SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Croatia will have to face heat, humidity and a hostile crowd when they take on host nation Russia in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final after beating Denmark on penalties, coach Zlatko Dalic has told reporters.
Having been based near St Petersburg, Dalic and his squad moved to Sochi on the Black Sea coast on Monday following their last 16 shootout win over Denmark to acclimatise themselves ahead of the clash with the Russians at the Fisht Stadium.
“We arrived here today and we have five days to get used to the temperatures and the humidity,” Dalic told reporters.
“It was 15 to 18 degrees in our camp, it was much colder and that is perhaps why it was difficult for us to play in Rostov (against Iceland in the group stage), and to play last night’s match (in Nizhny Novgorod), in much higher temperatures.”
Having won all of their Group D games, the Croatians struggled to break down the stubborn Danes as the game finished in a 1-1 draw after extra time but Dalic praised the resolve and team spirit of his players.
“I already said yesterday that all the teams who had been basing their play only on prominent individual players have gone out. Teams, team play is what works,” he said.
Dalic added that he and his players were well aware that the Croatia fans would be vastly outnumbered by their Russian counterparts when they face the hosts.
“The entire country is now behind them, 90 percent, 95 percent of the supporters at the stadium will be Russia supporters and this will not be easy for us, but we are focused on our supporters and want the joy in Croatia to last as long as possible,” the 51-year-old said.
“We can see the atmosphere here, we know what the atmosphere is at home, we are following that via the internet and we are getting messages.”
Dalic led Croatia to a playoff win over Greece to secure a place at the World Cup shortly after taking over in October 2017 and he is looking forward to more celebrations on Saturday.
“I think this is the whole point of football – to bring joy to supporters and to nations. Nothing but football can bring so many people together and bring them so much joy, and we will try to make our people happy,” he said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris