'I want more respect' – Croatia boss Dalic reveals why he snubbed FIFA awards

By Sports Desk February 28, 2023

Zlatko Dalic accused FIFA of showing "a lack of respect" for Croatia's World Cup heroes and revealed he refused to vote in the world body's The Best awards.

Croatia playmaker Luka Modric was a nominee in the men's player category, but Dalic did not make the five-man list for coach of the year.

In a fiery blast to Gianni Infantino's FIFA, Dalic argued Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol and Dominic Livakovic deserved recognition, suggesting all would have been in the frame for nominations if they belonged to a more fashionable footballing nation.

Dalic's team beat Brazil in the Qatar 2022 quarter-finals before falling to Argentina in the semi-finals. They then rebounded to beat Morocco in the third-place play-off, following their runner-up finish at the 2018 World Cup.

Scornful of Croatian players being left off voting lists, Dalic said: "If English, Brazilian, Spanish, German or Italian players and coaches had the kind of results that we do, they'd be on the shortlist for every possible football award.

"I want more respect for us, for our national team, for our players, and for myself, because with two medals, we more than deserve it. FIFA should promote the fact that a tiny country such as Croatia can play against the biggest nations in the world because that's the most beautiful message for the whole football world."

In a contemptuous statement issued through the Croatian FA, Dalic said: "I am disappointed with FIFA's attitude towards the Croatian national team because I strongly maintain that, based on everything we've achieved as a national team, we deserve more respect from the head governing body of world football than we have received.

"We are the only national team that was among the top four teams at both the World Cup in Qatar and in the current UEFA Nations League cycle.

"We made the front pages worldwide by winning a match against the world's greatest team Brazil, and along with France, we are the only team to have won two medals at the two most recent World Cups.

"This year, we beat France in Paris and Denmark in Copenhagen, we took Brazil and Belgium out of the World Cup. In the 23 matches we've played since Euro 2020, we've only lost twice. And yet even after all of that, look at the list of the 14 candidates for The Best FIFA Men's player – aside from the great Luka Modric, where are other Croatian players?"

He asked: "Was there really no place for Mateo Kovacic on that list, even though he's won the FIFA Club World Cup and played a brilliant World Cup in Qatar? Where is Josko Gvardiol's name? After all, he was listed among the Top 11 for both the World Cup and for the Bundesliga by most sources. And did Dominik Livakovic not deserve to be one of the five finalists for the Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper after everything he did in Qatar?"

Contenders for the coach award were Real Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti, France boss Didier Deschamps, Pep Guardiola of Manchester City, Morocco's Walid Regragui and Lionel Scaloni, whose Argentina won the World Cup. Scaloni took the honour.

Dalic said: "With all due respect for Morocco's head coach and their success at the World Cup, in the two matches we played against them, we tied once and Croatia won the bronze medal the second time."

The 56-year-old Dalic claimed this was not the first instance of feeling a lack of recognition.

He said: "I feel that we have not been extended the respect we deserve, and both the time slots of our matches at the World Cup and the quality of refereeing – especially at the semi-final match – made me feel that there was a lack of respect towards the Croatian team. I fully believe that our national team's performance on the pitch and conduct off of it has made us deserving of the very same respect that we show our opponents at every match."

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