Croatia proud of World Cup third place, expects bright future

Croatia's Luka Modric and teammates celebrate with their medals as they finish in third place
PHOTO: Reuters

DOHA - Croatia ended their World Cup campaign with the pride of claiming third place in a 2-1 win against Morocco, which marked the end of a journey but also promised a bright future, coach Zlatko Dalic said on Saturday.

Croatia, runners-up in 2018, prevailed with goals by Josko Gvardiol and Mislav Orsic to end their World Cup on a high as Luka Modric possibly bid farewell to the soccer extravaganza.

Croatia beat Brazil in the quarter-finals, but for Dalic, Saturday's bronze medal game was the highlight of their tournament.

"In any case, the last match we played. If you remember, I had said if we had lost, it would have been a disaster," said Dalic, who paid tribute to former Serbia midfielder Sinisa Mihajlovic after his death on Friday.

"It was a difficult, great match. I want to extend my congratulations to Morocco, they put up a great fight until the last minute, despite the fatigue.

"They can be proud, they remind me of us four years ago. We're among the best teams in the world."

Croatia can now look forward to the future with confidence.

"It's the end of a cycle for us, the end of a journey. Tonight's match and the win is the moment of the tournament for us," said Dalic.

"Yes this is the last World Cup for some of my players today due to their age. But we have young players in the team and it is great for Croatia," he added, referring to man of the match Josko Gvardiol, but also Lovro Majer and Borna Sosa.

"We have many of the players on the bench, too."

Dalic, however, is still counting on his old guard for the Nations League and the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

"We would not have been that far without our older players. We have a great future, Croatia has nothing to fear. Is it the end of an era for a generation? Well, we still have the Nations League and the Euro qualifiers. All I know is that Croatia have a bright future."

Croatia qualified for the Nations League final four to be played in June with Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.