Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic plans to speak privately with Dejan Lovren after the Liverpool defender’s unsavoury comments about Sergio Ramos on social media.
Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Spain in Zagreb means plenty is at stake for World Cup finalists Croatia against England at Wembley on Sunday.
Lovren is expected to feature but caused controversy after Thursday’s victory when he criticised Ramos in an Instagram story, which has since expired.
The 29-year-old appeared to suggest he had elbowed the Real Madrid defender and Spain captain, who was involved in the clash which ended Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah’s participation in May’s Champions League final.
It is unclear if UEFA will take disciplinary action, while Dalic said: “I will talk personally with Dejan, but that will stay between us and the squad. I don’t want to talk publicly about this.”
Sunday’s Wembley contest is a League A Group 4 decider, which could seal pool victory or relegation from the top tier of UEFA’s new event for either side.
Croatia will reach next summer’s finals, and relegate England, with a win or scoring draw. Defeat or a goalless draw will see Croatia drop down.
It will be the third time the sides have met in recent months following Croatia’s extra-time success in the World Cup semi-final and a goalless draw in Rijeka last month.
Dalic added: “We beat them in the semi-final of the World Cup. That’s the most important thing. Nobody can forget this.
“That was the most important result from the three matches.”
Numerous Croatia players, most notably captain Luka Modric, pointed to England’s unofficial anthem ‘Football’s Coming Home’ as being a motivating factor in Moscow in July, suggesting it betrayed English arrogance.
Asked if he expected to hear the song on Sunday and whether it could inspire his team, Dalic added: “For us that’s not a problem to bring football back.
“We are motivated, because we play for Croatia, for our nation. We will try to do our best.”
Dalic pointed to goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s distribution being key for England, plus the speed and athleticism of Raheem Sterling and others.
He said: “The first option for England is to play possession ball, but if you press them high, as we saw against Spain (in England’s October win in Seville), Pickford is probably the best goalkeeper in the world with long passes. It’s a great second option for them.”
Croatia had not scored in the tournament prior to the win over Spain in Zagreb, which was secured with a stoppage-time goal from Tin Jedvaj.
Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic has been ruled out of the match by an unspecified injury and Dalic’s main concern, rather than England’s performance, is whether his side can summon the energy following their heroics against Spain.
Dalic said: “I’m more worried about our team because we played against Spain two days ago. Yes, we are probably tired, but I will try to get the best from my players.”
Inter Milan forward Ivan Perisic anticipates an entertaining encounter, with both sides seeking victory.
Perisic said: “Of course both teams need to win tomorrow. If not Spain go through. If in the last 10 minutes it’s still a draw both teams will try to win the match.
“It’s difficult to say who is the favourite team. If we play our best like we did against Spain I think we can win the match.”