ROSHCHINO, Russia (Reuters) - Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic intends to ring the changes for his team’s final World Cup Group D game against Iceland to protect several players who are on yellow cards.
Croatia top their group with two wins after Wednesday’s comprehensive 3-0 victory over Argentina, and Dalic can afford to rest players on yellow such as midfielder Ivan Rakitic.
“I’d like to top the group,” he told reporters at Croatia’s training base in Roshchino. “But we have to take care because we have some players on yellow cards so I will change the lineup.
“I will not start those who are on yellow cards because it’s too much of a risk, there are 22 players who can play.”
Rakitic, who was booked in Croatia’s 2-0 victory over Nigeria, and striker Mario Mandzukic are two of six players on a caution and at risk of suspension if they pick up a second yellow before the semi-finals.
Dalic hailed the victory over Argentina as the best of his career and said he was especially pleased at how dominant Croatia were in every area of the pitch.
“We were expecting to progress, but not in such an impressive manner,” he added.
“It was my biggest victory as coach. Every new game is the toughest one and most important, but to beat Argentina and (Lionel) Messi 3-0 and above all, to be better in all parts of the game, is something we rarely experience.”
He signed off with a warning to his team not to get carried away as the World Cup had proved repeatedly that the best teams can slip up unexpectedly.
“We have to be proud, but it must not change us and we must not get carried away by the euphoria. Certainly now the whole world is looking at Croatia differently,” he said.
“The whole tournament is quite weird, the favourites are finding it difficult to win. It’s not easy and all the teams play good football and I’m looking forward to the others having to worry about us.
“We have to go step by step and believe in ourselves.”
Croatia play Iceland in their final group game in Rostov-on-Don on June 26.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in St Petersburg, editing by Ed Osmond