Dalic: My dream has come true with Croatia | FIFA World Cup

Dalic: My dream has come true with Croatia
This time last year, Zlatko Dalic could have laughed if you'd told him he'd be heading to the FIFA World Cup&trade. At the stage, the then Al Ain coach was still smarting from falling Out on the FIFA Club World Cup, with the memory of the Emirati side's narrow defeat in the AFC UEFA Champions League final painfully fresh. Croatia, meanwhile, looked to be well on track for Russia 2018, having recorded a convincing 2-0 win over Iceland in their most recent qualifier. Fast forward to October, however, and the national team was in desperate need of a hero. Defeats at Iceland and Turkey and a draw at home to Finland had cost them automatic qualification, and even their play location was in peril. 

Dalic, having been lured from United Arab Emirates to take temporary control, rose to that challenge. An excellent 2-0 victory in Ukraine represented the perfect start, and it was bettered when he directed his revitalised side to an impressive 4-1 aggregate play win over Greece. Now, having been jaded By Croatia's players and handed the reins on a permanent foundation, the 51 years old is preparing for a World Cup he never dared believe possible. My dream has come true, he told FIFA.com. I feel proud and honoured to be in this position. The chance is all the more valuable to Dalic as, even though having a creditable club career with the likes of Varteks and Hajduk Split, he never ascended to the national group as a player. 

The nearest he came was a spell as an assistant coach with the U-21 side of Croatia. A lot of these players are in the senior group nowadays, such as Lovren, he reflected. And now we're back together. Dalic's appointment also vindicates a conclusion to adopt coaching opportunities out Europe, with his career since 2010 having been spent with nightclubs in Saudi Arabia and UAE. However while he looks back at these seven years at the Middle East as a great adventure, an opportunity to come home - and also to lead his country to a 5th World Cup - was one he could never pass up. 

FIFA.com: What approach did you take, tactically and mentally, to provide the staff the boost it had after being appointed so late in the qualifying campaign? . Zlatko Dalic: I need to give all the credit to the players. There was no time for training and preparation, so that I concentrated on meetings, communication and motivation. We changed some of the details tactically, but the main thing was to allow the players to be mindful That this was their last opportunity to achieve the World Cup - plus they stepped up at the main moment.