At the end of a weekend that saw Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi pack their bags following defeats for Portugal and Argentina, Dalic highlighted the togetherness of his players, who recovered from a Luka Modric penalty miss in extra-time to win the shoot-out.
Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic was the hero of the hour, saving three of Denmark’s spot-kicks to spare the blushes of Milan Badelj and Josip Pivaric who were both denied by Kasper Schmeichel, but Dalic credited the victory to the spirit of his team.
“We missed a penalty and a number of chances but stayed mentally strong, stayed composed and won,” Dalic told reporters. “This is the quality the lads have shown after Modric’s missed penalty.
“When Luka missed his penalty his team-mates still believed. This makes us stronger.
“Teams with individuals like Portugal and Egypt are out, whereas true teams go through.
“Those teams who play a beautiful game are out. Those who play for a result are progressing.”
Dalic recalled Croatia’s defeat on penalties 10 years earlier, when Modric and Ivan Rakitic missed in the Euro 2008 quarter-final against Turkey, but the pair scored the third and final spot-kicks, respectively, in the shoot-out against Denmark.
“We hark back to Vienna and losing to Turkey in ’08 but you have to earn your luck,” said Dalic. “We’ve been repaid for faith and hard work.
“Without luck you can’t do anything in life. I’ve never had anything on a platter – I have won everything through hard work and it makes this even sweeter.”
The character shown by Modric in recovering from a penalty miss to score one so soon afterwards earned the Real Madrid star special credit from Dalic, who warned against arrogance and complacency from Croatia in their quarter-final clash with Russia on Saturday.
He said: “I’m happy with [Modric’s] determination to take on in the shoot-out, he scored and it speaks volumes.
“Can you imagine what would have happened had he not scored? This shows the qualities of a great player, which he is.
“We have a very difficult obstacle in the host nation. This is going to be a huge match. We must not relax.
“We must be stronger, more stable against a very difficult opponent. We will not let our guard down. No arrogance going forward.”