Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic admitted his squad had been left in shock by Ivan Perisic’s positive test for Covid-19, but insisted they had the quality to beat Spain without him.
Inter Milan winger Perisic, who scored in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Scotland, has begun 10 days in isolation after his positive test was announced on Saturday.
All other Croatia players and staff tested negative, but the loss of such an influential player has dealt a blow to their preparations for the last-16 clash with Spain in Copenhagen.
“It was a shock,” Dalic said. “It’s hard for him but we have to adapt. Ivan will be our biggest fan and God willing he will join us in seven or eight days.
“It’s not easy, he lives for this but it can happen. We were shocked by Perisic’s positive result, but we have been living with the stress of this possibility for a month. We are used to it.
“We have a big number of players in this position. We will decide on a player who is a natural there, but I believe any of them can do well there.”
Dalic praised Spain – who beat Slovakia 5-0 last time out – as a quality side, but insisted his own players had nothing to be afraid of.
“We need to win, to play a good game and be offensive,” he said. “If we just defend we will not achieve anything.
“We have great respect for the team and the coach. I think our chances are equal. I cannot say we are worse than anyone.”
Spain needed that big win over Slovakia after opening the tournament with draws against Sweden and Poland, but coach Luis Enrique insisted their mentality had not changed since the tournament began.
“The goals we scored against Slovakia don’t change anything,” he said. “The only thing I’d say is finishing the group with a powerful result like that is good because it adds confidence.
“But my confidence in Spain is the same as before the tournament. The teams which are in good shape now were the same as pre-tournament. I thought we merited winning the group but in terms of motivation and morale we are in the best possible form.”
And the former Real Madrid and Barcelona midfielder predicted the match would be decided on his old stomping ground.
“For a team like us, the centre of the pitch is very important,” he said. “Without doing our thing in the midfield we aren’t us. But that’s not just true for us, it’s the same for Croatia. It’s going to be some battle for control tomorrow.”
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