Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic believes the last-16 tie against Denmark will be his side’s “moment of truth” after they topped Group D with a 100 per cent record following a 2-1 win over Iceland.
It is the first time Croatia have won three successive World Cup matches and
Iceland boss Heimir Hallgrimsson believes their victors have every chance of winning the tournament but Dalic was more circumspect.
“No-one expected nine points but that is what we have ended up with,” the Croatia coach said in a post-match press conference.
“We have to put those three matches behind us. We have to focus on Denmark, it is our moment of truth on Sunday.
“From this moment on the group stage is over, we have done a job so far. I don’t think we will end in the last 16.
“What awaits us is the most important thing for us.”
Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic scored a 90th-minute winner after Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty had cancelled out Milan Badelj’s opener early in the second half.
Croatia had already qualified for the knockout stage and Dalic made nine changes as a result but was pleased with the outcome.
“We have done what we wanted to do,” he added.
“I think Iceland have shown which is something very important in football and that is character and fight.
“I can only congratulate them for their performance.”
Iceland coach Hallgrimsson was equally proud of his players, despite missing the chance to snatch a place in the knockout stages.
“We have not played many games like this one, against a strong team like Croatia, and created so many chances so we are disappointed with that but I am proud of the performance and the character,” he said.
“Yes there was a chance (to progress to the last 16). It was a little bit of a shock to concede one but we didn’t give up and we left everything behind.
“We threw everything that we could, took players from defence and put strikers up front, guys we know can create goals, but when you do that is you open up the back but we had to take the chance as we were out anyway (without a winning goal).
“We were unlucky today but we can carry our heads high and say we did everything we could.”