”
Midfielder Ivan Rakitic said on Friday that there “will be 4.5 million players on the pitch” against France, alluding to Croatia’s population and the pride the players will feel for their country.
Dalic will not have that many players to choose from, but did say that he has no major injury concerns despite playing three consecutive 120-minute knockout-round games.
“Tomorrow is the World Cup final,” Dalic said. “The players know what that means. One thing that makes me happy is that all my players tell me whether they are not 100 percent, [and] if they will be unable to give their all during the match, I expect them to tell us.”
Because of the strain of previous games, and in part because they had one fewer day after their semifinal victory than France, Dalic did not want to exert his players in the days leading up to the final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
“We did not insist on practice sessions,” Dalic said. “We have nothing to practice. We need relaxation and rest. We have some minor injuries but I hope we will overcome those today and all my players will be ready to play.
“We created such a group where they will concede and will say, ‘I have to miss the final’ [if they are not fit]. If they are not ready, we have great players on the bench who are rearing to go.”
Meanwhile, Luka Modric said that determination and self-belief were always more important than physical stature in football and that will be as true in the final.
The diminutive midfielder said he has used the discussion about his size as motivation throughout his career and thinks his team’s mental toughness comes from their upbringing.
“I’ve seen a great deal of hardship in my life,” said Modric, who lived in refugee hostels for several years as a child following the breakup of Yugoslavia.
“The most important thing is to never give up, never give in to circumstances, believe yourself and to soldier on no matter what’s in your way. There are ups and downs, but whatever happens, you have to trust and believe in yourself. Fight for your dreams and success. This is what has always guided me.”