After having won all its group matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, (2-0 over Nigeria, 3-0 vs. Argentina and 2-1 against Iceland) the national team of Croatia is preparing for its Round of 16 match against Denmark on Sunday.
The Danes advanced from their group with a narrow and somewhat lucky opening victory over Peru, followed by draws vs. Australia and France respectively.
Some of the most recognizable names of the Danish squad include their players from the English Premier League such as goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and midfield star Christian Eriksen. They also have a number of players with a past or present in the German Bundesliga.
Yussuf Poulsen of RB Leipzig and Thomas Delaney, who has recently completed a move from Werder Bremen to Borussia Dortmund are perhaps the two most prominent of those.
While there is no question that this match will be difficult for Croatia, they will no doubt the favorites to advance to the quarterfinals at the end of it. If the Vatreni accomplish that task, the winner of the encounter between Spain and hosts Russia will await them next.
But it seems that they have learned their lesson from EURO 2008 and EURO 2016, in which they also won their group, only to fail at the first hurdle of the knockout stage.
The Croatian players have been quick to praise their upcoming opponents from Denmark to the media, while at the same time emphasizing their own ambitions at the tournament.
Coach Zlatko Dalić put it bluntly when he said that if they fail to affirm the successes from the group stage with a victory against Denmark, they will have accomplished nothing.
While under Dalić Croatia has looked much more professional and paradoxically also more relaxed, than under any of his recent predecessors, he knows that defeat against Denmark will mean that he will be viewed as the latest coach who failed to take the country’s golden generation to glory.