Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic has labelled Mario Mandzukic as the “soul of the team” ahead of their last-16 clash with Denmark.
The Vatreni qualified for the knockout stages having won all three of their group games, and looked extremely impressive in cruising to a 3-0 victory over Argentina.
Dalic rung the changes for their Group D finale with Iceland but Croatia still prevailed 2-1, and now head to Nizhny Novgorod for an enticing encounter with Denmark on Sunday.
This is the first time since they reached the semi-finals in their maiden World Cup appearance as an independent nation in 1998 that Croatia have made it out of the group stage, and Mandzukic has played a key role.
Mandzukic has yet to score in the tournament but Dalic has still been impressed with his performances and said of the Juventus forward: “Regardless of whether he scored or not, Mario represents the soul of the Croatian team.
“He pushes us. He is our first line of defence. I told him on our US tour that he was to be a forward not a winger.
“He might be missing a goal but hopefully it can come against Denmark and in the later stages in the tournament. He means a lot for the whole team and we appreciate that.”
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