Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has warned his players that Japan will call on their ‘Samurai’ warrior spirit when the two sides meet in the last 16 of the World Cup on Monday.
Japan has already produced battling displays to beat Germany and Spain in the group stage and is now looking to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time in their history.
Croatia, meanwhile, aims to follow their footsteps of four years ago, when they reached the final of the 2018 World Cup before eventually losing to France.
Croatia is 12 places higher than Japan in the FIFA world rankings, but speaking to the press on Sunday, Dalic said that would count for little, reports Xinhua.
“What is of the utmost importance is to demonstrate respect for our opponents,” Dalic said, highlighting Japan’s record so far.
“They have beaten World Cup winners in Spain and Germany and they showed their mentality and their mental strength.
“They will apply the Samurai philosophy in their games and if we want to go further, we must apply that same standard and attitude and never underestimate anyone,” insisted the Croatia coach, who has a pre-game doubt about defender Borna Sosa.