Mateo Kovacic jokes Croatia’s defenders can deal with Romelu Lukaku in their crunch Group F clash – providing ‘they don’t fight him’… as his boss Zlatko Dalic insists he won’t be ‘fooled’ into thinking Belgium are a ‘bad team’
Mateo Kovacic has backed his Croatia team-mates to deal with Romelu Lukaku in their final group game with Belgium, before joking they will be OK as long as they don’t fight him.
Croatia face Belgium in a crunch Group F clash on Thursday at 3pm (GMT) at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
Croatia currently sit top of the group with four points, while Belgium need to win to have a chance of qualifying after their embarrassing 2-0 defeat to Morocco on Sunday.
Croatia’s Mateo Kovacic has backed his side to deal with Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku is expected to start the crunch Group F clash after recovering from a thigh injury
Romelu Lukaku should be fit enough to start after returning from a niggling thigh injury in the loss to the African side and Kovacic revealed his advice to his team-mates in order to deal with the on-loan Inter Milan forward.
‘I will leave that to the coach,’ he told reporters on Wednesday. ‘But I will say… just don’t fight him.’
Croatia need only a point against Roberto Martinez’s side, who have received heavy criticism after two underwhelming performances.
Kovacic (L) said Croatia’s defenders will be alright, as long as they ‘don’t fight Lukaku’ (C)
Star midfielder Kevin de Bruyne also bizarrely claimed that his side are ‘too old’ to win the World Cup, and their main chance to emerge victorious at the tournament has passed the squad by.
However, Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic insisted that he would be taking nothing for granted on Thursday.
He said: ‘We are playing against the second-best football team in the world and they were number one.’
‘They are a great team and if we could choose we would not have selected this match to be the decisive one.
Belgium must win against Croatia after a disastrous result and performance against Morocco
However, Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic insisted his side would not underestimate the Belgians
‘We will not fool ourselves by their under-performance in the last two games. We will play as we did against Canada, high quality, high tempo. It’s going to be a difficult game.
‘Belgium are a top team, they have [Kevin] De Bruyne and [Eden] Hazard and we will not be fooled by media stories and some rumours. We are expecting the best of Belgium, a top-notch national team.
‘They haven’t become a bad football players overnight. I am not focused on any other aspects, we are just focused on their strength and quality.’