Croatia vowed Wednesday to try to deliver a “miracle” when they take on mighty Brazil in the World Cup opener, refusing to adopt a negative approach against the star-studded home side.
Captain Darijo Srna, speaking a day before the clash in Sao Paulo, said he could not make promises about how the team would perform in the tournament but pledged they would give 100 percent.
“I can’t promise to win the World Cup or to progress out of the group. I can’t promise to beat Brazil but it is a promise that we will give our all, the last atom of strength,” he said.
The side, ranked 18th in the world, are led by experienced stars such as Real Madrid midfield star Luka Modric and Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic, who misses the opening match though suspension.
Srna said the prospect of coming up against the favourites and their talisman Neymar at the Corinthians Arena was causing him some concern, joking that he might lock the forward in his hotel room as a last resort.
“I’m not sleeping that well. We are playing the best footballers on the planet,” he said.
But he added: “We, little Croatia, will try to create a miracle.”
Coach Niko Kovac said he was not losing sleep about the prospect of Neymar wreaking havoc for the five-times world champions, insisting he had had months to prepare for the task.
“Brazil is not just Neymar. There are many other good players in the Brazil side,” he said.
“We will try everything to surprise them, to create an upset, to create a positive result,” added the coach, who said his side, who like to play possession football, were capable of a “historic result”.
The Group A rivals also met in the first round of the World Cup in 2006 in Germany, with Brazil edging the match 1-0. The other teams in their group in Brazil are Cameroon and Mexico.
Croatia are waiting on clearance from governing body FIFA to allow them to replace injured midfielder Ivan Mocinic with Milan Badelj.
Mocinic, 21, is the fourth player from the Croat squad to be forced to drop out because of injury but normally FIFA rules allow squads to replace injured players up to the eve of the kick-off of the tournament.
Croatia’s best performance at a World Cup was reaching the 1998 semi-finals, but they failed to qualify in 2010.