While much of the Liverpool squad have either already reported to Melwood for summer training or are still on an extended break after crashing out of the World Cup, Dejan Lovren and Croatia look set to continue their run in the tournament deep into the summer.
After dominating Group D with comprehensive wins over a Lionel Messi-led Argentina, stylish Nigeria and plucky upstarts, Iceland, Croatia entered into the knockout stages as a dark horse candidate to make it to the final. A narrow penalty shootout win over Denmark has put Lovren and his side into the quarterfinals in a draw with Russia later on today.
With the tournament hosts representing a very winnable tie, Croats around the world have started believing that this golden generation can surpass even the famous side that finished third runner up in the 1998 World Cup.
Lovren, never one who could ever be accused of lacking confidence, believes this collection of players has what it takes to accomplish this feat:
“Of course, we respect the generation of ‘98 very much because they achieved the greatest success for Croatian football and the Croatian national team,” the center back told reporters at a pre-match conference.
“This has always been—I can even say some kind of a burden to be better than them. Twenty years have passed and no one has managed to do anything in this regard.”
The Liverpool defender has led a back line that has conceded a mere two goals in four matches, combining with a magical midfield composed of the likes of Real Madrid’s Luka Modrić, Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitić and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozović to bully their way through the competition thus far.
“I believe in this team and I believe we can do better than [the ‘98 side],” Lovren continued. “With a little luck and several other things falling into place I am certain we can do better.”
While a run to the final would be admirable, progressing even through the semifinal would require beating the winner of Saturday's Sweden-England match. And since we all know it’s finally coming home this time, one would probably need to advise Lovren to start packing his bag for Anfield.