Mandzukic a huge loss for Croatia, claims Dante

The Brazil defender feels his side will benefit from the Bayern Munich striker's ban in their World Cup opener, and reveals he was offered the chance to play for Belgium in 2009
Bayern Munich defender Dante believes Croatia will struggle to replace his club team-mate Mario Mandzukic for their curtain-raising World Cup clash in just 11 days' time.

The 28-year-old was sent off in the play-off clash with Iceland in November and will subsequently be banned from the meeting with the hosts as the finals in Brazil kick off next week.

But Dante has warned his Selecao colleagues that Croatia will still pose a threat even if they are missing their suspended star striker.

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"I think Croatia will miss Mandzukic a lot," Dante said at a press conference. "It's hard to replace a player like him, he's a fighter. But we have to be careful, even if he's not playing.

"We started to talk a little about Croatia. Marcelo always mentions [Luka] Modric, who likes to switch sides and play high tempo.

"We exchange some information to get to know them better, as Felipao [Luiz Felipe Scolari] said once, to 'mentalise' our opponents. It's important that this kind of talk takes place. We know their qualities and weaknesses. This will make a difference when the time comes."

The 30-year-old centre-back went on to describe a "tense" Sunday practice with his Brazil team-mates which left head coach Scolari less than impressed.

"It's important to communicate well, to correct the wrong plays and try not to repeat that on a match. I'm glad players are acting like this," he continued.

"If the boss said he’s not happy with our [practice] performance, I don't think it's for me to comment."

Dante may be a fixture at the heart of the Bayern defence, but he knows his place in Brazil’s World Cup set-up is as an able deputy to Paris Saint-Germain captain Thiago Silva and his soon-to-be team-mate David Luiz.

"We have to leave our personal goals behind," he said. "Everyone should focus on winning the title for the Brazilian people. We aren’t here to prove something to anyone. We have to focus on the Selecao.

"As for the competition for places, their [Thiago Silva and David Luiz] market value means less than the quality they have. They are amongst the three or four best defenders around.

"They proved they deserve to be in the line-up. My job is to train well. David and I are always talking, trying to improve our positioning. David is right-footed, I'm a lefty, it makes things easier.

"I'm happy I have won a lot of titles, but it's one thing to do that for the club, [and] another with the national team. It would be the icing on the cake, not only for Dante, but for Brazil."

Dante also revealed he could have been a first-choice at this World Cup, playing alongside Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany, if he had accepted an offer made to him by Belgium five years ago.

"Back in 2009, I got an invitation from Belgium, to play for their national team, but the truth is, I never wanted to play for another country. My heart spoke louder, it would be better to chase my dream (of representing Brazil) than ending it prematurely," he added.