Croatia are hoping Argentina’s bad-tempered World Cup quarter-final qualification over the Netherlands with 16 yellow cards and one red will not spill over into Tuesday’s semi-final, coach Zlatko Dalic said on Monday.
The Argentines eventually prevailed on penalties after squandering a two-goal lead but the game was marred by disciplinary violations from both sides throughout.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi exchanged words with Dutch coach Louis van Gaal following the final whistle and called a Dutch player ‘a fool’.
Croatia, runners-up in 2018, have gotten their own taste of Argentine temper in the past following their group stage win over them at the 2018 World Cup with then-Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli refusing to shake Dalic’s hand.
But Dalic, whose team beat tournament favourites Brazil also on penalties to advance to the last four for the second World Cup in a row, said he bore no grudges.
“I understand the actors involved and the expectations were high back then (in 2018). It happens and we shall not hold any grudges,” Dalic told a news conference on Monday.
“I don’t get angry at anyone in an emotional state of mind. Argentina against Netherlands was also quite feisty and difficult with many non-football related behaviours. I really hope this will not be the case tomorrow.”
Argentina players also mocked the Dutch at the end of the penalty shootout while some Netherlands players had provoked the Argentines during the game.
“Tomorrow’s match is a great match for Argentina as well as us. The stakes are high for both and a spot in the final is at stake,” Dalic said.
Croatia will be hoping to reach the World Cup final for the second tournament in a row after losing the 2018 showcase match to reigning world champions France, who play Morocco in the other semi-final.
Asked to rate Croatia’s success in the past four years, Dalic said the 2018 semi-final win over England was so far their biggest match.
“For me the semi-final match against England was the greatest match of all time. The Brazil game (in the quarter-finals in Qatar) comes second and tomorrow’s match would be third on that list,” Dalic said.
“But if we win tomorrow it would make it the greatest Croatian match of all time.”
Dalic’s advice to his players and their few fans who have made the trip to Qatar was to enjoy the game.
“I always say to our fans and players to enjoy the football,” he said. “Each of us has to enjoy the work, the profession we are doing. Only if players are happy can they be what they are.
“They have deserved the joy to be one of the four best teams in the world.”