Zlatko Dalic says Croatia are “targets for everybody” after their second-place finish at the World Cup, as he prepares for their Nations League showdown with England.
After beating Gareth Southgate’s side in the semi-finals in Russia, Croatia lost to France in the final but have seen their stock rise and they are ranked fourth in the world by FIFA.
Ahead of their third meeting with England in four months, Dalic says that teams are out to prove their worth against Croatia after their successful World Cup.
“It was not easy for us because coming second at the World Cup, everyone wants to beat us and play a good game against us. We are targets for everybody now and we must compete, compete, compete,” he told Sky Sports.
“In the beginning of the Nations League, it was a tough time for us after the World Cup to be ready for another competition but we must accept that we are second in the world and, for the next four years, we must do our best from our side and keep our reputation.
“In the last three or four months, we [Croatia and England] have played three games against each other very well but it will be nice to play at Wembley against one of the biggest teams in the world.
“It is a dream for some of us and now there is another competition in the Nations League. Both teams are really fighting for first position, I hope it will be a very open game, a tough game, a strong game.
“I am a little bit worried because we are tired. We played two days ago against Spain, it was a very tough game for us but I expect a nice game from our side and to fight for first position.”
Croatia will be without one of their key players in Ivan Rakitic, who has picked up an injury, and Dalic adds that it will not be easy to replace the Barcelona midfielder.
“Along with [Luka] Modric, they are our heart in the pitch but with his injury, I don’t want to take any risks with him. He will rest and we will try to find another option,” he said.
“It is not easy for us because we are not England, we are not Spain – we don’t have a lot of players. We have a smaller squad and it is not easy for us to replace Rakitic, but I trust my players and they don’t need motivation to play at Wembley. It is nice for us and hopefully it can bring us first position.”