25 March 2019 – Croatia’s upset 2-1 loss at the hands of Hungary in EURO 2020 qualifying in Budapest on Sunday is a big ‘wake-up call’ for the rest of the campaign, says captain Luka Modrić.
When Ante Rebić gave Croatia an early lead at the Groupama Arena in Budapest, it looked as if it would be a routine three points for Zlatko Dalić’s side, but the more spirited, aggressive hosts managed to turn it around and shock the World Cup finalists.
Croatia controlled possession for around 30 minutes of both halves, but failed to find the last pass which would create clear opportunities in front of the Hungary goal.
With the crowd behind them, Hungary managed to capitalise on the rare chances they got in the match and deserved the victory if anything for being more committed and playing with desire.
“The Hungarians were a lot more aggressive, more tougher in challenges. We did not expect it but this is a wake-up call. We definitely need to wake up, the first warning was against Azerbaijan. We need to be a lot better because if we are not then we will have problems. If we continue like this then we will have trouble qualifying for EURO, which would be a catastrophe,” Modrić said after the match, adding that the side needs to forget quickly about their exploits at the World Cup in Russia last summer.
“We need to keep those memories where they are, in the past, and focus on the tasks now. I said from the start that this group will be hard. We did not speak after the match, but we will talk about what happened. We all need to be better. There are a lot of games till the end so we need to improve and be better,” Modrić concluded.
On Monday, Dalić and the rest of the coaching staff arrived back in Zagreb, and after a night’s sleep he shared his thoughts about the loss.
“These players gave so much joy to Croatia and the fans that one loss is not going to destroy that. It is now important that we prepare and we are ready and at our level for Wales. The group is not easy, in our group we have four teams who got out of the group phase at EURO. If we are not serious and motivated then we will not qualify,” said Dalić, who was quick not to blame any individuals for the loss.
“Lovre Kalinić is not to blame, nor Luka Modrić, nor any other player, Croatia lost, the team lost. It was my choice to start Kalinić, I have faith in him. He had not played the last 4-5 matches but we thought it would be OK and we stand behind the decision,” Dalić said, adding that every side now is motivated to play against Croatia.
Croatia now has 3 points from two matches and will face Wales next in June at home in Osijek.
HUNGARY 2 – 1 CROATIA
Group E, EURO Qualifying Group
Groupama Arena, Budapest
GOALS: Rebić 13’, Szalai 34′, Pátkai 76′
HUNGARY : Gulacsi – Lovrencsics, Barath, Orban, Kadar – A. Nagy, Patkai – Dzsudzsak (Bese, 85), Szoboszlai (Kalmar, 65), D. Nagy (Varga, 40) – Szalai
CROATIA: Kalinić – Jedvaj (Petković, 77), Lovren, Vida, Barišić (Leovac, 30) – Modrić, Brozović, Rakitić – Rebić (Brekalo, 67), Perišić; Kramarić