Croatia hire Ante Cacic as manager to replace Niko Kovac

Croatia have hired Ante Cacic to replace Niko Kovac as manager on a contract through the 2018 World Cup.

Cacic, 61, had been coaching Lokomotiva Zagreb. He has previously managed Dinamo Zagreb and Slovenia's Maribor.

His only previous senior international experience came as an assistant for Libya from 2003-2006.

"I am experienced in football and have gradually been building up my coaching career -- taking over the national team would be the crowning moment," Cacic said in a statement on Monday.

Kovac was sacked on Sept. 9 after an international break in which only managed a goalless draw at Azerbaijan and a 2-0 defeat at Norway.

Croatia are in third place in Euro 2016 qualifying Group H, in firm position to at least reach a playoff and chasing Italy and Norway to qualify directly.

They have been deducted one point after a swastika was painted on the field before June's match against Italy and must play their next two home qualifiers in an empty stadium.

Croatian Football Federation president Davor Suker said: "We've talked a lot to try and come up with the best solution. I am satisfied that Ante Cacic deserves to be national team coach. He has worked with eight or nine players in this team before, which was a key factor."

Croatia also hired former defender Josip Simunic, who was banned for 10 games for leading fans in a pro-Nazi chant, to assist Cacic.

Simunic missed the 2014 World Cup over the incident in the qualifying playoff against Iceland in 2013. It highlighted Croatian football's ongoing struggle with discrimination.