#FIFA World Cup

Ivica Olić on his role as assistant coach of Croatia

FIFA, 20 Jun 2023


Croatia, a country with a population of 3.8 million, have achieved a second and a third-place finish at the last two FIFA World Cups™. Assistant coach of the national team and former Croatia star Ivica Olić sits down to share some of the essential ingredients his team have that allowed them to thrive in Qatar and beyond.

Assistant coaches as communication channels
Olić explains that head coaches have many different responsibilities. This can mean they are not as close personally to the players as assistant coaches might be. Vedran Ćorluka, Mario Mandžukić and Olić together form the assistant coaches of Croatia. All are former players of the last decade and therefore have friendships with most of the older players in the squad. Because of their closer relationships with the players, the three assistant coaches act as vital communication channels between the players and head coach, forwarding information such as feedback on training sessions.

Mentality and the importance of Modrić
Olić, Ćorluka and Mandžukić brought their professional mentality from their playing days to their current coaching roles. Olić believes this mentality plays a big part in the side's success over recent years, allowing the country with a population of just under four million to punch above its weight in big international competitions. Luka Modrić is another vital part of the Croatian team, and Olić believes the Real Madrid star has become as important as the head coach due to his consistent world-class performances.

What sets Modrić apart?
Modrić puts enormous amounts of effort into his game. For example, when Croatia play a match that goes to extra time and pushes the team physically all the way, Modrić would always be the first back on the training pitch the following day. Such a quick return to regular training was not asked of him by the staff - the Real Madrid star would take to the grass on his own accord. His dedication ripples through the squad: upon seeing Modrić start his training early, his team-mates would follow him out onto the training field without hesitation.

Timing of the World Cup
Many of the teams participating in Qatar only had one week to prepare. Initially, Olić felt this could be a problem. However, looking back, he feels it was not as detrimental to performance as he first thought. When heading into the FIFA World Cup, players had played roughly only a third of the season and were in top condition. Olić also reveals that the squad didn't lose any players to injury during the tournament, suggesting the event's timing may have helped.

Five substitutes and the next FIFA World Cup 
The new rule allowing five substitutions gave coaches at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ more options and improved the quality of football, says Olić. Coaches could bring players on earlier in the game without worrying about running out of substitutions closer to the final whistle. When discussing World Cup trends, Olić looks forward to FIFA World Cup 2026™, which will be played across three countries (the USA, Mexico and Canada), meaning one of the main differences for teams will be having to move location several times throughout the competition.

Rate your experience

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.