ZAGREB: The Croatian Football Federation (CFF) has confirmed that 50-year-old Zlatko Dalic would take the helm of the national team in the 2018 World Cup playoffs.
"Dalic will lead the team in this playoff matches and after that we will sit and talk about the future," CFF president Davor Suker said at a press conference in CFF's headquarters here on Monday, reports Xinhua news agency.
According to some unofficial sources, Dalic has been offered to sign a long term contract to lead the Croatian national team in the next two and a half years, but opted to wait after the November playoffs.
It seems to be a smart decision because he will be in a much better position to negotiate his terms if he'll successfully finish the job and step in for Ante Cacic who led Croatia for two years but was dismissed after the string of poor results and performances.
"Dalic took over the team and didn't ask any questions. He is so honest that he will not get a contract or be rewarded for these matches," Suker said, adding he doesn't want to think about a possible playoffs failure. "I believe that the team will show its quality, the true face of Croatia."
Dalic will lead Croatian delegation to attend the draw for the 2018 World Cup European qualifiers playoff round on Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland.
Croatia, ranked 18th in the FIFA rankings published on Monday, will be among the four seeded teams with Italy, Switzerland and Denmark, and will play against Sweden, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland or Greece, one of the four teams that are ranked lower.
The executive board of CFF has reached a unanimous decision that the home match in the coming 2018 World Cup playoffs will be staged at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb.
Ten days ago, Dalic, the former head coach of Al-Ain, 2016 Asian Champions League runner-up, took over the demoralized Croatian team just 48 hours before the decisive match in the group stage when Croatia needed a road win against Ukraine in Kiev to reach the playoff. He made a few positional changes and managed to lift the spirit of the players that led to a 2-0 victory that put Croatia back on track for the 2018 World Cup.
Now, with a whole four weeks in hand to prepare the team for the two matches that can bring Croatia its fourth World Cup birth, Dalic will face another challenge and another kind of pressure -- the pressure of expectations. He will have to prove that he is good enough to lead the team that has a unique blend of experienced, prominent players and the young ones with great potential.
One week ago in Kiev, Dalic didn't have that burned on his shoulders but he has proved that his set of managerial skills was very good.
However, if he wins a playoff round and brings Croatia once again to the biggest stage in the sport, Dalic will be the strongest candidate for the job that, just two weeks ago, he wouldn't dare to dream of.