ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (Reuters) - Croatia continued their impressive World Cup campaign by beating Iceland 2-1 to finish top of Group D but coach Zlatko Dalic warned his side against patting themselves on the back and urged them to focus on their last 16 tie against Denmark.
“What is done is done, we have to put these matches in the archives and focus on Denmark, that’s our moment of truth and what we’re waiting for,” Dalic told a news conference after Tuesday’s win gave them a perfect record in the group stage.
Dalic appeared to have more than one eye on Sunday’s game when he named nine changes for the match with Iceland after his side’s thumping 3-0 win over Argentina in their previous outing, even though his team were not yet assured of top spot.
His young side faced frequent shots from an Iceland team fighting for their lives but Ivan Perisic’s stoppage time strike gave Croatia a third win in a row after Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty for the Nordic side cancelled out Milan Badelj’s opener.
The Croatia coach showed his admiration for Iceland’s valiant efforts and commended his opposite number Heimir Hallgrimsson for the direct tactics which had caused his side plenty of problems.
“Iceland have shown something very important, they showed fight and discipline. They knew what they wanted to achieve and I can only congratulate them for their performance,” he said.
“I told their coach that they’re a fantastic team, they play football in the best way that suits them. It’s very difficult to play against them because of their long balls but we’re satisfied with what we did. We had the luxury of giving every player in our squad the chance to play which they deserved.”
Croatia have been one of the most in-form teams in Russia but Dalic would not entertain questions about their chances of winning the World Cup for the first time, whilst saying they did not feel inferior to anyone.
“I don’t think our tournament will end in the last 16 but for now we can only focus on Denmark. We can only think about what awaits us, but the most important things are still to come,” he said.
“We have to trust in our quality, respect all our opponents but not believe that anyone is better than us. If we think someone is better than us it’ll be impossible to beat them.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris