By Zoran Milosavljevic
ST ETIENNE, France (Reuters) – Rocked by a second family bereavement in three days, Croatia will be determined to seal a last-16 berth when they meet the Czech Republic in their Euro 2016 Group D clash on Friday, defender Domagoj Vida said.
Following the death of captain Darijo Srna’s father on Sunday during Croatia’s 1-0 win over Turkey, the team’s media officer Tomislav Pacak said goalkeeping coach Marijan Mrmic’s father had also died during Tuesday night.
Srna, accompanied by coach Ante Cacic, went to his father’s funeral on Monday and returned to the team’s Deauville base camp in northern France ready to face the Czechs.
Vida, a tough-tackling center back personifying Croatia’s willpower in the face of adversity, said the team would go the extra mile for their skipper and Mrmic, who traveled home early on Wednesday.
“We all mourn when someone here suffers a loss because we are one big family,” Vida told a news conference on Wednesday.
“We will be galvanized to play for our captain and put him straight back on the rails. He is a great character and I am totally convinced he will be at his best on Friday.”
“If we perform like we did against Turkey and show the same fighting spirit we should come out on top, although the Czechs are tougher opposition.
“I don’t think they will throw caution to the wind despite being under more pressure than us (after their opening 1-0 defeat by holders Spain). They are more likely to sit back and rely on fast breaks because that’s their style.”
However, the Czechs must come up with a bolder approach, having conceded a late goal against the Spaniards after working hard to contain the champions.
Striker Tomas Necid, who cut a lonely figure up front, said he hoped coach Pavel Vrba would field a more adventurous formation to haul them back into the race for a knockout stage berth.
“We haven’t discussed the tactics yet but I expect a more attacking set-up because only a win will do,” Necid told reporters at the team’s Tours base in western France.
“Croatia already have three points in the bag and if we are to advance, we simply have to win this game.
“They have top quality in midfield with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic giving them attacking power but we will be ready.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)