Football

Croatia coach Dalic: Fatigue not an issue for us

Ecstatic Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is confident fatigue will not be an issue for his side when they face France in the World Cup final, despite once again coming through extra-time to beat England yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Croatia came from behind to win 2-1 in the semi-final in Moscow, with Mario Mandzukic claiming the winner in the 109th minute after Ivan Perisic had earlier cancelled out Kieran Trippier's free-kick opener.

Dalic's side were clearly exhausted, but they managed to fight on to the end to take the country of just over four million people into the final for the first time.

However, the biggest concern looking ahead to Sunday's game is bound to be fatigue, with Croatia having also required extra-time and penalties to come through ties against Denmark and hosts Russia in the past two weeks.

France will have had 24 hours longer to prepare for the game after edging out Belgium 1-0 in 90 minutes in St Petersburg on Tuesday.

"Two players played with half a leg, but it didn't show. In extra-time, nobody wanted to be substituted. This shows character and is what makes me proud. Nobody gave up," said Dalic, whose team have played the equivalent of one match more than the French.

"We prepared to get to the final and we want to play it. Going to extra-time might be a problem along with the fact France have had an extra day to recover but there will be no excuses," he added. "We have to play as if this were the first game in this tournament."

No team have made it to the World Cup final after going to extra-time in all three prior knockout rounds - England twice won in extra-time in 1990 before losing on penalties to West Germany in the semi-finals.

Said Dalic: "For Croatian football and Croatia as a country, this is history being written. I don't know of a smaller country in a World Cup final.

"We are going to play England in the League of Nations (in October) and we don't have a proper stadium to play that game. But we have our hearts, our pride and our players and that is what is really important to us." - AFP

Football