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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Zlatko Dalic confident Croatia will deal with great expectations against Nigeria

The Croatians are favourites to start life in Group D with a win on Saturday and the former Al Ain manager expects his side to be up to the task in Kaliningrad

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is upbeat on his side's potential going into the World Cup. Martin Divisek / EPA
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is upbeat on his side's potential going into the World Cup. Martin Divisek / EPA

Former Al Ain manager Zlatko Dalic heralded the balance of his Croatia squad as he gets set to make his World Cup bow against Nigeria on Saturday.

The Croat, who led the Garden City club for three years until February last year, takes his national team into their Group D opener against Nigeria at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad.

Dalic is seeking to guide Croatia in Russia to the knockout stages for the first time since the 1998 World Cup, when their vaunted side made their debut as an independent country. They went on to finish third in France.

This time, Croatia have been given a testing group, with Argentina and Iceland to come after Nigeria.

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However, Dalic is confident he has the perfect blend among his 23 players to live up to their heightened billing back home.

"We have a very good set of players who are the driving forces of big clubs and young players; it's a good mixture of youth and experience," he told the media on Friday.

"It is right that expectations are high and we expect from ourselves more than anybody else.

"I hope we will prove all those flattering descriptions right and that this generation will get a result with some luck along the way. We are full of self-belief and ready to show some good football."

Speaking about dealing with expectation against Nigeria - Croatia go into the match as favourites - Dalic said: "We have our own style: we play possession football, we are offensive and we won't give that up to adapt to Nigeria.

"I believe in our players and I don't want to limit their creativity. It is our biggest advantage."

Captain Luka Modric, sitting alongside Dalic, added: "If we go through the group stage, then everything is possible."