Croatia unbowed as they exit W. Cup
Croatia may have been soundly beaten 3-1 by Mexico on Monday but Coach Niko
Kovac remained unbowed as his team headed home from the World Cup having finished third in a tough Group A.
While Brazil and Mexico prepare for the knockout phase, Kovac exited with a philosophical shrug claiming satisfaction with his squad’s overall performance.
“We played nice football, maybe not as much going forward as in the first two matches,” Kovac told reporters. “That’s life. Brazil were group favourites.
“Life goes on, thank you and goodbye.”
Kovac may be saying farewell to Brazil but not his position as coach of the national team.
Despite claiming just one win from three matches – a 4-0 rout of Cameroon – Kovac sounded confident about his future.
“Why not?,” said Kovac, when asked if he would be back. “We qualified and that was a success for us.
“I have a contract and it will continue, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t.
“I said before this was a tough group, it went to the wire.
“If things had been different in the first game… but I don’t want to dwell on that. We have a quality team, we’re going to analyse what we lacked and we will improve on that.”
Certainly, a young Croatian side showed plenty of promise and steel, particularly when they were thrust into the spotlight in the tournament opener and pushed Brazil hard in a 3-1 loss.
A demolition of Cameroon put the Balkan side on course for a place in the last 16 but their hopes were dashed by a second-half surge by Mexico which quickly turned a 0-0 scoreline into a 3-1 win.
“They (Mexico) deserved it over the 90 minutes although the margin is too large, one goal would have been fair,” said Kovac.
“We were successful in the first half but in the second we had to change something because we had to win.
“We changed back to 4-2-3-1 and we lost control of the middle, which in my opinion is what went wrong.
“What I find difficult is to concede goals from set-pieces. The little details are crucial, as is always the case at major tournaments.”