Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic praised the character of his side after it battled back from a goal down for the third straight game to beat England 2-1 in the semifinals.
“We were 1-0 down three games in a row, we’ve shown character and we’ve done that today in extra time,” said Dalic after the exciting match.
“We are a nation of people who never give in, who are proud and have character. “What our players did today, the strength and stamina they’ve shown, the energy level, I wanted to make substitutions but nobody wanted to come off.”
Croatia was just the second team in World Cup history to be forced into extra time for three successive matches, although Dalic said it will not use that as an excuse.
“We’re going to celebrate and rest and then prepare for France. We’re preparing for another daunting task but we’re ready for it.
“We had three times extra time, but that’s up to us. We didn’t score earlier, we can ask why didn’t we finish the job in 90 minutes.
“There will be no excuses, we should not take that path. We have to play as if this was the first game of this tournament. We are not going to fish for excuses.”
Meanwhile, England Gareth Southgate said his team “left everything out there” after falling to the extra-time defeat.
“I think in the first half we were really good and maybe we could have got another goal,” said Southgate.
“I can’t ask for more from the players. I think knock-out football is about fine margins and when you have good spells against fine sides you need to take your chances.
“Tonight we weren’t quite there but we will learn from that. We left everything out there.”
Southgate said the players were deeply disappointed, but that his young team could achieve great things in the years to come, with the European Championship just two years away.
“It’s impossible to say anything to make the players feel better at this moment in time,” he said. “We have to be proud of what we’ve achieved. I don’t think anyone could have given any more.
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