ZAGREB, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- Ante Cacic didn't survive on the Croatian bench after a disappointing 1-1 draw against Finland on Friday night as the Executive Board of Croatian Football Federation (CFF) decided to release him just the morning after and appointed 50-year-old Zlatko Dalic as his successor.
Dalic took over the team led by Luka Modric, one of the best midfielders in the world, and will try to stay undefeated against Ukraine in Kiev in the last 2018 World Cup qualifying match scheduled for Monday night.
"Dalic is the new national head coach and he will be in charge for the match in Ukraine," CFF President Davor Suker said on Saturday afternoon at the ad-hoc news conference held in Zagreb.
Suker said that Dalic was one of the four candidates whose names were brought up in the conversation about the interim position but added that the decision of the board members was unanimous.
"We opted for Croatian coach as we did in the past with Slaven Bilic, Igor Stimac, Niko Kovac and Ante Cacic. Dalic deserves this chance and he has our full support. I believe he can earn a positive result in Kiev and I hope he will have a bit of luck," Suker said.
Just three months ago, Croatia sat on top of the table with comfortable four points lead ahead of all the other teams in the group. Narrow 1-0 defeats in Iceland and Turkey and a 1-1 draw at home on Friday against Finland put Croatian hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in jeopardy.
Croatia now sits in the second place with 17 points, two points behind Iceland and ahead of Ukraine just on a goal difference. A victory over Ukraine on Monday night would guarantee a runners-up spot and a play-off berth and could take Croatia to the top spot again but only if Iceland would fail to beat Kosovo at home.
Dalic faces a difficult task to lift the team's spirit and find a winning formula again within this group of players that was lost during the last months with Cacic at helm. If he fails to deliver in Kiev, it is possible that he will be at the job just for one match.
"Coaches live by their results and we will see what happens. I am confident we can get a good result in Ukraine," Suker said about the Dalic's chances of a long-term stay at the Croatian bench.
Dalic was a defensive midfielder during his playing time and has 12 years of coaching experience with three different Croatian first-division teams. He spent five years as an assistant coach with Croatian U-21 national team.
Dalic spent last three years working in Al-Ain, making it one of the best Emirati clubs under his guidance. He became the first Croatian coach that managed a club in the final of the 2016 Asian Champions League losing it 3-2 on aggregate to South Korean Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Dalic will become the 9th manager in history that will lead Croatia in an official qualifying match.