Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic is proving to be a very difficult player to replace, Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic has admitted.
The 32-year-old called time on his international career after helping Croatia reach the final at World Cup 2018, with Mandzukic scoring 33 goals in 89 appearances for Il Vatreni before bowing out.
We've lost someone who can score goals, but above all was a fighter, the first line of defence.Zlatko Dalic
Since his exit, Croatia have drawn 1-1 in a friendly with Portugal, before suffering a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Spain in the UEFA Nations League.
And Dalic accepts that the loss of Mandzukic has been a major blow to his plans, as he struggles to find players to replace the versatile former Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid frontman.
He told the Gazzetta dello Sport: "I'm very sorry about it, maybe he thought he'd reached his dream and couldn't do anymore.
"I respect his decision, there's nothing else I can do. We've lost someone who can score goals, but above all was a fighter, the first line of defence.
"He won't be easy to replace, so we know we need to find different solutions."
Il Vatreni are back in action on Friday evening when they play host to England in another Nations League clash, with the game being played behind closed door in Rijeka.
The match is a repeat of the World Cup 2018 semi-final which the Croats won 2-1 after extra-time in Moscow, with Mandzukic scoring the winning goal.
Croatia can be backed at 9/5 to win again on Friday evening, with the draw priced at 21/10, while England are 6/1 to win the game 1-0.
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