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'Croatia can cause World Cup surprise' - Blazevic optimistic for Russia 2018

11:00 GMT+3 21/06/2018
Nigeria vs. Croatia
Zlatko Dalic’s side face Argentina in their second game of the tournament and have been backed for success by a former coach

Croatia’s 1998 World Cup coach Miroslav Blazevic is "very optimistic" about the national team’s chances at the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Blazevic led Croatia to the semi-finals in France 20 years ago and he feels Zlatko Dalic’s side could be capable of a similar achievement.

Croatia opened their Group D campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Nigeria and face Argentina on Thursday before rounding off the pool against Iceland.

After underachieving at Euro 2016, Croatia have been labelled as an outside bet to go far in this tournament given the amount of quality at their disposal throughout the team.

The likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic have spent several seasons at the elite end of club football and Blazevic feels these players can take Croatia far.

“There is a lot of talent in this Croatian team,” Blazevic told Goal. “There are some very great players that are in the squad like Modric, Rakitic, Lovren, Perisic, Mandzukic and others.

“They are top-level players. There are also two or three who are relatively unknown, but who are able to shine and win the trust of our coach. It’s for this reason that I’m very optimistic.”

Croatia qualified for the World Cup after finishing second in their group behind Iceland, but breezed through their play-off game against Greece, winning 4-1 on aggregate to advance.

This summer’s competition has been branded as one of the most wide-open World Cups in recent memory, and Blazevic believes that a ‘surprise’ team could lift the trophy.

“There are always traditional favourites,” said Blazevic, who also took Croatia to the quarter-finals of the European Championship in 1996. “But, I’m sure this time there will be a surprise.

“Croatia is a favourite in my eyes. But, well, football experts don’t have the monopoly on predictions. And I don’t pretend to be an expert.

“It’s always difficult to predict, and it is often the case that journalists are mistaken. But that’s why football is interesting too. No-one can ever pretend to know the truth.”