Players of the Croatian national football team said that the team will not try to impose individual control on the Argentine star, Lionel Messi, in the semi-finals of the World Cup, on Tuesday, but rather will focus on disrupting the keys to playing the team as a whole.
Croatia is seeking to reach the World Cup final for the second time in a row, after losing in the 2018 final against France.
And Croatia outperformed Brazil in the quarter-finals surprisingly, after overturning its delay with a goal in extra time, to push the match to penalty kicks and ended up snatching the qualification card.
The Croatian striker, Bruno Petkovic, said in a press conference, on Sunday: “We do not have a specific plan yet to limit Messi, and we usually do not focus on stopping a specific player, but rather the entire team.”
He added, “We will try to disable the keys to playing them as a team and not by individual control. Argentina is not just Messi, it has a number of great players. We must stop the entire Argentine national team.”
And Messi, winner of the Golden Ball for the best player in the world seven times, is the locomotive of the Argentine national team, which wasted a 2-0 lead against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, but managed to settle the qualifying card through penalty kicks.
Midfield .. the key to victory
And with all the players ready after the return of defender Borna Sosa, the Croatian national team faces Argentina with high spirits, thirsting for more.
The Croatian midfield, consisting of captain Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic, will have the most important role in imposing the rhythm of the match, as happened against Brazil.
Defender Josip Juranović said that the Croatian national team can count a lot on this trio.
He added, “Matteo, Luca and Marcelo are the best midfielders in the history of Croatia. I don’t think they will repeat. When you pass the ball to them, it is safer than leaving your money in the bank.”
Substitute Petkovic scored the equalizing goal in the 117th minute against Brazil, so the two teams ruled a penalty shootout, which Croatia won, as it did on all the previous three occasions in which it fought penalties in the history of the World Cup.
“I think a lot of non-professional players can take penalty kicks successfully,” Petkovic said. “The difference is how tough you are mentally. There’s a lot of pressure that you’ve never experienced before. But having a top-level goalkeeper helps.”
The goalkeeper, Dominik Levakovic, saved one penalty in the penalty shootout against Brazil, after preventing three players from scoring from the penalty mark in the round of 16 against Japan.
But it was Petkovic’s equalizer after Brazil took the lead in extra time that allowed Croatia to reach the penalty shootout.
“I am more and more aware of the importance of this goal,” Petkovic said. “Maybe I will have a similar experience in the semi-finals or later.”