MOSCOW: In Croatia they call Miroslav Blazevic “the coach of all coaches” but on Sunday it is his former pupil, Zlatko Dalic, who will lead the small country into their first ever World Cup final.
‘Ciro’ Blazevic coached Croatia at the 1998 World Cup, their first as an independent nation, taking them to the semifinals where they eventually lost to France.
Dalic was Blazevic’s assistant at Varteks in the early days of his coaching career and the education he received back then has helped shape his journey to the top.
“I am not ashamed to say I learnt a lot from ‘Ciro’ Blazevic,” said Dalic this week.
“I worked with him for two years as an assistant coach and sporting director at my club and it transpires that I have gone one step further. He was number three in the world and on Sunday I will be number two at least.”
“Throughout my career and my life I have always taken the harder path and had to fight for everything myself,” he said. “I did not want to stay in Croatia and be a middling coach and live off handouts. I went abroad as soon as I found a job.”
There can be little arguing with Dalic’s pedigree — he was born in the town of Livno in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina. Suker and Niko Kovac, as well as Niko’s brother Robert, another former Croatia star, have origins there too.
Dalic has called it “a miracle” and he has already been made an honorary citizen of the county of Varazdin, where he lives.
Watching from afar, Blazevic, now 83, is a proud man.
“I’m very happy that my pupil has done better. He created a family atmosphere in the squad and not everyone can do that.” — AFP