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Soccer-Nations League finals a considerable achievement for Croatia, says coach

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(Reuters) – Croatia might have finished second and third at the last two World Cups but coach Zlatko Dalic insisted reaching this week’s four-team Nations League finals was a considerable achievement for his team.

Croatia play hosts Netherlands in the first of the semi-finals in Rotterdam on Wednesday, followed by Italy against Spain in Enschede on Thursday. The winners advance to Sunday’s final.

“We had problems in the first two editions of the Nations League, but now we achieved a great result by beating France and Denmark in our group, finishing first and reaching the final,” he told a press conference on Tuesday.

“We want to do our best and have a chance at another great result. We have the qualities to do that.”

Croatia were runners-up at the 2018 World Cup in Russia but in the first edition of the Nations League less than two months later lost 6—0 to Spain and finished behind England and Spain in their group.

In the second edition, they were again third in their group, this time behind France and Portugal.

Yet to reach the 2023 finals, they won away in both Paris and Copenhagen in mid-2022 before then going to Qatar and taking World Cup bronze.

“It is a great achievement to be among the top four teams in Europe. What we have achieved is already a great success, but we come here to win the trophy. We worked hard for that.”

First they must get past the home team who have a strong record at the Feyenoord Stadium. “The game against the Netherlands will be very difficult for us,” added captain Luka Modric.

“We are up against a young and talented team that is back on the big stage and playing at home,” he said.

Modric was questioned about his club future, as his contract at Real Madrid is about to expire after 11 seasons at the Spanish giants, but he said he would talk about that later.

But as to his future with Croatia, the 37-year-old is keen to keep adding to his 164 caps.

“I’ve said many times I enjoy playing for the national team and every time I get the chance to play for the national team that’s something that fulfils me and for as long as I feel this way and for as long as I feel that I can help, there is no reason for me not to be here,” Modric added.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis)

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