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Croatia ‘deserve more respect’, says coach Dalic

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic on Tuesday said his side “deserve more respect” for recent achievements, as they bid to bounce back from an opening Euro 2024 defeat by Spain.

The World Cup semi-finalists and Nations League runners-up are hoping to get their Group B campaign back on track when they take on Albania in Hamburg on Wednesday.

Croatia were rocked by three first-half Spain goals in their 3-0 loss at the Olympiastadion, but are confident they can still reach the knockout phase for a fifth straight major tournament.

“It wasn’t a pretty sight to see and watch, but we are always the dark horse, we’re always not among the favourites so nobody believed in us and in the last six years we’ve won three medals,” Dalic told a pre-match press conference.

“After France, we’re the only other team to do this. I always say we deserve more respect, England won (1966 World Cup) 50 years ago and they’re a ‘great team’, but we’re the dark horse.

“We have the results to show we’re better than perceived. After this defeat there’s a more negative outlook, but we’re looking forward to the next match.”

Dalic said there would be changes to his starting XI.

Croatian media reports have suggested he will break up his midfield trio of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic, with the latter expected to miss out.

Albania showed in their opening 2-1 defeat by holders Italy—when they scored the fastest ever European Championship goal—that they will not be pushovers in a tough group.

“We have to be and feel alive until the end of the match,” added Dalic.

“We cannot lose our heads and try to force things, but with our quality and our own play, do what we’ve envisaged because tomorrow we’ll go for victory and three points, but patience will be the key tomorrow.”

Albania are playing in only their second major finals, after a group-stage exit from Euro 2016 when they claimed a memorable win over Romania.

Head coach Sylvinho is still hopeful his men can pull off an even bigger shock in Germany.

“There’s a beautiful path ahead of us,” said the former Brazil left-back.

“I think we played quite a good match (against Italy). We didn’t collapse, we were there until the very end and we had the chance to equalise and that’s good…

“This is a very tough group, definitely, but I believe it can be true joy for us, because we’re here playing against the best teams and we can learn from them.

“We’ll give it our best shot. In football, anything can happen.”

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