The “fiery” ones landed in Zagreb at half an hour past midnight on Sunday. It wasn’t an ideal start to their day, as they hadn’t had much sleep, but they knew that this was just another sleepless night in their careers.
Just a few minutes before training began, a rookie named Dion Drena Beljo arrived by car. He was surprised to learn that he had been included in the call-up by coach Zlatko Dalić, but his youth coach Dragan Skočić had passed him over for a friendly match with Augsburg. Beljo felt hurt and confused by the snub, so he went on vacation in Vinkovci.
On Saturday evening, however, Dalić’s call came through. He explained that the team needed another striker because Budimir was the only one available. Beljo was thrilled to finally be invited and eagerly accepted the opportunity to prove himself on the field once again.
The other players arrived by bus, and Mandžukić and Ćorluka were searching for a suitable field for training when they noticed that Luka Modrić’s field was free. They decided to use it instead of the main training ground because Hitrec-Kacian was in bad condition.
As soon as they got off the bus, children from Dinamo’s open school rushed up to greet them while others took photos with Mandžukić and Čarli from Lokomotiva. The boys from Lokomotiva also posed with them for some photos before heading off to their own practice session.
Dalić commended everyone who had played in Riga but made it clear that there would be no changes to the lineup unless someone proved themselves worthy of a spot on the field. He felt confident that everyone had done well enough to earn their spots and even kept Kramarić on for 80 minutes after recovering from injury during preseason practice sessions.
Overall, Dalić felt optimistic about the upcoming match against Croatia and believed that his team had all the necessary players to succeed. With Pašalić and Baturina sitting on the bench as substitutes, he knew they had match-winners ready if needed.