Zlatko Dalic conceded Lionel Messi had produced the performance Croatia “expected to see” after the Argentina great ended their World Cup dream.
Messi played a starring role in denying Dalic’s side a second successive final appearance, scoring and providing an assist as the Albiceleste enjoyed a 3-0 victory in Tuesday’s semi-final.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward’s heroics did not come as a great surprise to the Croatia head coach, who plans to remain in charge of the team until his contract expires in 2024.
However, Dalic acknowledges several players from this generation will not be available by the 2026 finals, with his 37-year-old captain Luka Modric likely to be among them.
Argentina are in the #FIFAWorldCup Final! @adidasfootball | #Qatar2022
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 13, 2022
“Nothing much needs to be said about Messi’s qualities,” he said. “In the past 15 years, he’s probably the best player in the world, and today again, he was very good and dangerous.
“He made the difference in quality for the Argentina team. He had this explosiveness and technique at a very high-level performance. It’s the true Messi we expected to see.
“This is perhaps the end of this generation in World Cups, a couple of them have reached an age and the World Cup in 2026 – we have to wait and see what happens then.
“We’ve had great achievements for the Croatia national team, and a lot of players with a lot of potential.
“I believe this generation will finish their careers with Euro 2024. We have the Nations League finals, and it’s an excellent generation that reached the semi-finals twice in a row.
“It would have been great to have won the gold medal to crown this generation.”
When asked if he would remain at the helm, Dalic added: “I will continue my contract until 2024 and the European Championships and, in six months, we have the Nations League [finals].
“Then, we have the qualification for the World Cup. My plan and objective is to take Croatia to Euro 2024.”
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