Defiant Dalic dares Croatian FA to sack him

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has challenged the Balkan nation’s football association to find a worthy replacement after their poor Nations League run left them staring at relegation to the Nations League second tier.

FILE PHOTO: Croatia Training - Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden - November 13, 2020 - Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic during training/Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency via REUTERS

The Croatians face European champions Portugal in their final Group 3 match on Tuesday needing to emulate Sweden’s result against World champions France in the group’s other fixture to stay up.

“I am afraid of nothing because I am doing the best job I can and if they think I am not good enough, let someone else take over,” Dalic told a news conference on Monday.

“We finished runners-up in the 2018 World Cup and cruised through our Euro 2020 qualifying group. I know we are not good enough at the moment but that’s reality. I am frustrated and under pressure, but that’s part of the job.

“Rather than complain, I will show that I am proud to be in charge of Croatia. I am still confident and motivated to carry on in the face of adversity.”

With some stalwarts from the 2018 World Cup squad hanging up their Croatia boots and others in the lion-in-winter stage of their international careers, the Croatians have endured a patchy Nations League campaign.

They are third in the group on three points from five games, ahead of bottom team Sweden on goals scored as the two sides have an identical -6 goal difference and are also level on their head-to-head record.

The Portuguese lost any chance of reaching the final four with a 1-0 home defeat by France on Saturday which left them second, three points adrift of the French who have secured the top spot thanks to a better head-to-head record.

Portugal manager Fernando Santos stressed his side would not go through the motions although they had only pride to play for.

“We can’t finish top of the group any more but that doesn’t mean we won’t take the match against Croatia seriously,” he said.

“Out of respect for the World Cup runners-up, we will leave it all out there on the pitch. I didn’t sleep well after the defeat to France because Portugal always plays to win.”

Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Pritha Sarkar