DOHA: Croatia is not only aiming to chain Argentina star Lionel Messi, instead focusing on blocking the entire opposing team in the semi-finals of the World Cup, this Wednesday.
Croatia is chasing a place in the final for the second year in a row at the World Cup after losing to France in 2018.
They eliminated the Brazilian selection in the quarter-finals after coming from behind to equalize in stoppage time before winning the penalty shoot-out.
“We don’t have any specific plans to insulate Messi and as a rule we don’t focus on one player but the entire opposing team,” striker Bruno Petkovic told a media briefing last night.
“We will protect them as a team and not individually escort. Argentina is not just Messi, they have many great players. We need to prevent an Argentinian squad,” he said.
Messi, a seven-time Ballon D’Or winner so far, has been the lifeblood of Argentina, who also needed a penalty shoot-out victory after leading twice against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.
Without players suspended and injured following the re-appearance of defender Borna Sosa, Croatia controlled by Zlatko Dalic will definitely be ready and will go down with more confidence.
Their midfield led by captain Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic will continue to be key in starting the line-up, as they did against Brazil, and defender Josip Juranovic says they are an influential trio.
“Mateo, Luka and Marcelo are the best Croatian midfield in history. I don’t think he can be repeated. If you put the ball to them it is safer than keeping money in the bank,” said the defender.
Substitute Petkovic scored a 117th-minute equalizer against Brazil while also forcing the match to be decided in the penalty shoot-out, with Croatia having now won all four of the penalty shoot-outs in the World Cup.
“I think a lot of non-professional players can perfect penalty kicks,” said Petkovic.
“The difference is how strong you are mentally. There is a lot of pressure but it can help if you have a world-class goalkeeper.” said Petkovic.
Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saved one penalty against Brazil as well as saving three of Japan’s in the last 16 tie