Croatia coach says he’s not fooled by Belgium problems

Rumors of Belgium’s demise are greatly exaggerated, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said as he prepared his squad for the decisive World Cup Group F clash in Qatar on Thursday.

Croatia need just one point to secure a place in the round of 16, while FIFA’s second-placed Belgium almost certainly need to win.

A 2-0 defeat by Morocco on Sunday was followed by talk of internal problems in the Belgian squad, with midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and defender Jan Vertonghen reportedly at odds.

De Bruyne is also reported to have said that Belgium’s so-called Golden Generation is now too old to win the World Cup, but Dalic said he thought nothing of that when asked about the matter on Wednesday.

“We are playing the second best football team in the world and they were once number one,” he told reporters. “They are a great team and if we could choose, we would not have chosen this match to be the decisive one.” “We will not be fooled by their poor performance in the last two games,” he guaranteed.

Croatia drew with Tunisia on their opener but beat Canada 4-1 to set them in good stead for the clash at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

Dalic dismissed any notion that Croatia would be happy to play for a draw.

“We’ll play like we played against Canada, high quality, high intensity. It’s going to be a tough game,” he said. “Belgium are a top team, they have De Bruyne and Hazard and we will not be misled by media stories and some rumours. We are expecting the best from Belgium, a top team.” “They didn’t become bad players overnight. I’m not focused on any other aspect, we’re just focused on their strength and quality,” he said.

Belgium have so far been without their striker Romelu Lukaku, but he is expected to be back on Thursday, which could spell bad news for Croatia’s defence.

“We are preparing for him to start and that changes the game in Belgium,” said Dalic. “He’s fantastic in the air and he’s a great striker. But if we plan well, we’ll have half our work done and the other half on the field.”

Lukaku’s former Chelsea teammate Mateo Kovacic had some simple advice for his teammates on how to deal with the Belgian striker.

“I’ll leave that to the coach, but I’ll say ‘don’t fight him,'” he said.

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Translated to english by RJ983

From Brazil, by EBC News