Zlatko Dalic's brave Croatia win hearts but fall short of epic triumph after losing World Cup final

Aditya Devavrat 01:36 16/07/2018
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Zlatko Dalic's Croatia won hearts if not the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic and Croatia’s incredible World Cup journey came to an end on Sunday as they fell to France 4-2 in the final despite a heroic effort.

Despite the heartbreaking result, Dalic can hold his head high having led Croatia to their best-ever finish at a World Cup, and indeed he may even count his side unlucky to lose as they dominated the final.

Here’s a closer look at how Dalic and Croatia fared in the tournament showpiece.

KEY STATS

Goals – 2

Shots – 14

Shots on target – 4

Possession – 66%

Pass Accuracy – 83%

30-SECOND REPORT

Dalic went with the same lineup that had emerged triumphant in the semi-final against England, retaining Marcelo Brozovic as a defensive midfielder in order to free Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic from defensive duties.

It allowed Croatia to dominate possession, and in truth they are likely to wonder how they weren’t able to convert their dominance into more goals. Even allowing for France’s well-drilled defence, Croatia had their moments, but their shooting – just four of their 14 shots were on target – let them down.

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Did Dalic err on the side of familiarity with his formation? The talking point after Croatia’s penalty shooutout win over Russia in the quarter-finals was that a 4-2-3-1 didn’t allow Modric to get forward enough, and the 4-1-4-1 is what earned this side their signature 3-0 win over Argentina in the group stages.

But Croatia were guaranteed to control possession almost by default, given France’s counter-attacking set-up. Playing Andrej Kramaric from the start in a 4-2-3-1 would have added some thrust up front.

VERDICT

Dalic and his players will go down as heroes even though they ended up losing in their first major shot at international glory. Indeed, they matched France in just about every aspect other than scoring goals, and even there, they’ll be entitled to wonder how they fell short. They’ll no doubt curse their luck – a debatable VAR penalty decision and an own goal accounted for two of France’s goals. But Dalic’s brave, determined Croatia won hearts all over the world.

RATING – 6/10

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