SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Croatia cruised through their group with three straight wins but Denmark’s tougher route to the knockout stages has made them mentally stronger ahead of their last 16 clash on Sunday, says Danish forward Martin Braithwaite.
Croatia netted seven goals en route to wins over Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland, while the Danes had to battle their way to a win over Peru and draws with Iceland and France, scoring only two goals in the process.
“The Croats come into this game with self-confidence and belief because everything has gone well for them, but we come into it with loads of confidence because we have stood together when things haven’t worked so well,” Braithwaite told reporters.
“If we end up in a situation where things aren’t working, we won’t be surprised because we’ve already experienced that. If the Croats go behind, we don’t know how they will react - they don’t even know that.
“They haven’t been in that situation in an important game - that is an advantage for us,” the 27-year-old added.
Braithwaite came on as a substitute in the win over Peru and the draw with Australia before playing the full 90 minutes against France.
“We’re through, and it gives you something mentally. We’re not going to collapse when things go against us. You cannot predict how you will react, so it’s good to have tried some things and gotten that experience,” he explained.
Braithwaite is not intimidated by the fact that Croatia have been installed as favourites to win.
“I don’t feel they are any better than us. In qualifying they were second in their group, as we were, and they had to come through a playoff to qualify. It makes no difference that they have started the World Cup a little better than us,” he said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Peter Rutherford