World Cup

Croatia hope Argentina will behave themselves in semifinal

According to coach Zlatko Dalic, Croatia is hopeful that Argentina’s ill-tempered World Cup quarterfinal victory over the Netherlands (16 yellow cards and one red) won’t carry over into Tuesday’s semifinal.

After blowing a two-goal lead, the Argentines ultimately won on penalties, although the game was marred by misconduct on both sides the entire time.

Following the final whistle, Argentina captain Lionel Messi argued with Dutch coach Louis van Gaal and referred to a Dutch player as “a stupid.”

Following Croatia’s 2018 World Cup group stage victory over them, Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli refused to shake Dalic’s hand, giving the runners-up a taste of the country’s fury.

But Dalic, whose team defeated tournament favorites Brazil on the same set of penalties to make it to the round of 16, claimed he held no ill will.

“I understand the actors involved and the expectations were high back then (in 2018). It happens and we shall not hold any grudges,” Dalic told a news conference on Monday.

“I don’t get angry at anyone in an emotional state of mind. Argentina against Netherlands was also quite feisty and difficult with many non-football related behaviours. I really hope this will not be the case tomorrow.”

While several Netherlands players had irritated the Argentines during the game, Argentina players also made fun of the Dutch at the conclusion of the penalty shootout.

“Tomorrow’s match is a great match for Argentina as well as us. The stakes are high for both and a spot in the final is at stake,” Dalic said.

After losing their 2018 exhibition game against the defending champions France, who will face Morocco in the other semifinal, Croatia will be looking to advance to the World Cup final for the second consecutive event.

When asked how successful Croatia had been during the previous four years, Dalic cited their victory over England in the 2018 semifinal as their biggest victory.

“For me the semifinal match against England was the greatest match of all time. The Brazil game (in the quarterfinals in Qatar) comes second and tomorrow’s match would be third on that list,” Dalic said.

“But if we win tomorrow it would make it the greatest Croatian match of all time.”

Enjoy the game, Dalic advised his team and the few supporters who had traveled to Qatar.

“I always say to our fans and players to enjoy the football,” he said. “Each of us has to enjoy the work, the profession we are doing. Only if players are happy can they be what they are.

“They have deserved the joy to be one of the four best teams in the world.”

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