Croatian head coach 62-year-old Ante Cacic was a surprise choice nine months ago, when he was appointed as Niko Kovac’s successor on the helm of national football team.
In three weeks time he will start his first big tournament and try to navigate Croatia’s finest to knockout phase, something that this team hadn’t achieve since EURO 2008 when Croatia beat Germany, Austria and Poland before a heartbreaking quarterfinal exit against Turkey on penalties after Turks scored an equalizer in the dying seconds of an extra period.
Turkey will be the first opponent that Cacic and his team will meet on June 12 at Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris.
“I am not excited. I’ve always put my expectations high. You’ve had a chance to read in the papers that I’ve owned a television repair shop so I was always exposed to high voltage,” Cacic said with the grin on his face and continued “It’s huge honor to be in a position of Croatian national head coach. I am so motivated that I don’t feel any pressure.”
Croatian training camp started on Friday but Cacic will be without his top players until the end of May or early June in case of Real Madrid midfielders Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic. However, that doesn’t concern Croatian head coach.
“There is a chance that we will have players with the Champions League trophy fourth year in a row. That’s a big psychological boost for them but also for all of us in the national team. I don’t see that as a handicap and there are also other teams that will have to deal with the same problem, Spain for example,” Croatian manager said.
Cacic’s self-confidence is on a high level as are his personal goals. He speaks nothing but the best about his players so there is a huge disappointment looming around the corner if Croatia would fail to advance to knockout phase of the tournament.
“If you love your team, your country, if you are a true patriot, you can’t be happy if we fail. Every Croatian would be sad. Croatian national team is more than just a football team. All these years it is one of the most recognizable symbols of patriotism. I would be very unhappy as a coach if the team will not play on the highest level of its capability. If we will avoid serious injuries and do what we planned during the training camp, then I strongly believe that we will pass the group stage, with all respect to other teams in our group,” Cacic said.
His group of favorites to reach the final match on July 10 at Stade de France in Paris doesn’t differ from general opinion.
“We will all agree that Germany is one of the favorites. Spain will be very motivated to become first team to win three European titles in a row. France has a good team and they are hosts, Belgium has a strong field and Italy always plays good at big tournaments. But, as always, there will be some positive surprises.”
He didn’t mention his team in that group before he was asked about it.
“When you reach the knockout phase than anything becomes possible. I hope that Croatia can be one of surprises. On the other hand, would that really be a surprise,” Cacic said again with an enigmatic smile.
However, even though he is in a role of debutant as a manager at this level, he knows that thinking too far ahead doesn’t get you to your goal.
“We have to make sure to maintain our focus only on the next game. If you look too far ahead there you might trap and fall and we don’t want to do that,” Croatian manager concluded.
France was once a happy place for Croatian footballers and supporters when Golden Generation won the bronze medal at 1998 World Cup. Cacic is convinced that the group of talented players he has under his command can make Croatians proud again.