Magic of togetherness

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CROATIA’S fairytale run to the final is a footballing “miracle” built on a foundation of teamwork and unity, which has seen them outlast sides reliant on brilliant individual talent, coach Zlatko Dalic said.

Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over England sent the Croatians into tomorrow’s final against France, a third straight knockout match they were forced to play extratime.

The mental resilience to come through such tests was the result of emphasis on playing as a team, Dalic said.

“For me, (Lionel) Messi is the best player in the world and Neymar is close,” Dalic told reporters.

“But at this World Cup, the starstudded teams are already on the beach. It’s the compact, united teams fighting for something that are still around.

“It’s been the strangest World Cup. Football has advanced so much any team can have well-organised defence, so there are no huge winning margins and the team is everything.

“This was our problem for 10 years, we had great individuals but no unity. That’s why I had to build that unity of purpose in the team.”

Croatia are hardly a team of no names, however, a fact Dalic was quick to point out when asked if England had disrespected his team with their confidence before the semifinal.

In Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, they have the midfield engines of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The scorer of their winner against the Three Lions, Mario Mandzukic, won the Champions League with Bayern Munich and now plays for Juventus.

“Modric has had a brilliant season with Real and here, he’s still sprinting about the pitch in the 115th minute,” said Dalic.

“He’s been the player of the tournament regardless of the final’s result.

“We’ve written ourselves into history. Given the conditions and infrastructure back home, we’re a miracle.

“This is one of the greatest sporting achievements of any Croatians. This is a global success and I’m glad it’s happened under my management.” — Reuters