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The morning after: Croatia’s coach reflects on Euro disappointment

Zlatko Dalic croatia coach

Zlatko Dalić

Croatia’s final group stage match at the Euros ended in a 1-1 draw with Italy, a result that saw Zaccagni’s last-second goal plunge the team and fans into despair and likely eliminate them from the tournament.

This draw leaves Croatia with only a mathematical chance of advancing, and head coach Zlatko Dalić addressed media the day after the match.

First he talked about the fans

“The fans have been our great strength and support. I don’t know if Croatia has ever had such support. We brought 100,000 Croatians wherever we played,” Dalić began. “This means that the national team has become a movement, a cult, a symbol of the nation.

Thank you to these guys; they came together, cheered for Croatia, and showed unity. Each of us has our own club, but the national team comes first. Thank you to all the fan groups from Croatia who were here and showed how it should be in the future. Please stay united and continue to support this team, whether we win or lose.”

Tears rolled down Dalić’s face as he continued. “Thank you to the media for your coverage and fairness, most of you. Some had hidden agendas, but that’s your choice. You can respect me or not; it’s on your conscience. There were unnecessary controversies, which shouldn’t have happened. It’s on you; you know what you did and why you did it. Thank you all, I am proud,” said Dalić.

Will he stay on as coach

When asked if he would stay on as coach, Dalić replied, “Nothing will shake me in life, neither defeats nor victories. I know my path and that I work honestly and honourably.

I take full responsibility for this failure; it’s my failure. As a coach, I determine the tactics and players with my team. I won’t seek excuses; we conceded goals in stoppage time against Albania and Italy.

Instead of six points, we have two. But the referee was against us the whole game, with eight minutes of added time. I’ve spoken about UEFA and FIFA before, and I wasn’t supported, but it’s a fact.

We had six substitutions, so three minutes maximum, and one VAR minute, making four minutes in total. But he added eight. Still, it’s not his fault that we failed to defend the last play or finish a counterattack with three against two. Many things aligned against us.”

Modrić missed penalty

Commenting on Luka Modrić’s missed penalty, Dalić said, “at half-time, we decided to take a complete risk with Budimir, pushing the full-backs high, going more offensive and taking bigger risks.

Everything went as we planned, keeping it scoreless at half-time and not conceding a goal. You can’t stop Italy from creating chances; they are the current European champions. But we managed, and we really pushed on, creating a great chance with Budimir and Sučić, and then we scored.

When Luka missed the penalty, it was like a film playing in my head, another missed chance. But a minute later, he scored from open play, becoming the oldest goalscorer in Euros history.

Everything fell into place as it should, his confidence returned, and then Italy went all out.

They started bypassing the midfield, aiming for a goal. We didn’t want to retreat and defend desperately, but we were forced to. We spent those sixty minutes well, making changes, taking out Sučić and Kovačić because they were struggling in midfield. We brought in Perišić to open up the left side; he played the defensive role very well.

Italy goal

Ivanušec came in to cover the running part and give us stability. We maintained this, Italy had the initiative but no clear-cut chances. Just as we had settled, Majer came on for Luka and we went on that counter-attack in the 95th minute. We had to score – said Dalić, and continued: And then there were two referee decisions, a foul on Brozović, a counter-foul on Budimir, we should have reacted differently, taken the ball, thrown it away, stalled.

We couldn’t get back, it was high pressing. At that moment, I asked on the bench, it was the last minute. Many things we could have stopped, because when you get to the eighth minute, you have to take the ball, lie on it, stop it. Do everything. Just like in 2008 against Turkey. Someone should have stopped the game if necessary. And then they celebrated the goal, and the referee blew the final whistle as soon as the ball was kicked off from the centre.

At least give us that one more play. It was a shock to everyone, you don’t know what to do. That’s how it is, sometimes it gives, sometimes it takes…

Reflecting on the games

Reflecting on the tournament, Dalić said, “From the start, we struggled. We played our first match against Spain, one of the favourites, and took possession but conceded goals too easily. My strategy yesterday was to avoid conceding in the first half at all costs. We needed to stay tight, but we conceded early in both matches against Spain and Albania and had to fight back. We let in goals that we usually wouldn’t. Against Spain, we had possession but lost it needlessly, leading to their goals. These boys don’t deserve any criticism, only praise. Anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.”

Dalić, visibly emotional, continued, “I’m not just emotional, I’m speaking from my heart. I’m disappointed and sad that we didn’t succeed. But I won’t be disheartened; I can only be proud. This is just one result in life. A defeat is not the end of the world. Should we give up? No, we must show character and strength, as we did yesterday.”

Energy and effort

Addressing the energy and effort of his players, Dalić noted, “Some players didn’t get minutes at the Euros, like Marko Pjaca and Marco Pašalić. We have 24 players, and not everyone can play. I’ll have a meeting with the players today to thank them for their discipline and cooperation over the past month.

Special thanks and apologies go to Domagoj Vida. He is a legend of Croatian football who didn’t play a single minute, yet showed no dissatisfaction. He deserves my apology, praise, and gratitude.”

Despite theoretical chances remaining, Dalić was realistic about the situation, “I never lose faith and hope, but conceding goals in the 95th and 98th minutes is hard. If we haven’t beaten anyone, we don’t deserve to go further. We’ll wait and see, but it was all in our hands.”


Regarding tactics and preparations, Dalić reflected, “The worst was the first half against Albania; it surprised me. We played against Spain, the best team in the tournament so far.

Looking ahead

After a good match against Portugal, it would have been foolish to change anything. In hindsight, we always search for answers, but we must look ahead.”

Looking forward, Dalić said, “The Nations League in the autumn must prepare us for the World Cup qualifiers. We need to build a team for the future, and the Nations League will help us test and refine our squad.”

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