It was Les Bleus who ended the fledgling nation’s previous run at the 1998 tournament as Aime Jacquet’s side triumphed 2-1 in the semi-final on their way to lifting a maiden World Cup trophy against Brazil in the final on home soil.
The Vatreni are into their first ever World Cup final following an extra-time 2-1 victory over England in Moscow on Wednesday.
They will meet France in Sunday’s final at the same venue and Dalic feels the clash at the Luzhniki Stadium is an opportunity for his nation to avenge the defeat of 20 years ago.
“In 1998, I was in France for the first three games as a supporter. I had to go back [to Hajduk Split] for pre-season for the last games,” said Dalic, who up until 18 months ago was in charge of Al Ain in the UAE.
“Of course, everybody in Croatia remembers [Lilian] Thuram, the 2-1. This has been the discussion for the last 20 years.
“Maybe this game has a historic significance. The chance to settle a score. Both teams have shown their qualities and are deserved finalists.
“This is football, what we have to do is focus on preparing the best game in the tournament in the final.”
Croatia were incredibly pushed to extra time for a third straight game in their 2-1 triumph over the Three Lions, with Mario Mandzukic scoring a 109th-minute winner, after Ivan Perisic levelled in the second half of normal time following Kieran Trippier’s excellent free-kick to open the scoring after just five minutes.
Dalic lauded his team’s character after they came from behind for the third consecutive game.
“I insisted that I cannot teach these players football, they play fantastic football already. I am in charge of some other things. This is what they have accepted,” he said.
“Initially, on their part there was not full trust and confidence but as the tournament progressed they have gained confidence. They are stronger in terms of mentality, strength.
“I said this tournament would be won by teams with character who execute on the pitch as their coach shows them. We were 1-0 down in three games in a row and we overtook all these. We have done that today in extra time.
“On top of all the football qualities, they have shown character. We are a nation of people who are proud, never give in and have character.”
The skipper said detractors “should be more humble” and show greater respect after his side’s 2-1 extra-time win shattered England’s dreams of glory in Russia.
Modric, who will on Sunday lead Croatia into their first ever World Cup final, suggested his team had set out to prove a point after noting unfavourable views aired by critics prior to Wednesday’s match.
“Especially English journalists, pundits from television, they underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake,” Modric told ITV Sport.
“All these words from them we take, we were reading and we were saying, ‘OK, today we will see who will be tired’. And like I said they should be more humble and respect more opponents.
“But we showed again that we were not tired, we dominated the game physically, mentally, in all aspects.”
The Real Madrid midfielder, 32, has dazzled in Russia and is now just a victory over France away from lifting the biggest prize in world football.
It would be a momentous occasion for Croatia, whose previous best performance was a semi-final loss to France in 1998.
“This is an amazing achievement for us,” he said. “It’s a dream come true after such a long time.
“We are in the final. It is the biggest success in Croatian history in sport and we have to be proud.”
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic believes his side were better “in all segments of the game” as they won their World Cup semi-final against England.
Gareth Southgate’s men opened the scoring at the Luzhniki Stadium, but it is the Vatreni that will return to take on France in Sunday’s showpiece finale.
Ivan Perisic drew Croatia level and Mario Mandzukic secured a 2-1 extra-time win to propel the country into their first World Cup final.
Asked why his side had won, Dalic said: “Because we were the better team in all segments of the game.
“We did not underestimate them. We respected them because we analysed them.
“We knew what they were doing and where.
“We played a high press on their backline. We closed down (John) Stones and (Jordan) Henderson. We nullified them.
“We let the centre-halves play. (Luka) Modric and (Ivan) Rakitic pressed their backline and we had the ball possession.
“During half-time, I told the players ‘calmly pass the ball, do not lose your heads’.
“We showed that we were the better team in all segments of the game.
“I think this was our best game. We played today better than against Argentina.
“We were motivated and what I told these players before the game was ‘there’s no pressure, no nerves, don’t lose your head – you’ve reached the semi-final, be proud and enjoy your football’.
“And this is exactly what they did- they enjoyed their football.”
Dalic thanked Croatia’s fans and players for their efforts in securing this historic win, setting up Sunday’s encounter with France – the team that knocked them out of their previous World Cup semi-final in 1998.
“There is no weakness in a team which is in the final,” Dalic said of France. “They are a top-drawer team with fantastic players.
“But we are going to discuss France tomorrow. We’re taking it step by step.
“We’ve entered the final today. We’re going to celebrate, to rest and then we will prepare for France.
“We’re facing another daunting task but it’s going to be a fantastic match. We are ready for it. I am sure everybody will enjoy watching that match. I have huge respect for France.”