ROVINJ, 29 June 2021 – Croatia has returned to Rovinj after last night’s exit from Euro 2020 at the hands of Spain after extra-time.
After a night’s sleep, a disappointed but proud Zlatko Dalić faced the media to talk about the match and future of the national team.
What did you think about the match?
We lost in extra-time. We got tired in the first half running after the ball, we weren’t playing as we should have. After 3-1 we got back into the game, did everything we needed to, and levelled the scores. We created two great chances in extra-time, we didn’t score, after that we lost energy and strength to come back. Congratulations to Spain, and to my players for the fight they showed, especially the second half.
How do you see the future?
Croatia has shown that it has the strength, character, quality to be able to play with everyone in the world, yesterday we played against one of the best national teams in the world. Croatia must not fear for its future.
Mislav Oršić turned things around when he came on in the second half for Ante Rebić. Was the change made too late?
We went in in the last 20 minutes with three players at the back. We made five substitutions, got back in the game and made it 3-3. We went back to the four players in defence, we knew that Brekalo could not play well in defence so we sent Vrsaljko to warm up. We created two great opportunities in extra-time. When we wanted to make a substitution, Vrsaljko was standing next to me and waiting for the break in play, in those moments they scored. We should have reacted earlier, but the game started very well for us in extra-time, so we didn’t change it. Oršić got the opportunity, we were not late because he did everything. The replacements brought energy, strength. We turned around and it wasn’t too late.
Were there any mistakes in preparation for the match?
There are always mistakes when you don’t win. We made the preparation as we should, the whole course of the match gave us the right with the changes. When we talked about replacing Perišić, there were more options, I decided for Rebić. I expected an explosion, that he would play the best so far and that he would bring an advantage with his strength and quality. That was our idea. Juranović stayed on the right flank because he played well against Scotland. We did everything. Whenever you lose, excuses are sought. I stand behind my decisions. I have made mistakes and I am aware of that.
How would you rate Croatia’s performance at Euro 2020?
The goal was to pass the group. We did that, we were second. That’s what we came for. That was not the final goal, we wanted more because we are worth more. We got Spain by a combination of circumstances and have exited. We did everything, the world and European champions and the Netherlands were eliminated. Germany or England will drop out today. This is our reality given the circumstances. We were unlucky because we missed Perišić, we played without Lovren. There was a lot of bad luck. This team is worth a lot more than the quarterfinals. The goal has been achieved. From that side we are satisfied. I’m sad for the guys who did their best, I’m sad for the people who came to Copenhagen, spent time and money, I’m proud of what we did in the second half. On the synergy, the great support of the fans that gave us the right to leave our hearts on the field.
During Spain’s first goal, Rebić was off the field changing his boots, and just before the third goal, Joško Gvardiol was drinking water.
These are bizarre mistakes, they don’t happen often. You can do that against Malta, not against Spain. They punish you. During the changing of boots, we receive a goal. They punish everything. Still Gvardiola’s carelessness, I don’t know how the water got to him on the other side of the field. It’s that carelessness, that’s why we dropped out of the Euros. We receive goals from those situations where our mistakes, which turned out to be big, helped them. I achieved my goal. I will talk to people in the federation, I am not burdened, I have a contract that is valid until the World Cup. We have another goal ahead of us, and that is to qualify for Qatar.
What did you say to the players before extra-time?
We were euphoric, after you get from 1-3 to 3-3. I said that we have an advantage, that we have self-confidence. I said we’d be back at four at the back, that three didn’t make sense anymore. It was great, two great chances to Kramarić and Oršić. But the energy was spent. Budimir had a chance, that goal would bring us back. But we failed. We spent ourselves running.
How are the players?
We had breakfast at 10 a.m. I addressed them with a few words, we said goodbye. They go on vacation now. We are all sad, we wanted to do more and we could, we are worth more. But I told them this was the reality because we deserved so much. You always get back how much you invested and how much you gave. And we who are here have not invested everything to make Croatia move on.
Will Luka Modrić and the other senior players continue on until the World Cup?
I’m going to talk to Luka these days so we’ll make a decision together on what and how. I haven’t talked to Lovren, Vida, Luka, those things you need to sleep on first. You need to rest and talk soon. Whatever happens, on 1 September is a big game, by then everything has to be solved. Everything will pass quickly and we must move on. These things must be resolved as soon as possible.
Opinion on the youngsters Gvardiola and Brekalo?
When we started the second half, they did it very well. I said everything already about Gvardiola, Brekalo can do a lot more. He also plays another position with his club. He gave as much as he could. I can’t blame anyone. Everyone got as much as they deserved and gave as much as they prepared.
Did you talk to Rebic after his mistake?
I did not talk, there was no conflict. Luka told him he was wrong. Of course there was anger when a goal was conceded, but that’s how it turned out. He was changing his boots, I thought he was going back on. And it just so happens that you then concede when someone changes their boots. Unbelievable.
What would you change now if you could have?
I would change some things, but I won’t talk about it. One hundred percent. Maybe I wasn’t consistent with myself, I would change that. Let that stay for me personally. When you don’t do what you expected, you have to change something. I take responsibility, I made mistakes in some things and I did not react well. I would change something, but I won’t say what. I can’t look for some excuses. We came to pass the group stages, we did it. We played against Spain the beauty of the championship, it was a draw after regular time. I did not feel anyone boycotting me. I don’t care about support, but when you play for Croatia, you don’t need a motive. I didn’t feel like someone wouldn’t or didn’t want to. I didn’t feel it.
Should Oršić, Budimir and Pašalić played more at the Euros?
Oršic is in the position where we are best covered, with players playing in the Bundesliga, the Italian league. Perišić is number one here. He was our best player in the group stages. On the other hand, Mislav got those 30 minutes and extra-time, he showed that he can be counted on. Both Oršić and Pašalić and Budimir returned to their honest approach. They didn’t have much time, but they were silent and worked hard. They showed that they should be counted on more and that they are the ones who will soon be the choice of the national team.